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Thursday, July 29, 2004
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF
EDWARDS. I'm afraid that I'm developing a John Edwards problem.
Last night was only the latest example. Let me explain.
My first exposure to Edwards came
four years ago, at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles,
where the North Carolina senator spoke at a breakfast gathering of
the Massachusetts delegates. He struck me as a phony - a slick
huckster who'd succeeded in aping every move and mannerism from Bill
Clinton except the ability to seem genuine.
I liked him better during his
presidential run. Mrs. Media Log loved him, although perhaps
that's a problem of a different sort. Still, the stories crept out
about his robotic repetition of his "Two Americas" speech at
appearance after appearance, his creepy insistence on staying on
message no matter what. Yes, you could say that's what he takes for a
politician to succeed. But Edwards, uh, lost, you know?
Last night's speech
was okay, sort of, although it seemed like he managed to say very
little, wrapped up in a lot of bland generalities. And how icky was
it that the party had passed out "Hope Is on the Way" signs to
delegates so that they could wave them whenever Edwards mouthed the
I'm sorry, maybe it's because he's
such a pretty boy, but I nearly burst out laughing when he looking
into the camera and said, "And we will have one clear unmistakable
message for Al Qaeda and the rest of these terrorists. You cannot
run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you." What are you going to
do, counselor? Sue them?
And don't you think he should have
referred to "John Kerry" rather than the overly familiar "John"? Even
Teresa called him "John Kerry."
I watched Edwards's speech at
Harvard's Kennedy School amid maybe 60 or 70 students and other
onlookers. By far the biggest reaction of the evening was for the
Reverend Al Sharpton's speech, which was so
moving that you could
almost forget what a dubious figure Sharpton really is. Check out how
I often hear the
Republican party preach about family values, but I can tell them
something about family values. Family values don't just exist for
those with two-car garages and retirement plans. Family values
exist in homes with only one parent in the household making a way
against the odds.
I stand here tonight, the
product of a single parent home, from the depths of Brooklyn, New
York. My mother was a domestic worker who scrubbed floors in other
people's homes for me. And because she scrubbed those floors, I
was proud to stand as a presidential candidate.
Those are family
I recall that a few days after
the September 11 terrorist attacks I was in a radio station that
played "America the Beautiful," as sung by Ray Charles.
As you know, we lost Ray several
weeks ago, but I can still hear him singing: "Oh beautiful for
spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains
majesty, above the fruited plain."
We must leave here committed to
making Ray Charles's song a reality and to making America
beautiful for everyone.
Good night, God bless you all,
and God bless America!
As Sharpton walked off, the sounds
of Brother Ray singing "America the Beautiful" played over the PA
system. It was a genuine, shivers-up-your-spine moment, akin to Patti
LaBelle singing "A Change Is Gonna Come" after Bill Clinton's speech
on Monday. Which only served to emphasize how flat Edwards's effort
Maybe Edwards didn't want to
overshadow John Kerry's big speech tonight. He certainly succeeded.
And you can't help but admire his and his wife's resilience following
the worst thing that could possibly happen to a parent.
But if you're looking for a running
mate who'd bring substance and gravitas to the table, who could
unquestionably step in as president on a moment's notice ... well,
boring old Dick Gephardt is starting to look pretty good right
RACE, RAPE, AND IMUS. This
one's for you, Philip Nobile. For several years, the former New
York magazine media critic has railed
against the racist content of Don Imus's New York-based syndicated
radio program. I always thought Nobile had a tin ear and just didn't
get the humor. And I haven't changed my mind - at least not
But this morning, sidekick Bernard
McGuirk said something that ought to get him suspended for, oh, I
don't know, six months - or six years. I was driving and not taking
notes, so bear with me. (Imus in the Morning is heard locally
on WTKK Radio, 96.9 FM.) At about 9:15 a.m., the gang started talking
about the Kobe Bryant rape trial. McGuirk called Bryant's accuser a
"skanky ho." Some discussion ensued as to whether Bryant might
actually be guilty, the morals of his accuser aside.
Then, incredibly, McGuirk asserted
that regardless of Bryant's guilt or lack thereof, this was obviously
not a "classic" rape - which he proceeded to define as a black man
in a hood assaulting and raping a white woman. Imus did his
usual, acting half-bemused, half-appalled, and complaining that
McGuirk and another sidekick, Sid Rosenberg, were behaving
A commercial break followed. I sat
in the parking lot, waiting to hear what would happen when they
returned. Imus again chuckled about McGuirk and Rosenberg's behavior,
then started talking about New York Times columnist Maureen
Dowd's new book. No apology.
In the past year in Boston, WEEI
Radio (AM 850) hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were suspended
for comparing an escaped
gorilla to black
schoolchildren, and WTKK host Mike Barnicle apologized for using the
fever" to describe the
marriage of former Boston television personality Janet Langhart,
who's black, and former secretary of defense William Cohen, who's
Yesterday Callie Crossley, a
television producer who's African-American, cited those incidents as
evidence of Boston's improved-but-still-troubled racial climate.
it. (Disclosure: Crossley
and I often appear together on WGBH-TV/Channel 2's "Beat the Press"
edition of Greater Boston, on Fridays at 7 p.m.)
But will anything happen to
McGuirk, or to his enabler, Imus? This isn't a Boston problem - it's
a New York problem, exacerbated by conglomerate radio ownership that
brings this into cities across the country. What McGuirk said was far
worse than Barnicle's utterance, and at least as bad as Dennis and
I would say "where is the
outrage?", except that this only took place two hours ago.
Will New York take action? If not, will WTKK general manager Matt
Mills do anything locally? I'll be watching. You should
posted at 10:58 AM |
Last week--starting Monday, 26 July--Dennis & Callahan were out of town, having fled the Convention. The Globe's Michael Holley and another African-American sports writer were subbing for them on WEEI's morning show. I think they were also there on Tuesday. From what I heard of Monday's show, it was practically dedicated to the question of whether (or, more realistically, to what extent) Boston is a racist city. On Tuesday a regular caller--I think it was Mike from Swampscott--made the observation that you only needed to look at one thing to determine the answer to that question: almost all the callers on Monday had been black, whereas D&C's callers are overwhelmingly white. An interesting and unexpected instance of the Boston media's commenting on itself.
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Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.