Barack Obama says black voters should turn out in large numbers at the polls when early voting begins on Oct. 20.
In an exclusive phone interview with the South Florida Times and urban radio following his rally at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables on Friday, Sept. 19, Obama discussed his political philosophy. While also urging people to vote on Election Day, Nov. 4, he gave some of his most detailed comments to date on America’s economic crisis, and what he would do about it as president.
“Obviously, people are excited about the prospect of making some history,’’ Obama said, referring to the fact that he is the first black person to win a major party’s presidential nomination. “But I think what should really excite people is the prospect of ending eight years of disastrous economic policies. I mean when you look at what’s been happening this week, it’s unprecedented. We haven’t seen anything this bad since the Great Depression, when it comes to our financial markets, and it’s just one more example of how badly this Bush administration has mismanaged the economy.”
Obama was in South Florida for a rally with women and collegiate supporters at the University of Miami, one of several events the candidate held in Florida last week.
Some African-Americans, including University of Maryland political scientist Ron Walters and a handful of black newspaper publishers in Florida, have questioned whether Obama has done enough to engage the black vote.
Obama, whose campaign has purchased advertising in black newspapers, frequently sends press releases to black-owned media, and holds phone press conferences for black media, maintained that black voters were mainly concerned, as are all Americans, about the economy. He said the economic troubles facing the country amount to both a crisis, and a call to action for black voters.
“We've got the first recession in 16 years here in Florida,’’ he said. “We’ve got record foreclosures all across the country; 600,000 jobs have been lost since the beginning of the year. I mean we can’t just keep doing what we’ve been doing and expect that people can find a job with a living wage to support their families. So I hope that gets people excited: bringing an end to the Bush-Cheney-McCain economic philosophy that’s caused so much hardship.’’
Obama derided what he called attempts by Republican presidential nominee John McCain and other members of the Republican
Party to “remake themselves’’ as reformers, separated from both the current crisis and the economic philosophy he says brought it on.
He added: “It’s not gonna work.’’
Asked what he would do if he were president today, to stem the banking and mortgage collapse, the senator from Illinois delved into a range of policy details.
“I think the main thing that we have to do immediately is stabilize the credit markets,’’ he said. “Right now, what’s happening is there’s a little bit of panic going on, on Wall Street, and so people aren’t lending money; and when people don’t lend money that means a small business can’t get a credit line to make its payroll, and big business can’t borrow money to invest in plants and equipment, and it just creates a vicious cycle. What we have to do at the Department of the Treasury and at the Federal Reserve is to increase liquidity; increase the money in the system to make people feel more confident about it. That’s short term.’’
He continued: “Long term, or even medium term, we’ve got to deal with this housing crisis by having borrowers and lenders get together and figure out what kinds of mortgages are going to be suitable for people to make their payments [and] stay in their homes, so we don’t keep seeing foreclosures in our communities. That will help stabilize the economy. And then we’ve got to turn on some things that have been an issue for years now. We’ve got to have an energy policy that ends our addiction to foreign oil, and invest in clean, renewable energy here in the United States – solar and wind and biodiesel; we can create millions of jobs that way. We can invest in our infrastructure: rebuilding schools and roads and bridges, [and] putting people back to work; training some of those young men you see on the street who’ve got nothing to do – training them to be laborers and carpenters.’’
Obama also blamed part of the current economic crisis on the war in Iraq, which he opposed in 2003, and which he says diverted America’s attention from the real “war on terror’’ against al-Qaida.
“We’re spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, and Iraq has a surplus of $80 billion [while] we’ve got a deficit,’’ Obama said. “So ending the war in Iraq could actually help us strengthen our economy, as well as allowing us to refocus our attention on Afghanistan.’’
Returning to domestic policy, he said reforms in healthcare and education could also be a boon to the economy.
“Making healthcare affordable for every American, making college accessible for every American; those are two critical components that put huge strains on families, and if we can solve those two problems I think we can get this economy back on track,’’he said.
Obama was asked by radio host James T of WHQT Hot 105, who participated in the interview, to discuss his vision for the country, and how he would translate “vision and hope into reality” for the American people.
“My vision of America is one where everybody’s got a chance at the American dream,” Obama said. “Where if you're willing to work hard, if you’re willing to try, that you can make it. Find a job that pays a decent wage, buy a home and send your child to college and retire with dignity [and] have healthcare. If we can grow the economy from the bottom up, so that it’s not just good for those people at the very top, but that it’s good for ordinary Americans, then it ends up being good for everybody.
“And my vision is also one in which we have some unity,” he said. “That we’re not fighting around race and around religion and around all the things that have been stirred up so often; that we come together and recognize that look, we’ve got some differences, but we’ve got a common agenda and that is to make life better for our children and our grandchildren. If we can fulfill that vision in this election, or at least get started in getting this country back on track, I think that four years from now; eight years from now, we can look back and say, ‘You know what, we’re better off now than we were,’ and that obviously is the goal of any president.’’
Obama is scheduled to debate John McCain on Friday, Sept. 26 at the University of Mississippi. ABC News has reported that the Illinois senator will spend three days in Tampa, working with advisors, to prepare for the face-off.
Polls show that Obama and McCain are at a statistical tie among voters in Florida.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Sen. Barack Obama.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
To hear the full audio interview with Obama, please log onto reidreport.com.
The South Florida Times is not a part of the effort by other black publications to question Barack Obama’s outreach to the black press.