Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2003 / 17 Adar I 5763

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Braun vs. Sharpton: A Dem dilemma | Never say "never," especially in politics.

When Carol Moseley-Braun lost her Senate seat in 1998, she declared that she would never run again for public office.

"Read my lips," the Chicago Democrat told a Chicago Tribune reporter. "Not. Never. Nein. Nyet."

But, ah, things change. In a meeting at the Tribune's Washington bureau last week, Moseley-Braun revealed her plans to file papers Tuesday (Feb. 18) to launch a presidential exploratory campaign.

Why the switch? The country needs her, she says, echoing what every candidate for president says. But Democratic Party insiders and activists have been urging Moseley-Braun to run not so much to win or even to provide an important symbol of black and female empowerment. Been there, done that, with Shirley Chisholm in 1972.

No, party insiders hope Moseley-Braun as their Great Black Hope will stop the rise of the Rev. Al Sharpton as a major player in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes.

As such, her candidacy, like that of Sharpton, is a symptom of deeper problems in today's Democratic Party. The current lineup of Democratic presidential candidates has a big charisma gap when it comes to energizing the party's base of black and liberal-progressive wings.

As my column-writing colleague Molly Ivins might say, they "don't have any Elvis in'em." No James Brown, either, I might add.

Since nature abhors a vacuum, enter the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Brooklyn bomb-thrower, the Hellcat from Harlem, who also happened to spend his teen years as James Brown's road manager.

Of course, when it comes to political baggage, like his infamous and still unapologetic involvement in the bogus Tawana Brawley rape case, Sharpton makes party moderates long for the days of Jesse Jackson's controversial candidacies in 1984 and 1988.

But as a debater and scene-stealer, Sharpton will not let himself be ignored. He showed that in his spirited campaigns for New York senator and New York City mayor. Sharpton lost but he became a player. No Democrat realistically seeks citywide or statewide office without paying a courtesy call at Sharpton's Harlem headquarters.

Nationally, Sharpton has stolen the stage at recent antiwar rallies in Washington and in the show-up by major presidential hopefuls at the 30th Anniversary of legalized abortion in Washington on Jan. 21. His spirited upstaging of his white opponents at the NARAL: Pro-Choice America dinner confirmed party leaders' worst fears.

The big showdown between Sharpton and the party's old-guard is expected to come in South Carolina, an early primary state where blacks are expected to account for 40 percent or more of the Democratic turnout. Sharpton's been there just about every week recently. Moseley-Braun says she has some "friends" and volunteers laying groundwork there for her possible bid.

Moseley-Braun pulled off an upset victory for the seat of popular incumbent Democratic Sen. Alan Dixon of Illinois in 1992, in part by rallying white swing voters, particularly women angered by Dixon's vote for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's confirmation.

But the political popularity that bridged liberals and corporate conservatives in Illinois failed to help Moseley-Braun keep her Senate seat against a withering attack-ad campaign by Republican Peter Fitzgerald that focused on charges of campaign finance violations.

Now Moseley-Braun holds up the findings of a deeply-probing investigation by her rival, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), of all people, after President Clinton named her to be his ambassador to New Zealand. The probe accounted for every penny but $311, Moseley-Braun proudly points out as she offers the report to anyone who cares to read it.

Nevertheless, Moseley-Braun's winnability is, to put it mildly, challenged. Remember the old joke about what the one man said to the other as they were outrunning a bear: "I don't have to outrun the bear; I only have to outrun you!" To earn the gratitude of party moderates, Moseley-Braun only has to outrun Sharpton, or, at least, make enough of a dent in his vote that one of the party's rising stars like, say, Sen. John Edwards of neighboring North Carolina, won't be embarrassed.

Still, that charisma gap remains. Since the passing of Bill Clinton, who knew how to put Sister Souljah between himself and the leftward pull of Jesse Jackson in 1992, the party has fallen back into the sort of racial and ideological divisiveness that plagued its national campaigns in the 1980s.

And it does not say much for the depth of the Democratic field of potential talent that the only non-white woman ready to take on Sharpton and the rest carries as much baggage as Moseley-Braun does.

But I will not say that she'll never win. I've learned better than to say "never" when it comes to politics.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Clarence Page's column by clicking here.


02/14/03: Bush's clean-up man
02/11/03: How feds fooled marijuana trial jurors
02/06/03: Time to re-think space shuttle's value
01/31/03: Why corporations like diversity, too
01/28/03: Shaq vs. Yao, a new world diss-order
01/23/03: Affirmative action will be remarketed under new name
01/13/03: Bond movie offers clues to Korea crisis
01/07/03: Dr. Frist to the rescue … of his party
01/02/03: Feeling a 'draft,' but not much
12/17/02: To rob a burning cross of its power
12/03/02: Closing black-white test-score gaps
11/19/02: Uncle Same wants your data
11/15/02: Marriage vs. 'player' impulse
11/11/02: How Oz can help the Dems
11/05/02: We reserve right to be complicated
10/22/02: What the pro-gun lobby and anti-gun lobby have in common
10/18/02: Take Sharpton seriously? For Prez??
10/15/02: A beauty and the bullies
10/08/02: Time to start 'fingerprinting' bullets
10/08/02: Poet laureate hater fell for Internet hoax
10/04/02: Keeping it real, despite howls from black 'leaders'
10/01/02: Revisiting the 'Jogger' horror
09/27/02: Sometimes freedom is a necessary nuisance
09/13/02: Foil Fidel with free trade
09/10/02: Measuring the myth of 'super weed'
09/06/02: A year later: A reality-check
09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

© 2001 TMS