Having followed the numerous debates of the presidential candidates, I have questions not yet posed to the contenders. I begin by asking the Democratic candidates:
Who are your favorite Supreme Court Justices, and why, starting with Chief Justice John Marshall the first to rule that the Supreme Court has the power of judicial review over the legislative and executive branches?
Three of you Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Elizabeth Edwards (speaking for her husband, John) appeared before Planned Parenthood's policy-organizing conference in Washington on July 17.
Discussing your criteria for your nominations to the Supreme Court, all of you said you would not consider anyone who did not pledge to uphold Roe v. Wade. This "litmus test" means that all other possibilities, no matter how distinguished their records on constitutional issues, would be ignored.
I ask all the Democratic candidates: Do you have any other "litmus tests" for the High Court? Nominees' views on gay marriage? Federal taxpayers funds for "good works" by religious organizations? How high should the "wall" between church and state be?
At the Planned Parenthood meeting, Obama proposed an "updated social contract" for women, including paid maternity leave and greater access to "reproductive-health-services." According to the July 18 Chicago Tribune, "an Obama spokesman said that included abortions."
The following question is for all the Democratic candidates, not just Obama: In the 2007 National Right to Life Committee Yearbook, the Black Americans for Life whose goal is "to ensure the civil rights of all our people, no matter how small their bodies may be" presented these statistics that may startle many Americans, no matter their views on abortion:
"Since 1973 (the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision), over 14 million Black babies have been aborted, which is equal to the combined populations of eight Midwestern states." This means, according to Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-life Union, abortion is the No. 1 killer of African-Americans." (According to my research over the years, this is most likely an understatement.)
Do these numbers trouble you? If they do, what do you suggest to reduce those figures? Speaking before Planned Parenthood on equal opportunity for women, Obama emphasized the need for low-income women getting more access to contraceptives. But do any of you candidates wonder what the accomplishments of those lost lives might have been if there were equal survival opportunity for the black unborn?
On a different issue concerning the growing loss of lives of black youngsters in many American cities, Obama spoke admirably and candidly July 15 to a large congregation at the Vernon Park Church of God in Chicago. As reported July 17 by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert who focuses on crucial black life-and-death issues that many journalists ignore Obama talked about "the spate of violence that's been robbing the city's children of their future.
"In this last school year," he continued, "32 Chicago public school students were killed, and even more since (this) school year ended. This past week alone, two teens were shot in a South Side school yard." Of these murdered children and teenagers in Chicago, Obama said, "They are America's invisible children."
He added that, rightfully, the nation grieved after the Virginia Tech massacre, but as for the violent deaths of Chicago school children in the last school year, "for the most part, there has been silence." Also, he noted more Chicago school children were killed last year than Illinois soldiers killed in Iraq.
"Moreover," Obama continued, "From South-Central L.A. to Newark, N.J., there's an epidemic of violence that's sickening the soul of this nation. For the third year in a row, violent crime and murder are on the rise nationwide. As we've all borne witness to here in Chicago, this is partly due to the rise of gang violence. The FBI says there are now more gang members on our nation's streets than police officers."
Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton calls this "a gathering storm of criminal violence," and in its wake is an increasing number of black, white, Latino and Asian corpses.
I ask the Democratic candidates: If and when you occupy the Oval Office after the next elections, what measures on an emergency basis would you take, in consultation with Congress and civic leaders throughout the country, to identify and remedy the causes of this internal made-in-America terrorism on our city streets and even in the growing number of "home invasions" in our suburbs?
So far, this presidential campaign, on both sides, has largely continued the bitter polarization in Congress and among the more vocal parts of the citizenry. But surely there are millions of Americans who live in fear not only of the terrorists around the world who clearly want to kill us but also of the homegrown killers on our very streets. What do you candidates have to tell them, regardless of their party affiliations?
The next president, of whichever party, will be confronted with more imminent, fundamental survival challenges than any of his or her predecessors. Will any of the present contenders inform us specifically of how they will deal not only with our foreign enemies but also with our enemies within who savagely took away the lives of the three college students, who had so much to offer this nation, in one of Newark's safer neighborhoods?