Listening to Hugh Hewitt tonight on the way home, I heard Obama field the following question from a heckler at a townhall event in St. Petersburg today:
So my question is, in the face of the numerous attacks that are made on the African community (or the black community)…uh…by the same US government that you aspire to be…um…and we’re talking about attacks like the subprime mortgage that you spoke of that wasn’t just a general, ambiguous kind of of phenomonen, but a phenomenon that targeted the African community and Latino community…Attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department…and Javon Dawson right here in St. Petersburb by the St Pete police, and the Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on… In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community…uh..Why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or black community in this country?
You see anything to take issue with in that question? I’m not sure John McCain would do any better than Obama did (see this Steve Hayes post), but here’s what Obama had to say:
Alright. Alright. Well, I…the…uh..I-I guess I-I…Hold on a second, everybody…I-I-I want everybody to be respectful, that’s why we’re having a town hall meeting. This-this-this is democracy at work. And he had-he asked a legitimate question, so I wanna give him an answer.”
Um…I think you’re misinformed about, when you say, “not one time”. Every issue you’ve spoken about, I actually did speak out on. When it came to…hold on…I just-I’m gonna go through the very specific examples.
I’ve been talking about predatory lending for the last 2 years in the United States Senate and worked to pass legislation to prevent it when I was in the State legislature. I…and I have repeatedly said that many of the…uh…predatory loans that were made in the mortgage system did target African-American & Latino communities. I’ve said that repeatedly.”
Number two. Jena 6. I was the first candidate to get out there and say, “This is wrong, there’s an injustice that’s been done, and we need to change it. That’s number two.”
When Sean Bell got shot, I put out a statement immediately, saying, “This is a problem.” So…so a-a-all…so all I’m…a-a-all I’m …a-a-a…hold on…h-h-hold on…don’t, don’t, don’t start shouting back, I’m just answering your question. On on on, on each of these issues, I’ve spoke out.
Now, I may not have spoken out the way you wanted me to speak out, which is fine, because I-I-I, n-n-no, I understand. But, but, but, I-I-I, which is fine, well, it-it-we-it…wait, hold on a second. R-r-remember we’re, we’re, I’ve got other people so I’m just trying to answer your question. So what I’m saying is..what I…here’s what I’m suggesting. What I’m suggesting is that, on each of these issues that you mentioned, I have spoken out. And I’ve spoken out forcefully. And I-I-I, listen, I was a civil rights lawyer. I-I-I have, I have passed, I passed…Hold on a second. HOld on. I passed the first racial profiling legislation in Illinois. I passed…I passed the…some of the…the…some of the toughest death penalty reform legislation in Illinois.
S-so…these are issues I’ve worked on for decades. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m always gonna satisfy the way you guys want these issues framed. And I understand that. Which, which, which, which gives you the option of voting for somebody else. It gives you the option to run for the office yourself. But, they, those are all options. But…but the one thing…but the one thing that I think is important…the one thing I think is important is…that…that we’re respectful towards each other and, what is true is, that I believe the only way that we’re gonna solve our problems in this country, the only way…the only way that we’re gonna solve our problems in this country…is if all of us come together…Black, white, hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, disabled, gay straight…that, I think has got to be our agenda. Alright? Okay.
Better than okay. It’s perfect — especially how Obama finds the questioner misinformed about Obama’s positions rather than about the allegations embedded in his question.
The shooting death of Javon Dawson has been taken up as the cause of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, which “was founded in 1991 in Chicago by the African People’s Socialist Party.” For some perspective on the incident leading to Dawson’s death, see this June 14 profile of the officer involved.
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