Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Invented Controversy

I first really noticed Gwen Ifill when she moderated a Forum here at ND about 2 years ago. I'd seen her on PBS a few times, but was really impressed at the Forum. She's due to be the moderator for tomorrow's VP debate...and so, to invent a controversy, today the McCain campaign claimed they "just learned" that she has a book coming out at the end of January titled "Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama", thus making her biased against Palin.

Bull doo-doo.

They wait till 48 hours before the debate to make this an issue??!! It's been in the papers since July....and to prove my point, the links are included below. Might this not have more to do with Palin's multiple abysmal interviews (all of which appear in earlier posts below)?? Deflection?? Methinks they protest-eth too strongly...

The Washington Times (known to be a conservative paper) mentioned her upcoming book in July. The ability to pre-order the book has been on since August. Time magazine published an article by her in August, in which the book is listed in her bio. The Washington Post, in a Sept. 4th article talking about the fact that Ifill was chosen to be the VP debate moderator, mentions the book. Doubleday has been advertising her book for almost a month, in a rather big way.

If the McCain camp only "just learned" this, the fault is theirs. It took me AT MOST 1 hour to find these references using a little known tool called Google.

I've attached the Washington Times, Time, and Washington Post articles below, with the active links (and just in case any of them disappear, I've copied the text of the articles), highlighting the Ifill references.


Smiley faces blog anger: Obama remarks targeted
by Kinney Littlefield
Washington, July 23, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tavis Smiley is all wound up. His voice is rough from too much vocalizing, but the host of public television's "Tavis Smiley" talk show and public radio's "The Tavis Smiley Show" is on an oratorical roll about race, politics and Barack Obama, a fellow black man and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

"There is no such thing in America as race transcendence, and Obama's going to find that out real soon," Mr. Smiley says, leaning into his words. As he sermonizes, he sheds suit jacket, tie and belt in succession, getting comfy in his spacious suite at KCET-TV in Los Angeles after taping two installments of "Tavis Smiley" (seen Monday through Friday in various time slots on PBS stations, including locally at midnight on WETA-Channel 26).

Despite the peaceful vibe inside his sanctuary, with its African masks and scented candle, Mr. Smiley frowns. "There's no such thing as 'post-racial' in America because if you push the envelope too far, you're going to hear about it."

Mr. Smiley should know. For months, he has been the object of an Internet firestorm for his perceived negative comments about Mr. Obama on commercial radio's syndicated "The Tom Joyner Morning Show."

Mr. Smiley found himself between race and a hard place when he criticized Mr. Obama on the air for choosing not to appear on Mr. Smiley's annual State of the Black Union cablecast on C-SPAN in February. Mr. Smiley's remarks sparked a blaze of invective from black bloggers, who questioned Mr. Smiley's loyalty, motives and ego.

After 12 years as a fixture on Mr. Joyner's show, Mr. Smiley delivered his final commentary on June 26. Mr. Smiley insists his departure was not a reaction to the flak but rather a decision that he had been on Mr. Joyner's show long enough.

"Just because Barack Obama is black doesn't mean he gets a pass on being held accountable on issues that matter to black people," Mr. Smiley says. "I'm not an Obama critic or a McCain critic. The term itself is dismissive and insulting."

For Mr. Smiley - a multimedia entrepreneur and important voice in the black community who also owns his TV and radio shows, has written 11 books and created the nonprofit Tavis Smiley Foundation to empower youth - the disparagement by black bloggers still stings.

His dilemma is also emblematic of the media conundrum for black and white journalists alike: how to address the issue of race responsibly and sensitively and couch coverage of the likely first-ever run for the White House by a major-party nominee who is black.

"We have an awkward history about how to talk about race in the nation and in newsrooms," says Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama," slated for publication early next year.

"I don't see any hesitancy about addressing it," Miss Ifill says, "but I do think we are all searching for the language."

David Bohr man, CNN's Wash ingtonbureau chief,agrees. "It's still a sensitive topic, but I think the door's been opened to the conversation. ... Whether or not that conversation will happen in a reasonable or superficial way - I don't think anyone has a real sense of how it will play out right now."

Mr. Smiley will broadcast his talk show live to select markets from the Democratic convention in Denver Aug. 25 through Aug. 28 and the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 1 through 4.

"I want to do what I always try to do, which is to be authentic in my coverage," Mr. Smiley says. "I'm an advocacy journalist, not a journalist in the traditional sense. I believe my role in the media is to get people to re-examine the assumptions they hold."

That challenge is not always obvious on Mr. Smiley's talk show. In its five-year run, "Tavis Smiley" has included a stew of both stars and politicos - from Mr. Obama last fall and Hillary Clinton in February to Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman and hip, young-skewing musical guests such as Ne-Yo.

Yet it's Mr. Smiley's role as vigilant media inquisitor - and never mind political correctness - that he seems to relish most.

"This is what I do - asking critical questions," Mr. Smiley says. "Now some of you regard it as keeping a brother down, holding a brother back. Because you regard it that way, you don't understand that this is the role that I've always played."


Nothing Unique About It
By Gwen Ifill, Aug. 21, 2008

The first time I ever used the term post-civil rights to describe the new generation of African-American politicians I was studying, the Rev. Joseph Lowery hollered at me. He wanted to know, What in the devil does that mean?

I have to admit that I had no good answer for the 86-year-old civil rights icon as we stood backstage last year at a banquet honoring the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Perhaps because it has been so meteoric, Barack Obama's ascendancy has made us lazy about our history and lazy about the language we use to describe our past as well as our present. The commentary is often breathless: It's the end of black politics, we declare. It's the beginning of black politics, we assert. It's the transformation of black politics, we decide.

That last description comes closest to being right. The Martin Luther King-era wave of activism Lowery helped lead was about demanding access to lunch counters, schoolhouse doors and voting booths, and accountability in the town squares that were the sites of lynchings and protests.

Obama's rise has demonstrated so far that a lot of that protest worked, and this latest wave of black politicians is living, breathing evidence of it. Only one generation removed from the protests their parents led, many are Ivy League graduates in their 30s, 40s and 50s who remember the 1960s—and even the 1970s—only from old video and the printed page.

But Obama is just one member of a generation of political leaders faced with a new task: honoring the contributions of their forebears without alienating the broader, multiracial audiences they need to win. I've spent part of the past year tracking dozens of these rising stars and have concluded that anyone who thinks Obama is unique is not paying attention. Consider Newark, N.J., mayor Cory Booker. His troubled city is into its third generation of African-American political leadership but not necessarily the good kind. Its previous two black mayors—Kenneth Gibson and Sharpe James—became ensnared in fraud and corruption prosecutions (Gibson was ultimately acquitted; James was not). Booker, 39, is something else entirely. A child of the New Jersey suburbs and a graduate of Stanford and Oxford, he faces an uphill battle in transforming Newark's troubled urban landscape.

Booker shares the metabolism of Washington mayor Adrian Fenty, a triathlete who recently waved away an ambulance after he tumbled from his bike near a city freeway. Fenty, 37, has demonstrated a Zelig-like ability to appear wherever cameras are rolling—whether at crime scenes or neighborhood block parties. But his boldest move came when he engineered a city-hall takeover of Washington's struggling public schools. He hired a no-nonsense outsider, Michelle Rhee, to reform the crumbling system; it's a huge gamble politically, but the city's future could depend on its success.

San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris, 43, is the first African American and first woman to hold her city's top law-enforcement post. The Howard University graduate spent several wintry days knocking on doors in Iowa for Obama. She comes to her activism honestly: her parents met at a Berkeley student protest. Another Obama backer is Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, one of only two current African-American governors. Patrick, 52, shocked the commonwealth's political establishment in 2006 when he came out of nowhere to defeat a long-favored Democrat in the primary and trounce an incumbent Republican lieutenant governor in the general election. His name is often floated in discussions of a potential Obama Cabinet, but Patrick says he plans to run for re-election in 2010.

The Obama generation is just beginning its run. South Carolina state representative Bakari Sellers is so young that when the picture on his office wall of him posing with Jesse Jackson was taken in 1988, Sellers was just 4 years old. Now 23, he is the son of Cleveland Sellers, who was jailed for his role protesting South Carolina's infamous Orangeburg massacre, and is an ardent Obama supporter. Sellers arrived at the state capitol last year and is still studying for the bar, but he is already eyeing statewide office. If he wanted to follow Obama's lead, Sellers would not be eligible to run for President until 2020. For now, it's enough that, just as Jackson drained some of the shock from the idea of electing a black President 20 years ago, Obama's 2008 may take us—if not past civil rights—at least to another level of the debate.

Ifill is the host of Washington Week on PBS, a senior correspondent for the NewsHour and the author of the forthcoming The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama


In a Historic Year, Ifill Has One Thing to Do: Her Job: PBS Veteran Focuses On the Politics, Not Race or Gender Issues
By Howard Kurtz
Washington, September 4, 2008; Page A24

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 3 -- Amid the craziness of covering the political conventions, Gwen Ifill has been brushing off one interview request after another.

"I'm in great demand -- everyone wants to talk to me -- but I'm not speaking for the whole race," the PBS correspondent says. "My job is to be a reporter. I cannot be the great interpreter. It's not my job to be on someone else's air telling them what black people think."

Ifill attracts her share of attention as the host of a prestigious show, "Washington Week," and as the woman tapped to moderate next month's vice presidential debate. But she stands out from the legion of journalists here for a more fundamental reason: The overwhelming majority of those writing, talking and blogging about the conventions are white.

As Barack Obama was claiming the Democratic nomination in Denver, Ifill says, a white television reporter asked her: "Aren't you just blown away by all of this?" She said she was not.

"Aren't you in the tank?" the reporter wondered.

On one level, Ifill says, she views this moment as the daughter of a black minister who marched in civil rights demonstrations and who she wishes were alive to see what Obama has achieved. But as a journalist, she says: "I still don't know if he'll be a good president. I'm still capable of looking at his pros and cons in a political sense." Besides, Ifill says, "no one's ever assumed a white reporter can't cover a white candidate."

She first met Obama at the 2004 Democratic convention, when she was a podium reporter and grabbed him for a quick word after his celebrated keynote address. She has also interviewed Obama and his family for Essence magazine.

PBS prides itself on carrying more of the proceedings than its competitors, which use much of their airtime for analysis and punditry. "We take the big speeches and a lot of little speeches," Ifill says. That has paid off in the ratings, with PBS averaging 3 million viewers last week while offering three hours of coverage each night, triple the time allotted by the broadcast networks.

On Oct. 2, Ifill will be questioning Joe Biden and Sarah Palin in their first and only face-off. She has been to this rodeo before, having moderated the 2004 debate between Vice President Cheney and John Edwards. "I was thrilled," she says. "It's fun to be able to ask the big questions on the big stage."

Ifill drew some criticism when Edwards attacked Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, and the vice president said: "I can respond, Gwen, but it's going to take more than 30 seconds."

"Well, that's all you've got," she replied.

Ifill says now that Democratic partisans were delighted because they "thought I was being snippy to Cheney." That, she says, was not her intent. Still, the consensus was that she acquitted herself well.

"Gwen is confident enough, she does her homework enough and she can listen to what's being said and move with what's being said," says her PBS colleague Jim Lehrer, who has moderated 10 presidential debates. "The pressure is extraordinary. You can ask something, say something, do something that affects the outcome of the election."

Ifill, 52, has only recently begun to think of herself as a television person, someone who must communicate with both words and pictures. She spent half her career as a reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun, Washington Post and New York Times, making the leap to broadcasting in 1994, when she joined NBC as a congressional reporter. Five years later, Ifill moved to PBS, where she is also a correspondent for the "NewsHour."

Ifill is, as in 2004, the only black moderator of this year's debates, as well as the only woman. And she's the only one not eligible for Social Security. The three presidential debates will be moderated by Lehrer, 74; CBS's Bob Schieffer, 71; and NBC's Tom Brokaw, 68.

Another moderator probably would not have asked Cheney and Edwards about AIDS in the United States, "where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts." She believes the candidates' answers showed that neither man "had given it a moment's thought."

Ifill says she does not solicit questions, even from fellow journalists. "I get a lot of letters and e-mails from people telling me what I should ask," she says. "I read them all. Some are damn good ideas" and could wind up being used.

McCain's surprise choice leaves Ifill with a more challenging task but also guarantees that the debate in St. Louis will attract an unusual degree of attention. "There's going to be a lot written about Sarah Palin between now and then, precisely because she's so little known. . . . By the time October 2nd rolls around, I'll be a complete expert on both" Palin and Biden.

One thing Ifill is determined to avoid, in the public broadcasting tradition, is showboating at the debate. "My job is to police it for the sake of clarity and the people at home, not for my own ego. The more I am speechifying or asking lofty questions or hogging the stage, the less people are apt to learn. I'm not running for anything."

To the extent she can carve out any spare time, Ifill is working on a book called "Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." She focuses on the Democratic nominee and such up-and-coming black politicians as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

"We're very lazy when we think about race in this country," Ifill says. "We try to put it in a box. It's Jesse versus Al, or Jesse and Al versus everyone else," she says, referring to Jackson and Sharpton. "We love simplistic conflict. There's a whole group of people who have Ivy League degrees and immense accomplishments who actually benefited from the things their parents were fighting for."

So why aren't there more of them in the media ranks at the Republican convention?

"You have to look hard," Ifill says. "That's a failure of news organizations, mostly newspapers, to support and promote people of color."

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