Responsibility Is Again Theme for Obama

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Responsibility Is Again Theme for Obama

CINCINNATI -- Barack Obama drew loud applause Monday night as he told one of the nation's most influential African American groups that he will press his call for blacks to take more responsibility for their lives.

"Yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Washington. And yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But we also have to demand more from ourselves," Obama told several thousand people attending the annual convention of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. "Now, I know some say I've been too tough talking about responsibility. NAACP, I'm here to report, I'm not going to stop talking about it."

He added: "No matter how much money we invest in our communities, how many 10-point plans we propose, how many government programs we launch -- none of it will make a difference . . . if we . . . don't seize more responsibility in our own lives."

Obama repeated a call for black parents to be more involved in their children's lives, but he stayed away from more pointed language, such as he used in a Father's Day speech chastising black fathers who were "acting like boys instead of men."

Such remarks irritated some of Obama's backers, including some who were at the NAACP convention. Jesse L. Jackson suggested last week that was an example of the Democratic candidate "talking down to black people."

On Monday, Obama also spoke of the importance of parents "teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth, teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception," Obama said. "That what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one -- that's a message we need to send."

The bulk of Obama's speech focused on the responsibility of government to help black families more and of corporate America to provide more support for reducing the pay gap between executives and employees. And he praised black leaders who had come before him.

"If I have the privilege of serving as your next president, 100 years after the founding of the NAACP," he said, "I will stand up for you the same way that earlier generations of Americans stood up for me -- by fighting to ensure that every single one of us has the chance to make it if we try."

His Republican opponent, John McCain, is scheduled to address the convention Wednesday.

-- Perry Bacon Jr.


To Latinos, McCain Revisits Immigration

SAN DIEGO -- Speaking at the National Council of La Raza conference Monday, John McCain said he would "prefer" not to attack Barack Obama but felt obligated to respond to allegations that he backed away from comprehensive immigration reform for political reasons.

"At a moment of great difficulty in my campaign, when my critics said it would be political suicide for me to do so, I helped author with Senator Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform, and fought for its passage," McCain said.

Obama, he continued, "declined to cast some of those tough votes."

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor responded: "The facts are that Barack Obama stood up for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, and even the measure the McCain campaign is attacking us on today was supported by 40 immigrant groups supporting reform, including La Raza."

McCain reiterated his commitment to immigration reform in terms that appealed to the Latino audience. While he continued to say he would focus first on securing U.S. borders, he framed the pledge in language that sounded more favorable to immigrants than his usual town hall remarks.

"We must prove we have the resources to secure our borders and use them, while respecting the dignity and rights of citizens and legal residents of the United States," he said.

Describing some who died as they tried to cross the border, McCain concluded a vivid portrait of the dead by saying, "These simply were God's children who wanted to be Americans." The audience applauded with vigor.

McCain also devoted a significant portion of his speech to economic issues -- he noted that there are 2 million Latino-owned businesses in the United States -- saying he would keep taxes low and promote trade agreements with Latin America.

-- Juliet Eilperin


Parties Seek Input on Convention Platforms

PHILADELPHIA -- Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, newly named chairman of the Democrats' platform-drafting committee, on Monday announced plans for the process and immediately set up a competition with Republicans for the most open and inclusive operation in history.

Three days ago, the Republican National Committee announced plans to create a Web site where any voter can offer ideas for what John McCain should run on.

Napolitano, an early backer of Barack Obama, said Democrats would have the same thing and, starting on Saturday, would have at least 1,000 sites around the nation where people could meet and discuss their ideas for the party platform.

In an interview here, where she was attending the National Governors Association summer meeting, Napolitano said her committee will meet in Cleveland on Aug. 1 and 2 to begin the drafting and in Pittsburgh a week later to submit its draft to the convention platform committee. Its chairman has yet to be named.

In preparation, Napolitano said she has read the Democratic platforms back to 1992 and all of Obama's major policy speeches in this campaign.

She said the Obama campaign has assigned Jeff Berman, who ran its delegate operations during the primaries, as the liaison to the platform committee.

On the Republican side, the co-chairmen of the platform committee are Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. Both are identified with newer members of Congress who have been pushing the leadership to define a 21st-century version of conservatism.

McCarthy said the Republicans will draft their platform in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the site of their convention, the week before it opens on Labor Day -- the same late August week when the Democrats will hold their convention in Denver.

-- David S. Broder

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