Wednesday, April 30, 2008

So much to say, so little time...

Boy is Barack Obama in deep doo-doo. When news broke about Jeremiah Wright a few months ago, Obama was forced to make his infamous Philadelphia speech - which at the time, did little to aleve the country's concerns about the influences in his life. While it did mobilize his base, it also began to show cracks in Obama's veneer.

After reviewing and re-reviewing his speech, I now realize that Obama had little choice but to say what he said. Especially in light of what happened over the weekend. With the spotlight back on Wright - after a weekend of wall-to-wall Wright coverage on the networks - Obama decided he needed to completely sever his ties to his former pastor and mentor.

The dilemma Obama is now faced with is coming from both sides of the issue. On the right, the question is what took so long? On the left - and primarily from the African American community - the question is why he felt the need to throw Wright under the bus. That community is asking if Obama made yesterday's remarks because he was forced to compromise for "Whitey"?

The answer will tell us what we need to know about the Obama, the Candidate - and either way, the answer is not good.

Al Sharpton - a man who knows a thing or two about race baiting - criticized Obama for his remarks regarding the Sean Bell verdict. Reverend Al was upset when Obama called for a "non-violent" response (which, given Sharpton's history was a very responsible thing to do). Sharpton, on the other hand, said that he hoped Obama would take the Bell's side (he never said he didn't) and that he shouldn't use this opportunity to "grandstand in front of white people.”

So what is Obama to do? On one hand, he is criticized for not separating himself from the black community and on the other hand, he's criticized for doing it.

This may well be the one and only reason this country may not be ready to elect a black President (even though Obama is technically "mixed-raced").

The truth is, race plays a very big part in politics - especially on the left. The Party that demands to be the Party for everyone is truly the Party for no one. Aside from the obvious issue of electing the first woman or the first black, the Democrats can't even come to terms with who they are.

The critical question for Obama becomes which constituency is he running with? For election purposes, it's clear that Obama understands that without the white vote, he no longer can win nomination. By throwing Wright under the bus, he's saying that the white vote is more important. The only reason he is right is because the white population is bigger than the black population. He is also banking on the fact that he will still win the majority of the African-American regardless.

This tells us one big thing about the Senator from Illinois - that his platform of "Change You Can Believe In" is no different than politics as usual. Obama's biggest mistake was his not being true to who he really is. And after so many months on the campaign trail, do we - or anyone else - really know who he is?


Paula, Paula, Paula...

There are three possible reasons Ms. Abdul short-circuited on last night's American Idol. For those of you who missed it, because of time restraints (each contestant was charged with performing two songs each and the show was only on for one hour), Ryan Seacrest announced that all the judge's critique's would take place after they all performed performed their first songs.

When Syesha Mercado, the fifth contestant finished her very good rendition of "Hello Again" (the mentor for the evening was the great Neil Diamond and the songs were all penned by him), Ryan called all five of them back up to center stage and asked the three judges for a quick comment about each. Randy Jackson went first (as always) and gave 1-2 word comments ("bland", "the bomb", "hot"...). Then came the train wreck known as Paula Abdul. The first contestant was Jason Castro, who sand "Forever in Blue Jeans." It wasn't terribly good, but it wasn't awful either (IMHO). This is what Paula said to him:

''Jason, the first song I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear. The second song, I felt like your usual charm wasn' was missing for me, it kind of left me a little empty. And the two songs made me feel like you're not fighting hard enough to get into the top four.''
Uh, second song?

After being told of her error, Ms. Abdul stuttered:
"I thought you—Oh my god, I thought you sang twice!…You know what, this is hard! You know what, I'm looking at, it's your notes, David [Cook]. You were fantastic."
Hard? My G-d! What could be easier than listening to a song being performed right in front of you and saying something..anything about it? Considering the fact that she rarely says anything substantive in the first place, I find it hard to listen to her.

Now generally, I am not a conspiracy theorist. However, I can only see four reasons for such a glaring mistake.

1. The rumors of Paula drinking something stronger than Coca-Cola on the set are, in fact, true.

2. Reading and writing are way above her qualifications.

3. She wrote the critique based on the dress rehearsals, and not the actual show.

4. The show is completely scripted.

While numbers one and two may sound good, they are unlikely. Therefore, we must assume that either she based the comments on the rehearsals - thereby predetermining Jason not on his performance last night in front of a live audience, but on a practice which he may, or may not have been fully ready for. Or, American Idol is as rigged as professional wrestling.

Considering that the show has such a huge audience (and that the contestants have been receiving over 30 million votes), this is very troubling.

And if I were Jason Castro, I would be livid. This 20-something-year-old kid does not deserve the slap he just received. After hearing that it really didn't matter how well he performed his second song, he was immediately called upon to perform it. What do you think went through his mind?

I realize American Idol is just a TV show, but it is arguably the biggest TV show of them all. If it is deemed fixed, the amount of money that the show generates would be a huge loss. Scandals brought down a game show before, but it was not nearly as financially relevant as is American Idol. Remember, this is the show that brought in over $60,000,000 for charity this past month through the Idol Gives Back show.

In other words, it's not chump change.

From my perspective, there is only one thing the producer's of Idol can do. On tonight's episode, Paula must apologize to Jason and must admit to critiquing him on his dress rehearsal.She also needs to make it clear that it won't happen again. America accepts apologies and they rue cover ups. As far as Ms. Abdul is concerned, this needs to be her last year on the show. Her meltdowns and gaffe's are no longer amusing. They have become potentially devastating.

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