On the roster: Booker and Harris on a collision course – Blackface or Klan hood? Northam’s very terrible week – Trump says ‘listen closely’ to SOTU for wall plan – Warren apologizes to Cherokees for DNA test blunder – Oops…
BOOKER AND HARRIS ON A COLLISION COURSE
Cory Booker is all at once doing something quite conventional and at the same time something totally out of step with the times.
The New Jersey senator’s announcement today, the first day of Black History Month, identified him in a tradition of black Democratic presidential candidates. He quite explicitly is taking ownership of that identity in a way that his fellow Senate Judiciary Committee member, Kamala Harris of California, did not.
Booker’s message, featured in opening remarks set against a backdrop of a chain-link fence and a beat-up car in his hometown of Trenton as well as an artfully produced introductory video, was explicit about his connection to a tradition that stretches back to the abolitionist movement.
Invoking Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglas, Booker placed himself on a continuum that has been one of the most powerful forces to shape the modern Democratic Party.
Democratic primary voters in early state South Carolina, for example, were 61 percent black in 2016. In delegate-rich Florida, black voters were 27 percent of the Democratic electorate, and that was a basically boring contest between two of the whitest humans in politics, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
As Barack Obama found, though, black voters learned to be even more skeptical of African American candidates than many white voters.
After Obama beat Hillary Clinton in South Carolina in 2008, Bill Clinton was dismissive of the victory in a way pointed squarely at the heart of African Americans’ concerns.
“Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ‘84 and ‘88,” the former president said. “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here.”
Bill Clinton’s message: Obama is a niche black candidate like Jackson was twice before. Have your fun in a majority black electorate, but now the real show will start.
It was the kind of paternalistic head patting that immediately incensed black Democrats. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the dean of South Carolina Democratic politics, would subsequently recall in his memoir how the former president had called him in the wee hours after the primary results were in.
“If you bastards want a fight,” Clyburn recalled Clinton barking at him. “You damn well will get one.”
That episode helped convince black Democrats far beyond the borders of the Palmetto State of some things.
Obama’s own story – Kenyan father, Kansan mother, raised in Hawaii and Indonesia – was not part of the mainstream black American experience. He was a dramatic departure from politicians like Jackson who grew out of the civil rights movement and for whom ameliorating racial grievances was their primary objective.
Bill Clinton’s outbursts answered the question that had dogged Obama since the start of his campaign: Was he “black enough?” After that business, black voters had their answer.
Obama went from a candidate who had considerable appeal among white liberals, especially for his opposition to the Iraq war, now had a united, dedicated African American electorate backing him to the hilt. Obama had cut the Gordian knot of Democratic politics and united upscale, white elites with the black base.
For Booker, the situation is very different. First, Obama substantially retired the question of whether white Americans would ever accept a black president. Second, there is another top-tier African American candidate, also a senator, to claim the mantle.
Booker knows that this will be a crucial consideration for his viability. Harris is from a bigger state and can be expected to score better with female voters. If he is not able to win in South Carolina and other states with majority black electorates, the math gets pretty daunting for him.
But how does he do that without turning into the kind of candidate that Bill Clinton was dismissing a decade ago? If Booker appears to be a niche candidate like Jackson, many voters, including plenty of African Americans, may write him off.
That’s the second and more radical part of his pitch.
“We need to have leaders in this country who understand what patriotism means, and patriotism means love of country,” Booker said. “And you can’t love your country if you don’t love your countrymen.”
Booker is organizing his campaign under a banner of “universal love.” He’s decrying partisanship and preaching a political gospel of grace, forgiveness and love, yes, even for Donald Trump.
To say the least, this is out of step with his party overall, where candidates are running to see who can be the most confrontational with Trump. If Democrats hate Trump, they presumably will want a candidate who matches their animus. Do they really want to hear about “universal love?”
But for a candidate who wants to claim the civil rights mantle, it may not be such a bad idea. It insulates him against the suggestion that he is in some way militant or divisive and makes the focus of his campaign not retributive justice but rather harmony, racial and otherwise.
Harris, whose own biography leans more toward Obama’s own second and third culture experience, is reaching out to black voters from a less explicitly ethnic starting place. Booker is planting himself squarely in black America and reaching out across the divide in the other direction.
Just as New England white liberals Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will battle brutally for the same votes, especially in New Hampshire, Harris and Booker are now set on a collision course in South Carolina.
You can bet Clyburn won’t have any trouble getting RSVP’s for his annual fish fry this spring…
THE RULEBOOK: FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT
“The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11
TIME OUT: A LESSON FROM CARTER WOODSON
Time: “The official theme of Black History Month 2019, ‘Black Migrations,’ is a fitting one: not only is migration one of today’s most pressing political issues, but it’s also a key part of the annual observance’s own history. Black History Month’s roots can be traced to the Great Migration of the early 20th century, during which millions of African Americans from the South moved to the northern cities hoping for better job opportunities. In 1918, Carter G. Woodson published his book A Century of Negro Migration, which argued that the Great Migration represented a ‘new phase of Negro American life which will doubtless prove to be the most significant event in our local history since the Civil War.’ The book helped put Woodson on the map, and less than a decade later — as literacy rates were on the rise among black populations in those cities — he was instrumental in establishing Negro History Week, the predecessor to Black History Month.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 41 percent
Average disapproval: 55.2 percent
Net Score: -14.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 3.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 38% approve – 57% disapprove; Monmouth University: 43% approve – 53% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 38% approve – 58% disapprove; Fox News: 43% approve – 54% disapprove.]
BLACKFACE OR KLAN HOOD? NORTHAM’S VERY TERRIBLE WEEK
The Virginian-Pilot: “A photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook shows two men, one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, on the same page as the future governor. The photo, which The Virginian-Pilot obtained a copy of Friday from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library, comes from the 1984 yearbook, the year Northam graduated. On the half-page set aside for Northam, there is a headshot of him in a jacket and tie, a photo of him in a cowboy hat and boots and a third of him sitting casually on the ground, leaning against a convertible. The fourth photo on the half-page has two people, one wearing white Ku Klux Klan robes and a hood, the other with his face painted black. The person with the black face is also wearing a white hat, black jacket, white shirt with a bow tie and plaid pants. Both are holding canned drinks. It’s unclear who the people in costume are. … The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon. The chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, Jack Wilson, said in a statement: ‘Racism has no place in Virginia. These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.’”
Northam issued an apology for the photo – WTKR: “Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a statement Friday evening following the publication of his senior medical school yearbook page that featured a photograph of a man wearing blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. ‘Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive. I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.’”
WARREN APOLOGIZES TO CHEROKEES FOR DNA TEST BLUNDER
NYT: “Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is running for her party’s presidential nomination, has privately apologized to the Cherokee Nation for her decision to take a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry, a move that had angered some tribal leaders and ignited a significant political backlash. The apology comes as Ms. Warren is set to formally kick off her presidential run this month after recent visits to early nominating states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. It also comes after repeated calls for her to apologize from tribal leaders, political operatives, and her own advisers, who said her October decision to take the DNA test gave undue credence to the controversial claim that race could be determined by blood — and politically, played into President Trump’s hands. … On Thursday, Ms. Warren called Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, to apologize for the DNA test, said Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the tribe. She called it a ‘brief and private’ conversation.”
Sanders proposes raising estate tax for billionaires – HuffPo: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) just proposed huge increases to the estate tax, which would reverse decades of cuts that have allowed the nation’s richest to establish generations of wealth. Sanders wants to tax billionaires at a top rate of 77 percent when they die, a massive increase from the current rate. His Thursday announcement of what he’s calling the For The 99.8% Act came just days after Republican senators announced they wanted to repeal the estate tax wholesale. Sanders said the bill would raise $2.2 trillion from the more than 500 people who are billionaires in the U.S. at a time when Democratic contenders for president seem to be in a race to one-up each other with new ways of getting the rich to pay their fair share. Sanders is expected to announce his candidacy for 2020 soon.”
U.S. jobs report shows gains amidst shutdown – NYT
Trump admin withdraws from arms treaty with Russia – AP
Trump plans to incorporate anti-abortion comments into State of the Union address – Politico
Martha McSally flagged by FEC for excessive campaign donations – AP
AUDIBLE: WE SURE HOPE SO
“I met every member of the Senate. We all have brains above a single-cell organism.” – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) talking on the floor of the Senate.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
NBC4: “A New Jersey man who claimed he hurt himself slipping on ice cubes actually threw the cubes onto the floor and lay down on top of them to make it look like he’d fallen, surveillance video shows. Alexander Goldinsky, 57, of Randolph, filed an insurance claim between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1 of last year alleging he’d injured himself after slipping and falling in the cafeteria at a business in Woodbridge, Middlesex County prosecutors said. Goldinsky is an independent contractor who was performing work at the business when the incident took place, prosecutors said. … Surveillance video of the incident shows Goldinsky fill a plastic cup with ice cubes and toss them onto the floor of the cafeteria before pretending to fall onto his back. Goldinsky holds onto a counter as he lowers himself to the floor, the video shows.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“By 2019, we could all be underwater or living under Sharia law, depending on whether your doomsday is of the Democratic or Republican flavor. In the interim, I’m going to eat, drink and watch [Bryce] Harper.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 21, 2016.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.