Sunday, November 2, 2008

Andrew Young Endorses Obama, Explains His Silence and Earlier Clinton Support

Ambassador Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s aides, sat down with CNN journalist T. J. Holmes this Sunday morning and admitted he's already voted for Barack Obama and formally endorses him for President of the United States. Young, who at first supported Hillary Clinton, suggested that Obama isn't burdened by the scars of coming of age black in America during the 30s, 40s, and 50s, and so, he can unify people. He believes that Obama's cultural make-up, intelligence, and eloquence make him well-suited to lead and inspire the nation.

In the beginning of the interview, Young explained why he had been reluctant to state his support for Obama sooner:
"I have a lot of controversy in my background and I didn't want him to have to carry or answer to it, and I never know when something's going to come up when I want to say something that he shouldn't be caught saying." (Andrew Young on CNN's Sunday Morning)
He also mentioned another conversation he had with Holmes in Tanzania in which he told the journalist that he wasn't sure America was ready for a black president. He seems to have changed his mind partially because of the economic crisis and how Obama's handled his campaign.

"I was born with Franklin Roosevelt and not since the Great Depression have we had the threat to the economy that we have now," Young said. Later he echoed Colin Powell, calling Obama a "transformational figure."

You can watch the CNN video below and a partial interview transcript.


Young is an icon of the Civil Rights Movement who also helped draft the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As mentioned in the interview, he is a former mayor of Atlanta, Ga., who served 1981-1989. In 1977 then United States President Jimmy Carter appointed Young American Ambassador to the United Nations. Here is some of what he said during his interview with Holmes.
Young: Back when I was supporting HIllary Clinton, I sent Barack Obama a copy of Jonathan Alter's book on Frank Roosevelt's first 100 days and I said, 'You know, you might win. You better read this.'

Holmes: Well, what changed for you? You were supporting Hillary Clinton and you said he didn't have the experience and you said ...

Young: "No, no. I never said that.

Holmes: You said he was too young.

Young: No, I never said that.

Holmes: (smiling and nearly chuckling) You said he was too young.

Young: I said I had known Hillary Clinton since she was a college girl and I had only met him once. And the only reason I would be voting for him at that point ... is because he was a wonderful, eloquent speaker. But when I read his book I realized that this young man has a kind of cultural DNA that I think the world needs.

Now I figured it would be another eight years or so before the economy fell apart. We've been on a bubble for a long time, but it happened earlier. If I were making my choice as to vote for in August of this year before the convention, it was very clear that we need the kind of idealism and enthusiasm that Barack Obama's election would bring to the global economy.

Now, let me say that I'm not blowing smoke here. Atlanta was kind of in a rut in 1980 an '81 and my election turned around this economy and it wasn't that I did anything except go around the world and invite people to work with us. But we brought in $70 billion of foreign-direct investment in Atlanta. Eleven hundred companies moved their businesses here, and we created a million jobs.

Holmes: So, before he does anything, just the image of just him being elected ...

Young: No, what it is is it's a belief in America. It says, 'Well, I'll be darned. They really do practice what they preach.

Holmes: Okay, last thing here. ... Well, I know we're going to have to let you go, but one thing, there was so much talk before, and we haven't heard this lately, about Obama not being black enough. He's not from the same ... (Young looks about to object and Holmes gestures toward him for some leeway) ... No. Stay with me here ...

Young: But as good.

Holmes: Okay, as good. So you say that's a good thing, but ...

Young: As wonderful!

Holmes: ... but so many of the Civil Rights era, I mean, he didn't come up in that era, if you will, so ...

Young: And that's good. And that's a blessing, and I realize that I have a hard time believing and trusting because I have so many battle scars and so many wounds from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s (chuckles slightly). He grew up free of that so we're not so much electing a black man as we are electing one of the brightest and best organized and disciplined young men, and I don't relate his election to Martin Luther King as much as I do to John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt because he's a transformational figure. And we didn't make much fuss about Kennedy being Irish. We didn't even know what Roosevelt was, Dutch maybe. But the fact is that he was the man of the hour, the man that the world needed at that time. (partial transcript of the CNN Young/Holmes interview)
Holmes did his homework for the interview. I recall the debate over Obama's blackness, that he didn't come up through the Civil Rights struggle and was not the descendants of slaves. The journalist was wise to get Young, the Civil Rights warrior, to address Obama's blackness again, but I think Young's "as good" description may be misinterpreted by some.

And it's no wonder that Holmes seemed a little confused by Young saying he never said Obama didn't have enough experience. From some of Young's previous commentary about Obama, you could get the impression he did think lack of experience was a reason not to get behind Obama. The ambassador said during another interview available at NewsMakers that he wanted Obama to be president but not until the year 2016. However, he did insist back then that he wasn't talking about experience:
"It is not a matter of being inexperienced," Young told an Atlanta crowd this fall. "It is a matter of being young. There is a certain matter of maturity ... You have to have a protective network around you... Leadership requires suffering. And I would like to see Barack's children get a little older, see, because they're going to pick on them." (Young at Redding Review, Dec. 2007)
So, the issue was Obama's youth, but the ambassador also suggested the Illinois senator was rushing to the head of the class too soon and needed more maturity. In addition, he appeared to fear during the NewMakers video (it's from the same event reported through the Redding Review) that the presidency would be too hard on Barack and his family. He talked about the trials Martin Luther King, Jr., faced. Perhaps he didn't want to see another African-American live that heartache.

However, Young also joked back then that Bill Clinton probably had "been with more black women" than Obama and was as black, mabye blacker, than Obama. Quite a few bloggers objected to his joke. Uppity Negro, for instance, had a lot to say about Young's commentary.

Considering Young's earlier commentary on Barack running for the White House, I think his opening statements during his Holmes interview were on point. Barack Obama didn't need him going around speaking on his behalf if he was going to make distasteful jokes, if Young wanted to speak his mind and not be a distraction. That said, it's good to see Young speak more intelligently today about Obama and clarify any reticence, and he reveals his own introspection as he compares the life he's led under racial oppression in past America to the lives we all may live better today.

Update, dark cloud with some silver lining: Reflecting on Andrew Young's fears of the trials the Obamas will face, I inform you that CNN reports Pennsylvania Republicans are pushing racial misgivings in these final days, resurrecting the Rev. Wright controversy, and I can tell you that similar ads have run here in Louisiana by the GOP Trust PAC. I recommend Prof. Kim's post on Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Black Church if anyone wants a deeper understanding, and I have a post on other attacks here. It does not include last week's thwarted skinhead plot. If that's all too depressing, look on the sunny side. BlogHer's updated with Maria Niles' bold prediction about white America or you can watch this uplifting video that reminds us "You can vote however you like" or watch McCain on SNL raising campaign funds with QVC or listen to the Palin Prank. I'm determined to have a good day.

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