Friday, September 29, 2006

Jim Webb, George Allen, and the Richmond Free Press

As most of you know, Thaddaeus Toad and I live and work in the heart of the city of Richmond, about 2 blocks away from the famous Jefferson Hotel.  We're city dwellers, and we walk a lot and take the bus quite a bit.  We love this city; there is culture, diversity, history, the metropolitan feel, and that good old fashioned Main Street, USA ambiance.  Shockoe Slip, home to some of the oldest and best restaurants in the city, is still cobblestone, and the Boulevard and Monument Avenue are adorned with beautiful statues and memorials of some of Virginia's greatest heroes.  If you're ever here visiting, let us know; we'd love to see you.

As most of you also know, Richmond is home to one of the most disgraceful and Republican biased newspapers in the country; the Richmond Times Dispatch.  RTD is affectionately called the Richmond Times Disgrace as well as the Reich Times Dispatch, and it is pretty much useless in terms of bipartisan news.  I stopped reading it a long time ago; once I realized that they spend more time getting their Sunday Weddings section together than they do on reporting facts on politics, I gave it up completely.  I can read their bias online anyway, and there is no need for me to contribute to their GOP donation account.  Most city residents agree.

Luckily, we have the Richmond Free Press and its fabulous editor, Raymond Boone (PDF file).

The Free Press is not online and it only comes out once a week.  The writers focus on issues facing the city and its residents, and they dedicate a good amount of page space to Virginia politics.  They are fair and balanced (and I mean that the way Fox news DOESN'T), and yes; they do focus on the African American community.  This should not be a surprise to anyone, given the demographics of the city of Richmond.

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 197,790 people, 84,549 households, and 43,627 families residing in the city. A more recent census estimate indicates that the city's population has grown to 201,384. The population density was 1,271.3/km² (3,292.6/mi²). There were 92,282 housing units at an average density of 593.1/km² (1,536.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 38.30% White, 57.19% African American, 0.24% Native American, 1.25% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.49% from other races, and 1.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.57% of the population.
This week's paper bore the headline N-word preceded 'macaca' and included photos of both candidates shaking hands with African Americans.  The front page stories were as follows:  Allen, Webb pitch for important vote; Ex-teammate: Sen. Allen also used a deer head; and Lambert shows up at a caucus meeting.

I grabbed three copies.

The N-word article is a version of the AP article by Bob Lewis.  JC Wilmore over at the Richmond Democrat has a write up about it; check it out.  It's a fair and factual article, and it covers all the bases of Allen's sordid history, Macacagate, the REAL Larry Sabato's take, and Allen's Jewish roots (including the Peggy Fox meltdown).

The article that pays homage to the candidates and highlights the importance of the African American vote is also very well written.  The Obama rally, Webb's recent trips to the city and visits with the Legislative Black Caucus and Raymond Boone of the Free Press, and the news that Jim will be at the Virginia Union Homecoming game as well as the famous 2 Street Festival are all covered.  A few weeks ago, editor Ray Boone urged Jim Webb through an editorial to "start paying more attention to black voters".  Ray Boone's call was heard, and Jim webb spent an hour at the Free Press.  Good on Jim Webb.

The article goes on to highlight Allen's recent gaffes and also covers the macaca incident, the n-word, and his fetish for the Confederate flag.  It also includes accounts of Allen's recent speeches made to rally the African American base in his favor, and it reminds readers that one of the African American Reverands whom has endorsed Allen has had a few problems of his own.  But the highlight for me was the opening few paragrahs:

Democrat Jim Webb is being pictured with Senator Barack Obama, huddling with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and scheduling more appearances at events like Richmond's popular Second Street Festival.

At the same time, the Republican George Allen, dogged by allegations about his use of the n-word and other racially charged comments, is holding press conferences with black ministers, making stops at black churches and promoting the endorsement from a senior black member of the General Assembly.

What's up?

With less than six weeks to go to the Nov. 7 vote, the two U.S. Senate candidates are clearly revving up their efforts to appeal to black voters - a crucial voting group that could decide the contest now rated neck and neck.

Holding 20 percent of the state's vote, the black electorate is now seen as crucial by both capaigns, particularly with polls showing Mr. Webb with a strong chance to unseat the incumbant senator who only months ago was considered a shoo-in.
A "shoo-in" indeed....

The article on Lambert and his decision to attend the meeting of the 17-member Virginia Legislative Black Caucus for the first time since the Allen endorsement is solid. Apparently, Lambert stayed for only the first 15 minutes of the 45 minute long meeting. Lambert is quoted in the paper when a reporter asked him about the sharp criticism his endorsement drew from Delegate Dwight C. Jones and most Democratc members, including Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and civil rights advocates. After leaving the meeting early, Sen. Lambert said that he was not aware of any criticism over his decision to endore Allen.
"I haven't heard anything. I've been in California for the last five weeks," he told a Free Press reporter.

When informed of Wednesday's meeting with Sen. Allen's opponent, Republican-turned-Democrat Jim Webb, he indicated that he decided to attend - wihout hesitiation.

"I came because I'm a member of the Caucus. I did not want to not show up," the Seantor said.

However, the senator apeared uncomfortable during the meeting, Delegate Jones told a Free Press reporter. Sen. Lambert left the meeting early.

"He was not asked to leave. He left of his own free will," the delegate said.
As a Richmond city resident, I hope to soon see an endorsement from the Caucus for Jim Webb. However, I am glad that Jim is taking the time to meet with the members and discuss the issues. It would be GREAT to get back to issues at some point before November 7, 2006.

There are three letters focused on the Lambert endorsement from readers, and one was written by a former assistant secretary of commerce in the Reagan administration. The letter is informative and telling because it lays out the TRUTH about Allen's work with the African American community.
Where was Sen. Lambert when George Allen was displaying the hangman's noose in his office?

Where was Sen. Lambert when then Delegate Allen refused to support a holiday for Nobel Laureate Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Where was Sen. Lambert on March 21, 1994, when an article in the Washington Post stated: "To some liberals, the first two months of Virginia Governor Allen's administration offer evidence that the 42-year-old Republican wants Virginia to turn back the clock all the way to the 1950s?"

Where was Sen. Lambert when Gov. Allen slashed funds to black colleges and universities in the commonwealth by 10 percent, when the average cut was 2.7 percent for 15 other state-supported, four-year schools?

Where was Sen. Lambert when Sen. Allen was photographed in 1996 at the Washington Hilton hotel with the leadership of the Council of Conservtaive Citizens, the successors to the White Citizens Council?

Where was Sen. Lambert when Sen. Allen supported the war in Iraq based on the lie of weapons of mass destruction and the falsehood of Saddam Hussein being associated with the tragedy of 9/11?

In these perilous times, Sen. Lambert would be well advised to recognize that politics is not the stage for sycophants and that public service does not require subservience.

I have lived in Virginia for more than 41 years. I was privilidged to serve in the administration of three Republican Presidents [Nixon, Ford and Reagan] and have been an active participant in the political process. There is absolutely nothing in the public service of Sen. Allen to justify an endorsement by an African-American.
Thank you, Free Press, and thank YOU, editor Ray Boone. You have provided more news and coverage on these sensitive issues facing the Virginia Senate Race than any other paper in the area, and you are to be commended for your service. Pholks, this must be what you get from a paper that is free to all residents, has a week to get their stories together and spend time on the issues, and is not owned by corporate power and a partisan stronghold. I am proud to be a resident of this great city, and I am proud to admit that I eagerly await my copy of the Richmond Free Press every week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Free Press isn't biased?

It's an African-American newspaper, produced for the African-American community. Being biased is the entire point of the Richmond Free Press.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course. But "fair and balanced?" Please. It's a community paper, not 20/20.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Phriendly Jaime said...

I respectfully disagree with you. If you read it all the time, you would see what I mean. They have gone after their own politicians as well, African American Democrats, so in this case, you are simly wrong.

10:05 AM  

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