Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., this week found himself embroiled in a controversy surrounding his statements on “Jena Six,” the six black teenagers in Jena, La. who are facing criminal charges after beating up a white classmate.
On Wednesday, Roddie Burris of The State reported that Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has endorsed Obama, said the senator was “acting like he’s white” and not responding forcefully enough to what Jackson sees as an example of racial injustice. Jackson quickly denied the statement, telling Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times the comment was “absurd” and Obama “does not have to jump through hoops to prove his ethnicity.”
The Obama campaign, however, still sought to clarify the candidate’s position on the Jena Six. On Thursday, as thousands of protestors marched in Jena, Obama released a statement of support.
“The thousands of Americans from every race and region who have descended on this small Louisiana town carry forth the legacy of all those who sat at lunch counters and took freedom rides to strike a blow against injustice wherever it may exist,” he said. “When a noose hangs from a schoolyard tree in the 21st century and young men are treated in a way that is not equal nor just, it is not just an offense to the people of Jena or to the African-American community, it is an offense to the ideals we hold as Americans.”
But the dust-up once again demonstrates the tight-rope Obama is walking as a black candidate for president. One reporter, “Nicholas Wepshott of the New York Sun”: http://www.nysun.com/article/63015 went so far as to suggest that “Senator Obama’s presidential ambitions may rest on how he responds to the trials in Jena, La., of six schoolboys accused of attempted murder in a case that has become a test of whether racialism still stalks the Southern states.”
The events in Jena overshadowed what was supposed to be Obama’s major policy announcement of the week: tax cuts for the middle class. In a Tuesday speech to the Tax Policy Center in Washington, D.C., the senator outlined how he would provide $80 billion to $85 billion in tax cuts for workers, homeowners, and lower and middle income seniors.
“As he pursues the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, is seeking to cast himself as an advocate for working Americans, arguing against special interests that he says have contributed to a widening gap between the rich and the middle class and poor,” wrote Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times. “Mr. Obama’s plan would essentially increase tax rates on the wealthy and some corporations to reduce taxes on lower- and middle-income people.”
Ahead of the next campaign finance filing deadline, Obama’s campaign has launched an online donor initiative. In an e-mail to supporters, campaign manager David Plouffe said that if an individual makes a donation, another supporter will match the contribution.
“This isn’t an anonymous donor program backed by big checks from Washington lobbyists or corporate fat cats,” Plouffe wrote. “This is a one-to-one, supporter-to-supporter effort.”
Obama’s Iowa director Paul Tewes also e-mailed supporters this week, asking for donations to help Obama win in the state that will cast the first primary votes.
“Why does Iowa matter to you? Because the momentum from a win in Iowa could create a domino effect in the rest of the states that follow,” Tewes wrote.
Obama also has a new ad running in Iowa, called “Believe:”
The senator has an event planned Friday at Iowa State University and a town hall meeting for seniors in Ames. He’s scheduled to visit three other towns in the Hawkeye State on Saturday.