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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Encore Presentation of 360 Special on Race and Politics
Aired January 25, 2008 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We also have other segments from the program, you can read the blog. Check out the "Beat 360" pictures. There's anything. You can get your haircut at that site, cnn.com/360.
Over the next hour, Soledad O'Brien joins me for a look at race and politics; an encore presentation of our 360 Special Report starts right now.
Like it or not, race has become an issue in this campaign in ways large and small. So in this hour, Soledad O'Brien and I will be looking at how it has impacted today's politics. And we'll bring you more highlights from tonight's debate.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This in fact is the first time that an African-American or a woman has a real chance of winning the White House; the possibility that's creating tough choices for African- American women. We're going to take a look at how that's playing out in South Carolina this week.
We'll also look tonight at the Clinton factor. Former president Bill Clinton has deep support among African-Americans but he's also been playing what some people call "bad cop" to his wife's campaign. Has he crossed the line in recent days? We'll take a look at that question.
COOPER: And also during the debate, Barack Obama was asked if he agreed that Bill Clinton was the first African-American president. We'll have his response -- we'll show you his response in the hour ahead.
Also race and immigration -- a bitter battle. Some voters don't think race is playing a role in the controversy over illegal immigration. We'll take a look at that tonight.
A lot ahead.
O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely. And Anderson, four decades after Martin Luther King's death and just weeks after Barack Obama's win in Iowa, a new CNN poll finds more Americans than ever before believe that the country is ready for an African-American president.
Take a look at the poll numbers. 72 percent of white Americans, 61 percent of black Americans surveyed said the U.S. is ready for a black commander in chief. Now as for gender, 64 percent of men, 65 percent of women surveyed say the country is ready for a woman in the White House. In South Carolina's Democratic primary, this Saturday, almost half of the voters will be African-Americans and many of them women. So take a look at these poll numbers last week. Among black women nationally, Barack Obama had an 11-point lead over Hillary Clinton. That's the reversal of the lead that Clinton had in October.
Tonight CNN's Randi Kaye takes a closer look at those numbers.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pampering and politics. You'll find both at this Charleston beauty salon. Not even the hair dryers drown out the chorus of political opinion.
ANGELA JACKSON, OWNER, ANJAE'S HAIR STUDIO AND SALON: Who better than Hillary who has experience, right? Who's been in -- and experienced in running the country. She did it when her husband was president. Come on.
KAYE: In her own salon, owner Angela Jackson is outnumbered, Hillary Clinton's sole supporter.
JACKSON: Can somebody help me here? Xanthia (ph) please.
KAYE: Three women are still undecided. The rest back Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I just felt like it's his time. I think he's ready.
KAYE: Never before have black women held so much political power, or felt so much pressure. Their dilemma is unique, and most unexpected.
JEHMU GREEN, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: We've all wanted the day to come where there was a black person in the White House, where there was going to be a woman in the White House. I don't think we imagined that it would be having to decide between one or the other.
KAYE: Democratic analyst, Jehmu Green, says black women are getting pressured to vote their race. More than 1/3 of all Democratic voters in South Carolina's upcoming primary are expected to be black women.
Green finds in the African-American community, there's a perception that race trumps gender. Clinton supporters are seen as sellouts.
SHONTELL HORLBACK, UNDECIDED VOTER: It's not like I'm selling out or not keeping it real, because I am. It's just keeping it real is actually the best candidate for the job.
KAYE: Do you feel like a sell-out?
JACKSON: Not at all. No. She's a woman and I'm a woman.
KAYE: Salons are a target for the campaigns. Women gather and gossip, transforming them into unofficial caucuses.
TONI DAWSON, VOTING FOR OBAMA: But Hillary -- so many Republicans and independents paid her so much until if she was to become president, I think she would get nothing done.
KAYE: Most of the black women I spoke with say they don't want race or gender to take center stage. They want women to vote the issues. They say they're smarter than choosing a candidate just because of his skin color or because she's a woman. What matters to them - health care, the economy, and education.
For many, it will come down to experience versus grassroots energy.
GREEN: Maybe race does trump gender as they're looking at this decision. But I think that they also put a very high premium on experience and that in itself is probably the real dilemma they're facing.
CAROL SINGLETON, OBAMA SUPPORTER: For me, Hillary, yes, she was the wife of a president. But she was not a president. So she does not earn credit for having more experience than Obama. To me, they're equal.
KAYE: With Clinton and Obama splitting support from women and African-Americans, South Carolina may be the biggest test for African- American women.
GREEN: Black women will stick with Hillary. I think they're going to take a very long look at her experience, her work to fight for civil rights fighting for women's rights, fighting for human rights. That's going to play well with them.
KAYE: Women here say either way, it will be a good day for America. Though, they admit, it would have been easier had both candidates been on the same ticket.
SINGLETON: Maybe Hillary the great vice president for Obama.
KAYE: That -- or the other way around, they agree, would have been a no-brainer.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.
In a ground-breaking election like this one, there's no real map for how the gender versus race issue will play out.
I want to bring in our political panel to dig deeper. CNN contributor Roland Martin, CNN political analyst Amy Holmes, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez; she's the author of "Los Republicanos: White Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other," and Matt Barreto, professor of political science at the University of Washington.
Roland, you actually discussed this issue on your radio program. What was the response?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was a hot topic at WBO (ph) in Chicago. Women -- most of the women who were calling say, "I am black first, I'm a woman second because of this race." But I think here's the tie breaker in this. Many of them were saying that for them, to have Michelle Obama as the first lady and him as the president; the image she presents also is important.
All of them said gender is important with Hillary Clinton being a potential president, having him and a woman in that role is a huge deal. An interesting dialogue.
COOPER: Amy, I want to put up some of the poll numbers that we told you about earlier in the piece. When you look further at them, you can see 50 percent of black women say the country is ready for a black president. More than 58 percent of them say the country is ready for a woman president. What does that mean for Senator Obama?
AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that it means that black female voters are struggling with the same issues that all voters are, which is your heart versus your head. And with these black female voters we know that in South Carolina the black vote is half of the vote and female voters are the majority of the vote.
So they're going to be weighing in the same things that all voters are which is experience versus hope. And their views on whether or not America is ready for a black president is in part because of own experience as black people in this country, the discrimination as against African-Americans is felt more intensely than say based on gender as woman.
So that is how I would look at that question.
COOPER: Leslie, how do you think what's going to happen in South Carolina is going to affect the race nationally in terms of the minority vote?
LESLIE SANCHEZ: I think it's tremendously important, particularly with Barack Obama. He has to win in South Carolina just to prove that he can win in the south. It's a very important message for the Democratic Party. But race overall - I think you are looking at two very important swing votes, not only with women who tend to slightly outvote men, but also with -- I think African-American women, and particularly Hispanic voters - they're going to show that they are going to be open minded, don't like identity politics, They're going to go for the candidate that appeals most to them.
COOPER: And yet Matt, in Nevada, it was Hillary Clinton who did very well among Hispanic voters.
MATT BARRETO, ASST. PROFESSOR, POLITICAL SCIENCE: Yes, absolutely. She had, according to the entrance polls she had at least a two-to-one advantage among Hispanic voters there.
COOPER: What do you think that is based on?
BARRETO: Well, I think there was a long tradition of support for the Clintons -- not just Hillary, but Bill Clinton as well among Latino voters. If you think back to the 1990s, Clinton appointed a lot of Latinos to his cabinet, appointed Latinos to Federal Appellate courts. And the 90's was also a time of economic boom. A good of --
COOPER: Can Barack Obama make inroads with that community?
MARTIN: We cannot deny the reality though that there are brown and black divides all across this country, in Texas, in California, in other places. Adam Nagourney had great story in "The New York Times" dealing with that whole notion of maybe Latinos were saying, "I'm not going to vote for an African-American."
It was a very interesting story. And the piece, Anderson, on this whole issue of women -- a lot of black women have issues with white females when you talk about now supporting issues of African-American women.
You have a little friction now between black women and white women --
COOPER: Matt, that is true though. Can Barack Obama overcome that traditional divide?
BARRETO: I wouldn't overplay it. I think there are divides, Roland. I wouldn't overplay those divides there.
There have been a lot of black candidates that have received a lot of support from Latino voters, David Dean (ph), Harold Washington, Wellington Web, Ron Kirk. These four black mayors all got over 70 percent of the Latino vote.
And so I think some of these stories where they interview one person and give a sensational quote, I think that overplays it a little bit.
HOLMES: Wouldn't you add, though, the Mayor Villaraigosa, for example, was campaigning for Hillary Clinton. But there is a sense that for some of these Latino politicians who are part of a democratic machine that they're looking to back a winner. Not necessarily in all cases a black-brown divide. But who do I think is going to maybe get me a job in the administration?
COOPER: Because of the gender issues in African-American women, do you agree with what Roland was hearing from his listeners that people are saying they are African-American first and women second?
HOLMES: I would say so. And I would say that as an African-American that those racial issues are the ones that you confront more profoundly everyday than say gender issues. But looking at the gender side of things, Hillary Clinton has been smart and very astute reaching out to African-American women as a mother.
So for example, single parent issues and those types of gender issues that are, of course, deeply profoundly important to African- American women. And Hillary has been trying to reach out to that angle for African-American voters. COOPER: We've got a lot more from our panel coming up in this special report -- race, religion, and the Republicans. That's next.
Four years ago the GOP began reaching out to religious African- Americans. How has that been working out? We'll examine that.
Plus - illegal immigration; it's a hot-button issues no doubt for many Americans. Some voters now will say though though racism is also part of the debate. We'll examine that coming up in this 360 Special "Race and Politics."
First a little more on tonight's Democratic debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER: I want to refer to Congressman Charlie Rangel, one of the most powerful members -- one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives. And specifically on this Martin Luther King, Jr. day, a day so important to all of us here in the United States. He's a supporter of Hillary Clinton.
And he said yesterday and I'm quoting now that he likes you, Senator Obama, he's very proud of your accomplishments, but he went on to say that black voters should not do what makes us feel good, but what's good for our great nation.
And I wonder if you want to respond to the -- to that notion that it may -- may make a lot of African-Americans feel good to vote for you, but it might not necessarily be the best thing for the United States.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, Charlie is absolutely right that African-Americans should vote for what's best for them, their children, and this country. In the same way that I think Hillary -- Hillary feels that women should vote for what's best for them, their children, and their country. In the same way that John --
JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Say that --
OBAMA: The same way that john I think wants white males to vote for --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Huckabee might be getting some votes because he's a Baptist preacher but near as I can tell you he's not losing any.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That was Bill Clinton today in Atlanta at the Ebeneezer (ph) Baptist Church where Martin Luther King once preached. Mike Huckabee was in the audience; he didn't speak though. He did however, scored the endorsements of several African-American religious leaders today. The idea that religion could be fertile common ground for Republicans and African-Americans is not new. But it also has not quite panned out as many people in the party had hoped.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready for 2008, y'all.
O'BRIEN: In these uncertain economic times, Virginia's World Harvest Life Changers Church is seeking answers from above.
And in the looming election, this African-American congregation sees real opportunity.
PASTOR LYLE DUKES: If you want to see some different things happen in your house and in your neighborhood and in your community and in your country, baby, you got to make some changes.
O'BRIEN: Pastor Lyle Dukes was fired up four years ago too. He urged his flock to vote for a man who stood for Christian values, a fellow believer who spoke the language of the church -- George W. Bush.
DUKES: It kind of got us excited. It was very attractive for all Christians, I believe.
O'BRIEN: Year after year, Democrats scoop up the lion's share of the black vote. But in 2004, Republicans had an epiphany, on abortion and traditional marriage, religious African-Americans sound a lot like white evangelicals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm for a man marrying a woman.
O'BRIEN: Republicans started reaching out to black pastors.
DUKES: They contacted us, they said we're interested in the issues that you're concerned about.
O'BRIEN: The effort paid off. President Bush nearly doubled his share of the black vote in battleground states like Ohio. This year, a tougher sell.
Reverend Floyd Flake was a Democratic congressman for 11 years but he has supported Republicans too. His church, Allen AME Cathedral in New York City is 23,000 members strong.
REV. FLOYD FLAKE, ALLEN AME CATHEDRAL: I think what they want to hear from the GOP is that we understand the depth of the problems of these communities.
O'BRIEN: Are you hearing any of that from the GOP now?
FLAKE: I have not heard that from the GOP at all.
O'BRIEN: What do you hear?
FLAKE: I hear nothing of any significance that would move an African- American to feel the need to vote for a Republican.
O'BRIEN: Flake says a faith-based appeal won't close a widening trust gap.
O'BRIEN: What was the biggest mistake you think the GOP made in its outreach to black churches?
FLAKE: I think the biggest mistake was making promises and not delivering.
O'BRIEN: At World Harvest, Pastor Dukes is no longer getting calls from Republicans.
DUKES: Their connection to us now is null and void. If I had to describe what the Republican outreach is today, I would describe a ghost town with a few tumble weeds blowing through.
O'BRIEN: Still, some remain willing to take a leap of faith if a candidate speaks to their concerns.
JUANITA MCFADDEN, VOTER: I can change my whole viewpoint. And I can change my politics. I can say, "Oh, I'm going to become a Republican. And I don't have to be rich. And I don't have to be white."
O'BRIEN: The party still has a prayer.
O'BRIEN: We're back with our political panel: CNN contributor Roland Martin, CNN Political analyst Amy Holmes, Republican strategist and author Leslie Sanchez, and Matt Barreto professor of political science at the University of Washington.
Welcome back everybody.
Roland let's start with you. A number of black women I know were furious. They're saying why is the media acting like we have two choices, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and nobody else.
In 2008, do you think it's reality that some of these preachers have said, reality trumps the moral issues. And really it is down for black people, to -- to two candidates.
MARTIN: First of all, African-Americans are not going to be flooding to the GOP side. The other thing that is interesting is African- Americans have always taken moral issues in the church and combined them with their politics. The civil rights movement was layered by black pastors. Let's not get this thing twisted.
The problem for the Republican side, as Reverend Floyd Flake said is how do you keep paying attention and also expanding beyond just two issues. Because in Alabama --
O'BRIEN: Abortion rates.
MARTIN: Abortion and homosexuality - you have to go beyond that for African-American voters and because again you got to appeal to a wider view than just those two issues. They might work for a few churches but not for all of them.
SANCHEZ: Can I jump in here? Because in fairness, Republicans did try to do some of that outreach. I worked for senate majority lead leader, Senator Frist during that time.
O'BRIEN: And (inaudible) was very heavily involved --
HOLMES: No, what President Bush said, he got a lot of criticism for this, is doing a faith-based outreach. And I think Floyd Flake's criticism is fair in that there wasn't a follow-through.
We met with black pastors and they said where was the follow through here ? But the issues that we were looking at -- we were looking at healthy families, we're looking at home ownership. We are looking at Chuck Colson, during prison, back to the general population transition.
A lot more than just those two issues, but --
HOLMES: Let me say this. This is very interesting. It is not so much that black voters are going to move to the Republican Party, they are increasingly moving to independents.
And David Bosideous (ph) from joint center, a very well respected nonpartisan organization, in 2005 found, that for black voters under the age of 35, 25 percent are registered independents, 25 percent are self-identified conservatives.
So we keep looking at this but there is an I.
O'BRIEN: Matt, what kind of role do you think Hurricane Katrina played?
BARRETO: Well, I think that was a big issue in the black community, of course. And these issues that we saw coming up in 2004 when there was some outreach or even in the year 2000 when there was an outreach into the black community.
A lot has happened since then including Hurricane Katrina. I think that that, by itself, after Hurricane Katrina, I remember seeing in a poll that Bush had 2 percent support from the black community and the margin of error was 5.
It could have been a negative 2 percent or negative 3 percent. I think Hurricane Katrina was a big turning point if there was any growth.
And I think I'm with Roland on this, I don't know how much growth there was in support for Republicans by African-Americans.
MARTIN: And look, we saw it this summer. In terms of the NAACP, the Urban League, the Smiley debate. All of these forums, the Republicans could have had a conversation with African-Americans to test them on issues -- they didn't.
MARTIN: Wait a minute, excuse me.
President Bush spoke to the National Urban League five out of his eight years as president. So don't act Republicans don't talk to that particular group. NAACP I get that, but the National Urban League, come on --
SANCHEZ: To put this in perspective coming from the Republican national committee and being there when the chairman of the party was going to the NAACP. There's a lot of opportunity on the Republican side if Republicans show up. It's the same thing with Hispanic communities, with any type of communities whose constituency -- if they show up.
SANCHEZ: They want respect; they want to show the candidates are vying aggressively for their vote. I think that is why you saw Governor Huckabee is there. He didn't speak. Nobody talked about the fact that he showed up at Ebenezer Baptist Church for four hours and didn't ask to speak. He was there out of reverence and respect for Dr. King.
I think he was trying to show -- and that is why he did get some of the support of the African-American --
SANCHEZ: There's is a bigger issue. And that is where do social- based voters turn? When you have a Democratic party that is really promoting, you know, gay marriage and a lot of people fundamentally have a problem with that or the issues that they support partial birth abortion.
O'BRIEN: Answer the question. Where do they turn? If you are a religious African-American for whom gay marriage is a big issue and abortion is a huge issue, where do you turn?
MARTIN: Those African-Americans are saying those aren't the only two issues. When you say social issues, you have to ask the question that is -- are people combating crack houses in black neighborhoods? Are they also dealing with the issue of young children being born out of wedlock? The social agenda for African-American goes beyond abortion and homosexuality. HOLMES: And the Republican outreach agenda went beyond those two issues. And we haven't mentioned --
O'BRIEN: He talked about rolling tumble weeds. That is not helpful for the Republican Party.
Let me take a break for a moment. Everybody calm down and take a breath. Just for asking how important the race relations are in picking the next president. You might be surprised at the different viewpoints between black and white voters. We're going to have some numbers for you up next.
And then later, if elected, Barack Obama will be the first black president, though some people in the black community identifies so strongly with President Bill Clinton, they called him the first black president. Why?
How does that impact this race? Our panel discussion continues.
We'll be back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: I've spoken with a lot of African-American voters in South Carolina this week. And a lot of them say that electing a black president -- that this would change the way the way whites see African-Americans and the way African-Americans see themselves.
Do you think that this is a valid consideration for voters in determining who's president?
JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all I do not think it's for me to tell anybody and particularly not African- Americans what they should consider when they're voting. I think they ought to be able to consider anything that they think is fair and reasonable and important to them.
What I would say though is on the issues, since we are here on Dr. King's day, on the issues of equality, ending poverty in America, the things that he devoted so much of his life to no one has been, and with all respect to the two other candidates, no one has been more aggressive on these issues that I have.
I mean ending poverty is the cause, the single most important cause in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was John Edwards at tonight's Democratic debate, in South Carolina; getting his message out to African-American voters -- or trying to.
So just how much does race really matter in this primary battle? That's what we're looking at in this hour. We've got more intriguing results now from the latest CNN opinion research pool questioning voters on the importance of race relations in their choice for president.
O'BRIEN: Take a look right there. It's extremely important to 41 percent of blacks; only 12 percent of white.
COOPER: And at the other end of the scale, race relations are not important to 15 percent of blacks and 25 percent of whites.
Coming up, we'll have more of race and politics.
O'BRIEN: We're going to take a look also at why many African- Americans refer to Bill Clinton as America's first black president.
That's coming up next on 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we want to do is have a little reality check here because how is it best to end poverty? We know we have to maintain programs that are there to help people in need.
But look at what's happened over the space of the last seven years. The average African-American family has lost $2600 in income. Compare that to the prior eight years when we had a president who took on the fight of the '90s and stood up against the Republicans, often at great cost and the typical African-American family income went up $7600 during the 1990's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Senator Clinton there, channeling her husband's presidency in programs that raised Bill Clinton's standing among many in the black community. In fact, sometimes by some people he's referred to as America's first black president.
For a look at what made Bill Clinton so appealing to African- American Democrats and whether his popularity will bring in votes for Hillary Clinton, here's CNN's Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't long before Bishop F.C. James became a believer.
BISHOP F.C. JAMES, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Bill Clinton convinced me within the first 30 minutes of our acquaintance that he was a person who was concerned about people, irrespective of race, of color, or condition.
CROWLEY: Three decades after meeting Bill Clinton, Bishop James will vote for Hillary Clinton. Sandra Cohen will vote for Barack Obama. But she couldn't agree more with the bishop.
SANDRA COHEN: I love Bill Clinton.
CROWLEY: Part of why is this -- running for re-election in '96, President Clinton's website had a lengthy list of presidential accomplishments touted as helping the black community, the most diverse administration in history; an increase in funding for historically black colleges, the restoration of democracy in Haiti.
The Clinton years also featured a mostly blooming economy that lifted all boats. Black youth unemployment and poverty dropped. The number of black-owned small businesses went up.
But long before he did any of that, the first time he ran for president, Bill Clinton won more than 80 percent of the black vote. His appeal may be as simple as this. Bill Clinton got it. He grew up poor and white and southern. He's both comfortable with and understands the vibe and the culture.
ANDREW YOUNG, CIVIL RIGHTS VETERAN: Bill Clinton grew up in Arkansas as a teenager and was surrounded by black people.
CROWLEY: Many older African-Americans see Clinton as a long-time ally in the struggle for racial inequality. Andrew Young is a die hard Bill and Hillary supporter. Die hard.
ANDREW YOUNG, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Bill is every bit as black as Barack.
CROWLEY: Not true. But it is why Hillary Clinton has practically planted him in South Carolina.
JIM FELDER, S.C. VOTER EDUCATION PROJECT: He's still highly respected and a lot of folk in South Carolina, particularly in black community think he's still the man.
CROWLEY: Clinton's deep roots seem permanent, but not unshakable; nor may be a match for the first viable African-American presidential candidate in U.S. history.
And some leaders in the community are furious with what they see as the former president's belittling of Barack Obama's resume, including Clinton's criticism that Obama has not been consistently anti-war.
B. CLINTON: Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've seen.
CROWLEY: Congressman Jim Clyburn, South Carolina's most prominent black politician, has stayed neutral. But he's clear that Clinton's words have done some damage.
REP. JIM CLYBURN, (D) SC: As they would say in Gullah Geechee country, he needs to chill a little bit.
CROWLEY: Even the man can step over the line.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
COOPER: Bill Clinton remains very popular with African-American voters. Will they support, though his wife or Barack Obama? Or John Edwards in this race?
Joining me again, Roland Martin, Amy Holmes - they laugh, Amy Sanchez and Matt Barreto.
I have to be welcoming of all.
Since we're talking about Bill Clinton's relationship with African- Americans, he was asked tonight - actually, Barack Obama was asked in last night's debate about Bill Clinton as being the first black president.
Let's just play this response. It's about two minutes or so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Obama, appreciating what you said about the media's preoccupation with race ...
OBAMA: Here we go.
JOHNS: Right. The Nobel Prize winning African-American author Toni Morrison famously observed about Bill Clinton, "This is our first black president, blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime." Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?
OBAMA: Well. I think Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African-American community and still does. I think that's well earned. Like John, one of the things that I'm always inspired by -- and this I'm serious about.
I'm always inspired by young men and women who grew up in the South when segregation was still taking place. When the transformations that are still incomplete but at least have begun had not yet begun. And to see that transformation in their own lives.
I think that is powerful. And it is hopeful. Because what it indicates is that people can change. And each successive generation can, you know, create a different vision of how we have to treat each other.
And I think Bill Clinton embodies that. I think he deserves credit for that. I haven't -- you know, I have to say that -- I would have to investigate more, you know, Bill's dancing abilities and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was, in fact, a brother.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Let's let Senator Clinton weigh in on that. SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sure that could be arranged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was obviously a funny moment - I'm not sure whether it's worth discussing whether or not Bill Clinton was the first black president. I know, Roland, you strongly disagree.
A collective groan.
MARTIN: Toni Morrison, you owe black America an absolute apology. That's the dumbest thing I've heard in my life. If Bill Clinton was a black president, he wouldn't have thrown Monica Gwineer (ph) under the bus, his so called friend. If he was the first black president, he wouldn't have let 400,000 people in Rwanda die. If he was the so- called first black president.
Sure he has a positive legacy for African-Americans but he also did not stand up for DC statehood.
COOPER: Just - it's 800,000.
HOLMES: There is an important substantive point which was Toni Morrison was equating social pathologies with being black; eating too much junk food, possibly cheating on your wife. All of these bad behaviors are blacker than black. They're the most black as they could possibly be.
HOLMES: And exactly. And we were talking about it in the debate, Roland and I were talking in the break, that there's this continual equation of poverty equals black, black equals poverty; when in fact most black people are middle class. You didn't hear that being talked about in terms of entrepreneurship, homeownership, only in the negative which is a subject ....
COOPER: You wrote this book about how the Republicans need minority voters in the minority community. But Republicans made a great show of reaching out in the last -- I think back when George Bush first ran, you don't hear that at all anymore. I remember interviewing -- Don King who was out there touting -- out there for George Bush.
SANCHEZ: Very true, very true. If you look at Barack Obama, there's a generational split in terms of the age difference of African- Americans and even Hispanics who have an interest in his candidacy.
He's talking about hope and a different type of perspective that I think has a lot of appeal.
It's something that Republicans are genuinely going to have to start talking about. There's no doubt that we have to be more competitive in reaching out and doing some of those things.
But one thing you can't deny is for the last four decades, African- Americans have vote in a monolithic group for Democrats.
MARTIN: But why? Because Republicans have ignored them.
SANCHEZ: But it -- it just proves it to be a jump ball is a far better place to be than being an entire one party.
MARTIN: Who do evangelicals go for? Republicans because they appeal to them. The person who appeals to you, that's who you're going to support. It's natural.
SANCHEZ: You have to be honest and look at the ...
HOLMES: There are historic reasons why African-Americans have voted for Democrats.
MARTIN: The southern strategy is one.
HOLMES: The southern strategy was also Barry Goldwater, supporting state's rights and opposing the Civil Rights Act. These are the things that the Republican Party was the party ...
MARTIN: That was a long time ago. I wasn't alive then.
COOPER: We're going have more of this after the break. Coming up in this race and politics special. The other racial divide. One of the other racial divide is the largest minority voting block in the country.
Why are Latinos often only mentioned in this election in the context of illegal immigration. Is it racism? Answers from our panel when 360 continues
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the day in which we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who did so much to combat racism by using nonviolence and prayer. And then, even beyond that, brought us to a much greater understanding of tolerance and equality and equality of opportunity.
He was a leader and that's what America needs. In all different fields, America needs leadership. And I believe I offer leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Rudy Giuliani stumping in Florida, that's the next battleground for the Republicans. And for the voters and the candidates, a big issue in that state is illegal immigration. But to some Americans, the story isn't about protecting the borders, it's about bigotry.
CNN's Gary Tuchman has our report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Latino immigrants are not normally known as big pastrami eaters, but at Langer's Delicatessen for 60 years here in Los Angeles near McArthur Park, more and more Latinos are coming for pastrami sandwiches.
This neighborhood has changed dramatically. People from Mexico and Central American nations are now the vast majority. Most people we talked with, Latino and non-Latino, agree with what the deli owner says.
NORM LANGER, LANGER'S DELICATESSAN: I think immigration is fine, as long as it's done legally.
TUCHMAN: This man agrees too but has a vastly different take on the problem.
HAROLD GUSTCHEN, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: It infuriates me that these people are able to come over here and they have more freedom than a lot of people here in America do.
TUCHMAN: Harold Gustchen is bitter about a neighborhood that he says has gone downhill over the hills.
GUSTCHEN: I'm not a racist or anything like that. I hate everybody if this is how you're going to be.
ANGELICA SALAS, IMMIGRANT ACTIVIST: It is a movement that from my perspective has racist roots.
TUCHMAN: Angelica Salas is with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles. She believes that racism fuels the debate about Mexican immigration. Many groups that battle illegal immigration resent implications they are motivated by racism.
MARK CROMER, CALIFORNIANS FOR POPULATION STABILIZATION: I certainly believe that allegation is used to silence opponents of illegal immigration.
TUCHMAN: Salas doesn't accuse any of the candidates for president of being racist but does say this.
SALAS: Definitely. I certainly see the presidential candidates as being extremely disrespectful, extremely irresponsible in discussing immigration.
TUCHMAN: Many Latino voters seem to agree. Polls show their support of Democratic candidates, seen to be more lenient on the immigration issue, growing. A recent Pew Hispanic Center poll show Latinos prefer Democrats over Republicans, 57 to 23 percent. That 34 percentage point Democratic edge compares with the smaller 21 percentage point lead July in 2006.
Interestingly, in the same poll, Barack Obama, also a member of the minority group is overwhelmed by Hillary Clinton by a 59 to 15 percent margin of Democratic Latino voters.
BILL SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One of the reasons is competitiveness. These are two groups that have generally been disadvantaged, and they're competitive for jobs, they're competitive for housing, they're competitive for government benefits, they're competitive for resources. So there's bound to be a certain amount of resentment when you have two groups in close competition.
TUCHMAN: Both Obama and Clinton say they will be a friend to Latinos. Immigration and racial politics are big part of this campaign for all the candidates and will continue to give these voters something to chew over.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Los Angeles.
O'BRIEN: We'll have much more on immigration and race right after the break. We're also going to look at why Latinos, despite having the numbers lack clout as a voting bloc.
"Race and Politics" coming up in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was in prison when they announced over the loudspeaker in my cell, I was living by myself, that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated. They always told us the very bad news and somehow avoided us telling us minor events such as landing a man on the moon. I didn't find that out until a couple of years after the event itself.
So I didn't know Dr. King. I was a member of the military. I didn't know him. Obviously I admire him as all Americans do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: John McCain reflecting on Dr. King's death.
Before the break we were talking about illegal immigration, all of the presidential candidates have an opinion about it. But is racism fuelling the debate? Some people think so.
We're back with Roland Martin, Amy Holmes, Leslie Sanchez and Matt Barreto.
Let's begin with you, Leslie. When it comes to Latinos and the vote, is illegal immigration a very big issue? Numbers wise, it doesn't seem so.
SANCHEZ: Right, immigration is the lens by which Latinos view all other issues. They are going to look at the candidate and evaluate how are they on this issue? Do they come up with the solution? Does their rhetoric sound particularly caustic when it comes to what to do with the undocumented immigrants that are here? They're very sensitive to that.
And what's so strange is most people, if they really understood Latinos, they'd understand, we're divided 50-50 in terms of what to do with the immigration problem itself. You have a lot of Hispanics who want to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
O'BRIEN: I'm a U.S. citizen. Why am I suddenly embroiled in the illegal immigration thing?
SANCHEZ: Particularly Hispanic women.
BARRETO: It's not 50-50. More like 75 percent support some sort of pathway to citizenship, maybe 20 percent support some sort of fence or something like that. I haven't seen the poll and I've conducted a lot of them that says it's 50-50 divide.
SANCHEZ: I would actually argue Hispanics particularly; ones that are concerned about national security are more concerned and actually pro -- like the idea of building a fence because they understand the drugs, counter narcotics, a lot of different things that are moving across the border and want to keep their family secure.
So I think collectively, we're looking for candidates who can come up with a solution, but have a compassionate solution for what to do with the individuals who are here.
MARTIN: But the problem here is that for African-Americans, it's pretty much, "Are you from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, where are you from?"
When we say Hispanics/Latinos, you have to take into account, in Florida it's Cuban. When you go to New York there's more of an alliance in terms of Puerto Rican. When you go to Chicago, Chicano. When you go to Houston, you go to Texas, there's more in southwest, in terms of Mexico, then California.
So you have these different interests but you also have nationality. For African-Americans, they're still Americans. When you're dealing with Hispanics/Latino, they always do it that way, you have to deal with where they're from as well as American interests. That's what muddies the water when it comes with the issues.
HOLMES: I think what Leslie is saying, it's certainly true as well in the black community that it's not a monolith just as in the black community, not everyone is poor. In fact most are middle class. Not all Hispanics are illegal. Most are not.
And the idea that you continually having to fight that battle when you want to talk about things that affect you as an American become incredibly frustrating.
SANCHEZ: Very much so.
HOLMES: In Nevada, Hillary Clinton won the Latino vote more than two to one edge over Barack Obama, why? BARRETO: She has a long legacy with President Bill Clinton in supporting Latinos, supporting Latino issues. We've already talked about the economy was good. That was the issue for African-Americans but also an issue for Latinos.
Bill Clinton appointed a record number of Latinos. Latinos were involved very heavily in the '92, '96 campaign. A lot of them came in, cut their teeth from those campaign and became involved.
O'BRIEN: Are there Hispanics up for the picking for the Obama campaign?
HOLMES: They are.
MARTIN: The Obama campaign failed in Nevada. People who know him well are in Illinois. They did not take those individuals, Congressman Gutierrez and others and say we need you campaigning for us in Nevada. They didn't do it.
HOLMES: There's an issue of on the ground campaign organization. A lot has pointed that fact that Hillary had a better machine to turn out the votes and to reach those voters the culinary union, rather, was supposed to be helping Barack in that.
O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, though. Can a black man win among Latinos?
BARRETO: Absolutely. Absolutely.
O'BRIEN: Some people have suggested that Latinos will not elect a black man.
BARRETO: That's ridiculous. I saw those quotes from Sergio Binvixen (ph), Hillary's pollster. That's ridiculous. We've already referenced, there has been four, if not more, four African-American mayors that won over 70 percent of the Latino votes. There are eight congressional districts held by blacks that have over 20, 30, perhaps even 40 - Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, these districts have 48 percent Latino. They're getting Latino votes, a lot of them.
MARTIN: Villaraigosa got 70 percent of the black vote.
MARTIN: Not a problem.
Have no problem. It worked for me.
He got 70 percent the first time he ran; second time, 50 percent. Those are the issues.
BARRETO: Those are the black votes. MARTIN: You create them back and forth there in terms of ...
SANCHEZ: (inaudible) running for mayor in Houston, somebody with a significant amount of Hispanic support and then the second turnaround earned less. You have to work and earn that respect...
MARTIN: Republican ...
BARRETO: Brown ...
O'BRIEN: I'll let the three of you can fight it out.
We've got -- we've got to take a break.
Up next the day's headlines including a spectacular show drawing big crowds in Las Vegas and sending firefighters scrambling to put out a rooftop blaze on the strip.
And residents of Southern California clean up after some parts got more rain yesterday in one day than the entire previous year. Details next.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINES NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Erica Hill. Our special "Race and Politics" continues in a moment.
But first, a "360 News Bulletin." Fire in Las Vegas today, flames charring two wings of the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. The fire was fully contained within just over an hour and there were no major injuries. The cause is still unknown but authorities say welders had been working on the roof.
President Bush today urging Congress to put the $150 billion economic stimulus package on a fast track. Senate Democrats have criticized the plan and say they want to add features of their own, including extending unemployment benefits and increasing food stamps.
Investors may not be convinced that stimulus plan will work to head off recession. The Dow ending the week at 12,207, it was down more than 170 points for the day. The Nasdaq and the S&P also fell sharply.
And the weather out west is frightful; snow, wind and rain pounding Southern California for a fifth straight day. Some areas got more rain in one day than in all of last year.
I'm Erica Hill.
Our special "Race and Politics" continues in a moment.
COOPER: And welcome back to our special. That pretty much wraps it up for this 360 special edition, "Race and Politics."
Thanks very much for watching tonight. I'm Anderson Cooper.
O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien. We hope you enjoyed our in- depth look at how race is shaping the race for the White House.
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