Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Barack Hussein Obama

Biden’s Baggage

Credit: Rex/Shutterstock

I started writing Biden’s Baggage weeks ago. At the time, there seemed to be just a trickle of information about his record on issues that are pivotal in this election. Issues of endless wars, mass incarceration and criminal justice reform, race and gender equality are all in play in the 2020 Presidential election. Suddenly, what was a trickle of bad news for Biden became an avalanche.

At the first televised Democratic debate, Biden did little to stem the tide of bad press. He seemed to fumble his answers on his 2002 Iraq war vote. He could not defend his opposition to integration and cozy relationships with segregationists. Three issues not even addressed in the debate are Biden’s leadership in creating mass incarceration, his inconsistent support for a woman’s right to choose and his dastardly treatment of Professor Anita Hill.

Why Are We Here?

This is Joe Biden’s third run for President. He first ran in 1988 and dropped out in disgrace after being accused of multiples instances of plagarism. Biden ran again in 2008 and dropped out after the Iowa Caucus. He won less than 1% of the delegates there. According to the Washington Post, it was a year in which voters said they were seeking change and Biden “struck Iowans as a little too familiar, fixtures of a Washington establishment that had grown stale from years of gridlock and partisan infighting.”

Joe Biden’s current cache stems solely from his role as Vice President to Barack Hussein Obama. But let’s be clear: Obama’s candidacy was so extraordinary and inspiring, we could care less who he picked as his Vice President. President Obama had a blank check. He could have written in Bozo the Clown and we would have said okay. Certainly Biden did not disappoint as the Vice President. But make no mistake about it: Barack and Michelle Obama excelled as the first couple and they didn’t need Joe Biden to do it.

Too Much to Overcome?

To be fair, Joe Biden is known as an ardent advocate for middle class America and the rights of workers. Since 2015, he has supported the ideas of free college and $15 hour/minimum wage. He introduced the first-ever climate bill in 1986 and understands that climate change is an existential threat to our future.

Still, while Joe Biden wants to talk about his achievements as Vice President, he has all this baggage. Indeed, the rest of us are looking at his record in the U.S. Senate. Biden voted for the Iraq war in 2002. Some consider that vote his “blackest mark” in his foreign policy past, and an “Achilles’ heel” of his candidacy. Based on blatant lies about “weapons of mass destruction,” the war cost us more than a trillion dollars and plunged Iraq into a devastating civil war. Biden apparently knew it was a lie but went with it anyway.

The Author of Mass Incarceration

Joe Biden has a long record of leadership creating the mass incarceration that continues to decimate Black and Brown communities. Over a 10-year period, Biden wrote multiple “measures to increase incarceration and prisons. He advocated for tougher prison sentences for drug offenses, particularly crack cocaine, despite its inherent racist impact.

In 1984, Biden worked with racist segregationist hero Sen. Strom Thurmond to expand federal drug trafficking penalties and civil asset forfeiture. Biden wrote and sponsored the 1986 crime bill that created sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. In 1989, he delivered a drug policy address that called for more police, more prosecutors and longer sentences. Biden helped write the 1994 federal crime bill that increased sentences and funding for state prisons. He sometimes refers to it as “the Biden Crime Law.

The Enabler of Clarence Thomas

Biden claims that he “did everything in my power to defeat Clarence Thomas.” The actual history is very different. It has long been known that Biden cut a deal with Republican Sen. John Danforth, Thomas’ main sponsor, to end the 1991 confirmation hearings quickly. Biden told a group of women legislators that he had promised Danforth “in the men’s gym that this would be a very quick hearing.”

Former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) and six other female Democrats asked Biden to conduct a complete investigation and delay Thomas’ confirmation. Instead, Biden kept his word to Danforth. Biden refused to allow three other women who would have corroborated Anita Hill‘s testimony to testify. Schroeder says “[T]o have railroaded that through and not listen to the other three women and let his colleagues absolutely tear [Anita Hill] apart was absolutely horrible.” Anita Hill believes that the #METOO movement might have begun in 1991 if Joe Biden had done his job. Anita has “made it clear that Biden is not her candidate for President.”

Pro-Choice or Not?

In this time, a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body is being taken away. Joe Biden is seen by many as “the unreliable pro-choice advocate.” Here’s why:

1970s-80: Biden voted for the Hyde Amendment which bars federal funding of abortions

1977: Biden supported the toughest anti-abortion measure ever – an amendment to deny abortions in cases of incest and rape

1981: He proposed the Biden Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act which continues to bar U.S. aid from being used for biomedical research related to abortions

1982: He voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow states to overturn Roe v. Wade

1983: Biden voted five times to bar the Federal Employees Health Benefits program from funding abortions for federal employees

1988: He voted against adding a rape and incest exception to the Hyde Amendment

As late as 2003, Joe Biden’s score on support for abortion rights by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice America was only 36%. It improved to 100% in more recent years, starting in 2006. The question is whether we can count on him to fight the battle for a woman’s right to choose or will he revert back to “states’ rights?”

A Supporter of “States Rights”

In fact, on Thursday, June 27, 2019, Joe Biden reverted to “states’ rights.” When challenged by Sen. Kamala Harris about his opposition to busing to integrate schools, Joe went back to his roots: “states’ rights.” The unmasking of Biden’s baggage on the issue of race is now complete.

Biden led the fight against school busing for at least a decade. He sponsored numerous measures to stop busing, working with notorious racist segregationists. In 1975, after Sen. Jesse Helms‘ amendment failed, Biden crafted his own bill to bar federal funds to help school districts integrate.

Sen. Edward Brooke (R. Mass.) (Credit: Getty Images)

Sen. Edward Brooke, the first Black man elected to the U.S. Senate after Reconstruction, called Biden’s bill “the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.”

Joe Biden’s baggage is real and should weigh heavily in any consideration of his candidacy for President. We owe those who fought on the right side of history to make the country a better place at least that much. #BlackWomenLead

Time to “Bern” America

Black American Soldiers In Vietnam (1971)

This coming Saturday April 27th, I will co-host a bilingual house party with Andrea Luna for people to learn more about Bernie Sanders campaign for President and sign-up to volunteer. After much soul-searching, I have decided and declare that I’m all in for Bernie Sanders.

“The Fierce Urgency of Now”

Killer Mike caught my attention when he asked the question on the Real – do you like and respect Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? His analysis is that Bernie’s agenda most closely matches the agenda of Rev. King.

In the years right before he died, Rev. King talked about the need to transform America. In his book “The Black Presidency” Michael Eric Dyson reports a conversation in 1966 where Rev. King told his advisors that “[t]here must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” We know that King was murdered as he was organizing the Poor Peoples March on Washington, and unifying people across race, religion and class with the goal of eradicating poverty in America. Rev. King did not live to see the March. He knew that his days were numbered. One of his most famous statements is “the time is always right to do what’s right.”

In America today, there is no time to wait. Certainly not for anyone who cares about Black people. In 1966, Rev. King declared that “Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” According to a 2016 Kaiser report, Blacks have significantly higher death rates than Whites for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. HIV and AIDS diagnoses rates among Blacks between ages 13-64 are more than eight and ten times higher than that for Whites. The death rate for HIV is eight times higher for Blacks compared to Whites.

The Kaiser study also found that in 2014, 71% of Whites were insured privately and only 21% had Medicaid or public insurance. By comparison, 51% of Blacks had private insurance, and 37% had Medicaid or public insurance. We know that the substantial gains made under the Affordable Care Act are being wiped out by Trump.

In 2019, Black women are disproportionately suffering high and increasing infant and maternal mortality rates. In 2019, too many people in America of every race and gender have to choose between filling a prescription or buying food. The high cost of health insurance means that many people simply cannot afford health care. In fact, medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy.

Enter Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Socialist. Bernie is undeniably the leader on national health care reform. The California Nurses Association and National Nurses United went to the mat for him in 2016 because of his position on health care reform. Every other candidate today is sailing in his wind and mimicking his commitment.

In 2009, the Democratic Party abandoned single-payer, and even as late as 2017, many House Democrats did not support Medicare for All.

Consistent Values & Commitment

Bernie Sanders has been consistent on health care reform, civil rights and opposition to war, some of the biggest issues we face today. He has a plan to address the epidemic of gun violence in this country, an issue that I care deeply about.

Bernie Sanders Arrest In Civil Rights Demonstration – Chicago (1963)

Bernie’s arrest during a 1963 civil rights protest of segregation in Chicago schools when he was a student at the University of Chicago resonates deeply with my personal history. At the University of Chicago, Bernie was a leader of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a major civil rights group and led protests over racial inequality.

As a Senator, Bernie voted against the Iraq War in 2002 and warned of “unintended consequences.”

As the conscience of the country, in 1967, Rev. King condemned the Vietnam War and warned about “the Casualties of the War in Vietnam.” As a result he was labeled “an enemy of the State” and ridiculed on all sides.

My True Confessions

One, I am not an original “Berniecrat” from the 2016 presidential campaign. Two reasons: (1) I was dealing with seismic shifts in my personal life in that season; and (2) an elderly White male senator from Vermont was not someone who caught my attention in time for me to do anything to help him.

Two, I knew Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate. I witnessed how she and Bill treated Lani Guinier and Marianne Wright Edelman. I witnessed Hillary’s complicity in the Monica Lewinsky episode – how they treated “that woman.” I watched the proliferation of criminal injustice laws and new unfair tax burdens imposed on victims of unlawful discrimination under the Clintons’ leadership. I watched how they ran against Sen. Obama. I heard Bill’s racist comments and Hillary’s disappearing-reappearing Southern drawl.

Three, I went “hard to the paint” to elect Barack Hussein Obama as the first Black president. In 2008, Hope Young and I went to ground zero – Dayton, Montgomery County Ohio – and walked, talked and worked to the point of exhaustion. Election night, as we eagerly watched the results coming in and started to party to Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, I confessed to my friends that my greatest joy in my commitment to Obama was not about him, but the fact that Michelle Obama – a Black woman – was going to be the First Lady. 

The Time Is Right Now

As we move forward in 2019, the time is now and there is a fierce urgency. My father often said “time waits for no man.” The California primary is less than a year away. Yes, I need Bernie to call out sexism and racism more, and to focus on equity in addressing the impacts of centuries of racial inequality. But, I appreciate his consistency and I hate hypocrisy.

At the end of the day, I agree with Killer Mike (and Nina Turner and Danny Glover): “we need the total antithesis of what we say we don’t like about Donald Trump.” We need more than simply “any functioning adult” to help us get out of the mess we are in. I believe that loyalty to the legacy of Rev. King requires all out support to elect Bernie Sanders in 2020.

Whether or not you are sure about what to do in this moment, I urge you to attend one of the many house parties taking place on Saturday, April 27th around the country. Go to map.berniesanders.com to find a house party near you! Don’t wait – get it done now. “The time is always right to do what’s right.”

A Luta Continua!

Courage & Compassion

I have learned in my life that “it is always darkest just before the dawn.” Last week was so dark. I sat watching “with fear and trepidation” as the Republicans threatened to end healthcare for 16 million Americans. Even as I supported efforts to stop them, I felt like the freight train was running out of control.

A New Dawn in America

Then, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono stepped up to speak on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Every time I watch her speech, I am moved to tears. Her courage in sharing her story, including her fears, her family’s struggles, her unique path to the U.S. Senate, all of it. The shining sincerity of her compassion is so beautifully overwhelming, born of her uniquely American experience. Raised as a poor Japanese immigrant, she has never forgotten where she came from.

Her call for compassion, I believe, is what sealed the deal. As we all know, Senator John McCain‘s “no” was the deciding vote, following the tie-making opposition of Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Why is compassion so compelling? Compassion is not simply a human emotion. There is evidence that animals are also quite capable of giving and receiving compassion. We also know that compassion in animals is not limited to animals of their same species. A dog can show kindness to a cat. A mother hen can adopt a lost baby duck. A lion can hug a man who loved him without harming him. It seems that in the natural world, compassion has no bounds.

It seems that we are all capable of giving and receiving compassion. The response to Sen. Hirono’s empassioned plea to vote against repeal of Obamacare suggests that we are all vulnerable to the message of compassion. Sen. Hirono noted that when she was diagnosed with cancer, even Republican senators expressed their concern for her. They showed her kindness and compassion. Sen. Hirono called upon the Republican senators to show Americans the same compassion they had shown her. And it worked.

The Courageous Women Who Defied Trump

We should not overlook the significance of the courage displayed by two other female Senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. No. 45 actually threatened the residents of both of their states to retaliate against the Senators. Whereas some Republican senators caved in to pressure from the Trumpster, Senators Collins and Murkowski stood firm and represented their constituents.

Their votes demonstrate that when courageous women are present in positions of power, the conversation changes. But for the courage of Senators Collins and Murkowski, Sen. John McCain would not have had his historic opportunity to say “no.” In voting “no,” Sen. McCain also stood fast to represent the best interests of his constituents in Arizona. For the first time in my life last weekend, I was “proud” to be in Arizona.

Health Care Is A Civil Right

Healthcare in America has been denied and fought for like every other civil right.

Credit The Atlantic

In 1966, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King declared that Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” Racial disparities in health care have persisted since 1966. A 2016 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation found that in 2014, 55% of all uninsured persons were people of color. Seventy-one percent ( 71%) of Whites were insured privately and only 21% had Medicaid or public insurance. By comparison, 51% of Blacks had private insurance, and 37% had Medicaid or public insurance. The Kaiser study concludes that “people of color have much to gain from health care reform.”

President Barack Hussein Obama was inspired to make health care his signature piece of legislation. Indeed, arguing for health care reform in 2009, President Obama cited the death of his own mother from cancer and the challenges she faced obtaining insurance because her cancer was deemed a pre-existing condition. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a White woman.

So, we know that cancer makes no preference based on race, religion, age, national origin or political beliefs. “Some may call me a dreamer” but maybe one day, we can make the same statement for compassion: it makes no preference based on race, religion, age, national origin or political beliefs. I am inspired by Sen. Hirono’s compassion and courage in facing her cancer and using it to uplift a nation. And every time I watch the video of her speech, I think that from the darkness of the Republican night, there might just be a new dawn in America. Hopefully “I’m not the only one.”

To learn more about the fight to provide healthcare for all, go to HealthyCalifornia.org or Citizen.org or NationalNursesUnited.org. Also check out Healthy California’s latest video.

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