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A Look Back 4 Years on Ted Kennedy’s Endorsement of Barack Obama

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Photo courtesy of Hasina Sinha

On a cold winter morning on January 28, 2008, I watched as then Senator Barack Obama listened to Senator Ted Kennedy endorse him for the Democratic nominee for President of the US at American University. I had almost decided to go to work that day. But the history major in me knew this was history in the making. And I had to be there. As I arrived at American University on that day, I realized that the auditorium was already filled to capacity.  As I arrived at the campus, I met another woman along the way en route.   She and I would not be deterred on our mission. We were rewarded for our tenacity. We were able to see and hear Senator Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, then Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Barack Obama. We proudly shared the moment together. And we have remained connected since that special day.

What we saw and experienced that day seems like light years ago—much longer than 4 years.  We saw the Kennedys and their Camelot mystique embrace then Senator Barack Obama over the tried and tested Senator Hillary Clinton.  And we saw a humbled Senator Barack Obama realizing what the moment meant for his campaign.

As I reflect back on that day, I’ve often wondered what course the Obama presidency would have taken if Senator Ted Kennedy had lived longer. I wonder if Senator Kennedy, the liberal Lion of the Senate, would have been able to broker the missing public option in the Affordable Health Care Act. Perhaps, he would have pushed for more liberal or leftist changes as the GOP would prefer to call them, in our jobs and economic situation. Perhaps he would not have been able to make any change with the GOP controlled Congress and the current political stalemate.

One thing is for sure. Senator Ted Kennedy made a difference that day in helping   President Obama  become the Democratic nominee for President with his early endorsement. And that is perhaps Kennedy’s greatest legacy,   Ted Kennedy, who himself, would never see his own dream fulfilled of becoming President.  Yet, he lived to see the dream of President Obama elected as the first African American president.

As I reflect back on 4 years ago and all the unwanted and unexpected changes since then, I still say I’m proud to have been there that day.  And I say, there is so much more work to do. And I’m sure Ted Kennedy would agree and again wholeheartedly endorse President Obama.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer, blogger, former prosecutor and legal and political commentator who frequently is seen in the media speaking on issues affecting race and gender. She also writes for the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Gabby Giffords to Step Down

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

In an move that many expected might happen, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords announced via video tape that she will step down from Congress. She plans to continue her fight to get better and improve, following last year’s horrific shooting. Neither her husband,  Mark, or anyone in her staff office will seek her seat.  Giffords will return to Washington this week to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, marking one of her final acts as a member of Congress. She will also meet privately in Tucson with constituents who were attending the meet-and-greet at a Safeway supermarket where the shooting occurred.  The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer must set a special election within 80-90 days following her resignation. Giffords  is set to resign this week.

She will always be known for her strength and steadfast and immovable faith to heal and get better. She says she is getting better. Her spirits are high. And she will return.  I hope so.

Here is the transcript of the video in Gabby’s words:

“Arizona is my home, always will be. A lot has happened over the past year. We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for we can change things for the better. Jobs, border security, veterans. We can do so much more by working together. I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery so to do what is best for Arizona I will step down this week. I’m getting better. Every day, my spirit is high. I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country. Thank you very much.”

MLK, Jr. I Have a Dream Speech

Monday, January 16th, 2012

On Aug. 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a DREAM today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’ — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a DREAM today!”

The President Strikes Back at GOP During Recess

Friday, January 6th, 2012

President Obama

2012 ushered in a new President Obama who cast caution to the wind and threw away his attempts at conciliation efforts with the GOP as he made 3 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”)   and named Richard Cordray   to head   the Consumer Financial Protection Board .  Cordray is the former Attorney General for Ohio. Republicans had effectively blocked Cordray’s appointment after failing to block the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Board in 2010.  The President drew the praise of progressives and all who support working Americans’ rights and consumer rights. The Consumer Financial Protection Board’s   aim is to protect citizens from Wall Street banks and lenders attacks on them.

The NLRB is the agency that is responsible for holding corporations responsible and protects the safety, health and rights in the workplace. Without the NLRB working efficiently, employers can fire and deny  employees earned benefits and fair wages. Since January 1, the NLRB had been effectively shut down. It is the President’s job to see that the government runs and works well.  With the sluggish economy, it is now even more important that the NLRB work well and people get paid the wages they are due. The economy works best when businesses play by the rules and respect worker’s rights.

Republicans disapprove of the President’s   recess appointments and vow to fight back in court saying the appointments were not made during their recess. If the truth be told, the GOP members of Congress have been on a paid recess for quite a long time.

President Obama has made only 30 recess appointments. President George W. Bush made over 170, President Ronald Regan made over 240 and President Bill Clinton made 171. In fact, the past 3 GOP presidents have made recess appointments to the NLRB.  Like everything in the Obama Administration, President Obama has shown great restraint in making recess appointments.  Hopefully 2012 is the start of when President Obama gets his swagger back and gets and keeps his mojo working. To the Republicans, I say in the words   of George W. Bush, “Bring it On.”

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates,  NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.



New Reports DC Councilman Harry Thomas, JR Set to Resign

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Breaking new reports from WUSA 9, WTOP, the Washington Post and others report that Ward 5 DC Councilman Harry Thomas, JR is set to resign and plead guilty to felony charges of stealing over $300,000 set aside for youth baseball to use on lavish gifts, trips, car and a motorcycle for himself.  If true, this is a classic case of a get rich quick scheme of rob the poor to help make himself rich. If proven true, Thomas will likely find out that he is facing serious jail time for his get rich quick scheme gone awry.   The charges are no doubt felony theft and/or  IRS- failing to report income.

In an ironic twist, Thomas still owed over $17,000 on his student loans and was in trouble over the arrears for his school loans. Presumably, he didn’t want to use any of his newly acquired ill- gotten funds to pay his student loan debt.  And in an even more ironic twist, one of the baseball teams set to receive the youth funds was his team named “Team Thomas”.  How appropriate a name for a team where only Thomas truly benefitted.

Unfortunately, this puts the DC in a poor light with another politician facing jail. If Thomas pleads guilty, he will likely receive a sentence within the federal sentencing guidelines which take into account the seriousness of the crime, the amount of money involved, the record of the defendant, the charges, his acceptance of guilt, among others.  If Thomas resigns, the DC Council will hold a special election within 114 days after his resignation. Stay tuned for more to follow as another politician gets set to bite the dust.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates,  NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.



Top Legal Stories of 2011

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

The top legal stories of 2011 range from murders, political corruptions, sex abuse, rape and missing persons. Here are the top ones and those with honorable mention:

1.  Casey Anthony– Who could forget the not guilty verdict of Casey Anthony in the death of her 2 year old daughter Casey Anthony? In a Washington Times article, I discuss why  the not guilty verdict was  anticipated by me.  Casey Anthony Verdict: Unpalatable But Correct explores the reasons why the verdict was an appropriate legal one despite contrary popular public opinion.  The prosecution learned a valuable lesson–overcharging and lack of evidence results in not guilty verdicts.

2. Conrad Murray– The manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray for the death of Michael Jackson was a contrast to the Casey Anthony trial. The prosecution did not overcharge and methodically set out to prove that Conrad Murray’s actions of giving Jackson doses of Propofol- a powerful anesthetic, resulted in his death. Murray was appropriately charged with manslaughter in that he did not intentionally seek to kill Jackson but his egregious and life threatening actions caused Jackson’s death.  He was sentenced to 4 years.

3. Jerry Sandusky– The indictment of Jerry Sandusky for the  child sex abuse cases surrounding Penn State caused a hush over everyone at Penn State and State College, PA and the “We are Penn State” community except for Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky gave a TV interview with Bob Costas which made him appear guilty as charged.   But, fact is stranger than fiction. A trial still awaits Sandusky. And in the small town of State College, PA, a guilty verdict is not necessarily imminent, despite appearances.

4. Jack Johnson and Leslie Johnson– Former Prince Georges County, Maryland County Executive Jack Johnson was convicted of taking anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million in bribes while serving 8 years as County Executive. He was heard on audio tape telling his wife, Leslie to hid $80,000 in her panties and walk out of the house, when the Feds arrived at their home. Johnson received a sentence of 7 years. He and his wife  plead guilty.

5. Rod Blagojevich–  Former Illinois Governor Blagojevich, after 2 trials and 2 juries, was sentenced to 14 years in jail for his attempts at selling President Obama’s former  Illinois Senate seat to the highest bidder. His prison term starts in 2012.

6. Dominique Strauss- Kahn– Although the case of former head of the IMC World Bank was dismissed by the New York prosecutor and never brought to trial, strong forensic evidence existed to pursue the case in a court of law.  The case of the hotel maid  shows the differences in how the judicial system handles sexual assaults and rape cases, particularly those involving women of color. It is a classic case of how race, class, gender and politics affects the judicial system. See my former blog post in the Women’s Media Center for a full discussion.

Honorable Mention:

1.  Herman Cain– No, Herman Cain, former GOP Presidential candidate was not convicted of any crimes. Yet, his sexual harassment case settlement of over 10 years ago was brought to light and forced him to end his Presidential bid.  He deserves mention for how a boss should not act towards women employees  in the workplace in exerting power.  Bosses beware.

2. Gary Giordano–  Giordano was not indicted in the case of missing Robyn Gardner while vacationing in Aruba. By all accounts, his purchase of a $1 million life insurance policy prior to their departure, still leaves a suspicion of guilt which may never result in any criminal action.  A link to my WUSA TV appearance explains why he’s free.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates,  NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.