Republican presidential nominee-to-be Sen. John McCain didn't receive a thunderous reception today from members of the NAACP, but he scored major political points with the civility of his message and his ideas to continue aggressive reform of this nation's destructive public education bureaucracy.
In turn. his opponent, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama made sure not to offend his deep-pocketed buddies in the large national teacher unions before the NAACP, rejecting vouchers that would give poor and many minority parents the power to send their children to the some of the same schools as many of the more affluent.
Feeding more money into the public education bureaucratic monster is not the immediate answer to what ails schools. Remember, District of Columbia schools have the highest per pupil expenditure in the country -- and the poorest achievement marks. More accountability is the answer, along with more teacher training and opening the classrooms to caring and competent professionals from other fields. And that is what McCain promised today.
Some people will retort that it is the lack of parental involvement that damns these children. The Education Trust, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C., says that a child with a good, highly trained teacher can catch a child up academically in five years -- parental involvement or not. You also must realize that the parents of these children have been failed by the same public school bureaucracy in their childhoods. Why would they trust it to get involved now with their children?
Particularly here in Nashville, where the public schools unofficially are already under state control, vouchers and other reforms for minority and poor parents are even more critical. The state of Tennessee has no more efffective ideas on how to improve schools for the disadvantaged in Nashville than George W. Bush has in fighting the war on terror.
McCain gave the best political speech of his campaign today, particularly when he referenced how he heard about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while he was incarcerated and brutalized in the Hanoi Hilton. I don't know who wrote his speech -- perhaps Ronald Reagan's wordsmith, Peggy Noonan, but McCain sounded very presidential and reassuring. And those attributes are going to determine the victor in November.
I don't really want McCain to win. But I have to be honest, so that Obama's supporters will tell their candidate to get his act together now instead of later. Yes, Obama is up seven percentage points in the latest Reuters poll. But as Tennessee's Harold Ford Jr. and his panel mates concluded last Friday on former congressman Joe Scarborough's show, Obama should be much further ahead.
Former congressman Ford was constructively critical of Obama over his inability to connect with the common man and woman. Panelists that included Scarborough and columnist Mike Barnicle said Obama still is hampered by an elitist image.
Ford added that Obama does not stick around long enough with one constituency and one issue to make a definitive impact. The Memphis Democrat is right, and you can see the problem with Obama's woeful courting of the Hispanic electorate.
Earlier this week, McCain and Obama spoke before a Hispanic civil rights organization called the National Council of La Raza. Obama got raves from organization members. But NCLR is just a few years removed from being a very partisan, Democratic Party mouthpiece. Its president is the former deputy campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 run for the presidency.
But Obama did not seal the deal with even La Raza's partisan membership, concluded La Opinión political editor and columnist Pilar Marrero. And Latina icon Delores Huerta -- who marched and organized with the late great Cesar Chavez, was not enthusiastic after hearing Obama.
Marrero cited Obama with nearly 60% support of Hispanic voters while McCain has 29%. That's less for Obama and slightly more for McCain compared to earlier polls. All that McCain needs from this electorate is six to 10 more percentage points to carry the election. Obama, in turn, should be taking 78% of the Latino vote, Marrero said.
Again, I don't really want to see McCain win. His answers on the economy and reforming this nation's sick immigration policy are poor. He is not for universal health care. Obama would be more aggressive and compassionate on all these issues.
But Hispanics will need to be in position to make deals with whomever wins. And right now, nobody really knows, and that should have Obama backers concerned.
McCain, too, is not going to carry the African-American vote. But his speech today that touted true education reforms had to sound good and hopeful ... and it showed McCain rounding into top political form early enough in the campaign to catch up and pass his opponent in a November squeaker.