As we walked from class to class during ‘Curriculum Night’ in my girls’ school in Manhattan Thursday evening, several of the dads shared their feelings about of the presidential debate performances the night before. The white business guys were elated. “It’s not over yet.” “He’s still got a shot.” “Romney came ready for a rumble,” were typical responses to the widely perceived romp by the Republican. The black and Hispanic dads were more circumspect. “That was rough,” being the general consensus among these generally Democratic-leaning gentlemen.
Interestingly, I had been with many of the same minority dads on Wednesday for a ‘Tapestry/diversity’ school event held just hours before the debate. My Fox News colleague Santita Jackson was the speaker and she was electrifying. An accomplished musician, singer, talk show host and political analyst, Santita is the oldest of the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s five children. And through her dad, she has been an eyewitness to history. Remember for all his more recent controversies, Reverend Jackson was a key aide to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who died in Jesse’s arms in that Memphis motel after he was shot by James Earl Ray in 1968.
Santita was by her father’s side when he mounted the first real presidential campaign by a black man in 1984 and especially 1988 when he won 11 primaries and caucuses, including Michigan and was for a time the leading contender for the Democratic nomination. Santita was also close to the Clintons and sang the National Anthem at the 42nd president’s 1997 inauguration.
The connection she has with the current occupants of the White House is more impressive. Santita went to school with Michelle Robinson, and she was the maid of honor when Michelle married a young community organizer named Barack Obama exactly 20 years ago.
Santita was brilliant, warm, knowledgeable and sensible in her remarks. Speaking to a standing room only crowd of mostly black and Latino parents, she told a few anecdotes about her extraordinary family and life under the microscope in Washington and Chicago. And she spoke more broadly about being a woman of color in America, and about how we parents could empower our own girls to do well in school and in life.
Everyone loved her and most were reluctant to leave. The only reason the crowd finally cleared the room was because the debate was about to start. And there was no doubting who most were rooting for.
What a difference 24 hours made. Wednesday they were filled with a sense that Barack Obama was a slam dunk, and that the nation’s first black president couldn’t lose. Using another sports analogy, on Thursday, the day after the debate, there was a sense that the president was on the ropes. We were remembering the experience of New York City’s first black mayor David Dinkins, and how he was ignominiously defeated when he ran for re-election in 1993; and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley that city’s first black mayor who seemed a shoo-in to be elected California governor in 1982, until the ballots were counted and he too lost. And in the aftermath of Wednesday’s debate, there is dread that Obama could follow Bradley and Dinkins.
One dad whispered to me, “I knew he was in trouble when no one applauded when he mentioned his 20th anniversary.”
As a still uncommitted voter, I watched the debates with less intensity than a partisan, tweeting at one point how “I love both these guys.” Perhaps because I wasn’t particularly pulling for one or the other, my own review of their respective performances wasn’t as harsh as the avalanche of Romney praise and Obama derision that came the day after.
I scored the debate 6-5 Romney, and wondered why the president didn’t bring up the governor’s Swiss bank accounts or his 47% comments about the half of America which doesn’t pay taxes. And I wondered why Governor Romney or moderator Jim Lehrer didn’t reference the just re-released video of then candidate Obama’s fiery 2007 speech to a crowd of black ministers, including Jeremiah Wright at Hampton University, which was leading the news cycle.
Mostly, though I wondered why neither the participants nor the moderator spoke to any of the issues specifically concerning black or brown Americans. There was no talk of urban unemployment. And there was nothing about immigration or the DREAM Act.
Granted we are all in this together; meaning all Americans are affected by the domestic issues they did discuss like the budget deficit, tax fairness and jobs. But given the enormous importance being ascribed the Latino vote, for example, it seems a curious omission.
Geraldo Rivera is currently host of "Geraldo at Large" on Fox News Channel (FNC), which is also nationally syndicated by Twentieth Television. Rivera recently celebrated 40 years in journalism.