Durbin says racism unknown factor in election

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is the guest on this week’s "Iowa Press."  During this morning’s taping at IPTV, Durbin was asked about race as a factor in this election.

Henderson: "Back to the Iowa Caucuses —  much was made about the fact that Barack Obama, an African-American candidate, was able to win in a predominantly white state. This past week Congressman Murtha made some comments about the racist tendencies of voters in Pennsylvania. What role will race place in the results in November 4th?"

Durbin: "That’s a very important question and I don’t know the answer to it.  I can recall coming over here and campaigning for Barack and sitting down in the back room of a coffee shop in a rural Iowa town with a lot of faithful Democrats. They’d close the door and they’d look me in the eye and they’d say, ‘Senator Durbin, can we really elect an African-American president of the United States?" and I said, ‘We can.’  You know, I’m just across the river, across that Mississippi River in a part of Illinois that looks a lot like Iowa and I want to tell you something — Barack Obama runs very well in my part of Illinois.  It’s outside of Chicago.  It looks like Iowa.. People are very accepting once they sit down and measure a person.  In this campaign Barack Obama from February, 2007 to today has been analyzed in 100 different directions.  Fifteen years ago he wrote a comprehensive autobiography of his life.  I mean, this man has told us who he is, where his values are, what he really wants to do as president and I think that will overcome a lot the hurdles for race.  Younger voters, it’s not an issue.  When you poll them, they say, ‘What’s the problem here?’ Those my age who can remember the civil rights struggle and still know what we’ve gone through as a nation look at this as a real turning point for America, not just to elect the right person for the job but to turn a page when it comes to America’s racial history."

A few moments later, Mike Glover of the Associated Press returned to the subject.

Glover:  "And returning to Kay’s race question, a lot of people say that Barack Obama answered the race question by winning in Iowa which is an overwhelmingly white state, but that was in a Democratic universe.  He’s in a general election universe right now with undecided voters, Republicans, conservatives.  Can he make the sale in that universe?"

Durbin:  "I believe he can and of course, let me tell you something — he’s not going to win over even all the Democratic voters. Some of them cannot get over this hurdle of race.  Let’s be very candid about that, but I think that number is diminishing and I think many more people are stepping forward — new voters, in particular — who really don’t believe that should be in the equation. They want to take a look at both candidates and really measure them against what they think this country needs."

Durbin answered many other questions, including a question about that $3 million projector that McCain has mentioned in the debates — an earmark Obama requested.

Henderson"Since the other United States senator from Illinois is your party’s nominee for president, Illinois issues have come to fore in the national debate. First of all, a projector in Chicago for $3 million? Was that a good project for him to express an earmark and ask that that be funded?"

Durbin: "You think of your high school projector, don’t you, and that little carosel that they pop in the top and you think, ‘How in the world can that cost $3 million?’ This is at the Addler Planetarian.  It is a projector that was put in there decades ago, made in Germany, which is now obsolete and cannot be fixed and replaced.  They’ve patched up over the years and they now have to replace this projector which literally projects over the ceiling the heavens so those who are in the planetarim can appreciate it.  It is not your average high school projector.  I signed on the letter, too.  The investment that we put in that — and we put them in selectively — was one that we thought was worthwhile, that had a valid public purpose, fully-disclosed from start to finish. I think it’s a good investment for the thousands if not the tens of thousands who come to that planetarium."

Henderson: "And Americans have become more familiar with a man who lives in Chicago named Bill Ayers.  First of all, have you ever had a fundraiser in Bill Ayers’ living room?"

Durbin:  "I’m not sure I’ve ever met him. I won’t say I haven’t, because I’ve met a lot of people in Illinois, but I know I wasn’t in his living room."

Henderson:  "The McCain campaign and Mr. McCain himself refer to him as a domestic terrorist and Sarah Palin has accused Barack Obama of paling around with terrorists…Do you think that’s a valid charge?"

Durbin:  "I think that Barack Obama has made it clear how he feels and I share his feelings that what Mr. Ayers did back in the day when he was involved in this activity was indefensible, despicable. No defense is made. Of course that all occurred when Barack Obama was eight years old. That man now has been at least rehabilitated in the eyes of the University of Illinois at Chicago where he teaches….To make this part of the campaign is to ignore the obvious and I think the American people and Iowans get it.  It should be about the economy, not about what some man did when Barack Obama was eight years old."

Durbin suggested the campaign has entered the "nerve wracking" stage because there are no more big events — VP selections, conventions, debates.  Watch all of what Durbin said here: http://www.iptv.org/iowapress/transcript_detail.cfm?ipShowNum=3607.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. al from nj says

    Obama’s nomination has made our country a complete mess and an embarrassment for the world to view.
    Obama and his team of supporters have reared the ugly head of sexism and racism, criticized our country to the world and have been a complete embarrassed with voter fraud and the entire voting process.
    Many in my community have never seen such bias in reporting, if you want to call it that. It is an embarrassing time to be an American.
    The media should be emphasizing the importance of a man with good character, not defend a man that has associations with far left, anti American radical leaders and the like.
    Shame on the media, shame on the Democrats and all Americans that support Obama’s unfair tactics and inexperience.

  2. Phil Collins says

    I live in Illinois, and I voted for Sen. Durbin’s conservative opponent, Chad Koppie. He’s the only candidate, in that race, who is pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-illegal alien. Please read his site, http://www.koppieforsenate.com.