tv Q A CSPAN December 14, 2009 6:00am-7:00am EST
writing columns and submitting themxd all across the country. not one was published. i got one published by the "topeka capital journal" years ago. i decided to go out and write my own columns on my own website. i knew someone who knew somebody at "huffington post." that opportunity has opened up other opportunities. >> give us an example of what that does for you. >> it is actually pretty amazing. i have come to learn that many news producers go to "the huffington post" and i have ended up on radio or television.
they would say they've read what i wrote on "huffington post" and it is a tremendous value in that regard. xd>> fourth generation washingtonian? >> yes. >> i love it where it says on your web site that you are the nephew of walter. fauntroy. i do that to honor my father. if i had a dollar for every time someone assumed i was walter fauntroy's son, i would be a rich man. my first job ever, i was working on the grounds crew at the capitol in the summer of 1983, pulling weeds and cutting grass. there was some mix up in my
start date. i was supposed to start on a monday and i did not actually get there until tuesday. my supervisor went on and on about how i am not allowed to go to the rayburn building to see my father during the day. i am here to work i had been through this before. it is not like i intended to go traipse around the building to find my uncle because he has a job to do. four or five weeks and somebody tells him that walter fauntroy is my uncle, not my father. he pulled me aside and asked why i did not tell him this. i said he was too busy yelling at me. i was 16 at the time. i let it roll off my back. >> what is the relationship of
your father to walter fauntroy? >> my father, kenneth, is two years younger than michael. >> how many are there in that family? >> as many as eight, and now five are still with us. >> what is the difference -- before we go any farther, walter fauntroy is -- >> a hero of mine. i do not have many. i have had a chance to look first hand what it means to be committed to something greater than yourself. i have seen the sincerity in that. i have come to believe his as a result of politics and it is an honorable profession. i have seen it with my own eyes. he was a child prodigy and went
on to virginia university where he met martin luther king jr.. that sparked a friendship that lasted until king's assassination. he represented king. he was a washington bureau chief. he was a founding member of the congressional black caucus. toward the end of 2009, we're just recently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the free south africa movement. he was a prime mover in that. he is still someone that is traveling around the world. he just retired this year after 50 years as pastor of the church where i was christened and married and around the
corner from where i live right now. my wife and i and our two kids live in the house that my father and his family grew up in. >> i read that you wrote that walter fauntroy met martin luther king when martin luther king was 22. martin luther king would today be 80 and your uncle is 76. what has your father done? >> my father has been retired. he was at the department of justice for years as a program analyst. he graduated central state college in may of 1957. he was born in 1935. he swam and played football like a lot of people his age. big in athletics.
my mother, sarah moore fauntroy, i won't tell you when she was born. she was born in north carolina, burlington. before returning to burlington -- she had a lot of foresight for someone so young. she left and came to d.c. we have not talked a lot about that. there were no opportunities there and she did not just want to do what they did -- what black women of a certain age did. she came here and worked and met my father and they got married in 1963. i came along a few years after that. my brother, two years after me. my mother was home for a long time.
i finished my bachelor's degree and then two master's degrees. >> you had a ph.d. from howard university? >> absolutely. i had a lot of family connections to howard. my uncle graduated from howard. he was a tuskegee airman. he developed the metro rail system in d.c. >> let me go to something that i read that you wrote. "as a senate bid use almost everything in political terms."
>> if all you have is a hammer, every problem you have is a nail. anything other than political terms, when i look at a debate about what ever is going on in the world, i am thinking about the political angle of it. not the policy and will. that is an important distinction. the merits of a policy on one hand, and there is the political back-and-forth that will determine the policy. it is hard to not become cynical or at least skeptical about the process when you see good ideas continually stifled and bad ideas occasionally slip through. i think that happens far too frequently.
we focus on a number of things that do not have a lot to do with the real needs of the people. again, given my own family and ideological and personal orientation, i am much more concerned about the needs of the people. >> what is your political level? do you have one? >> i am not partisan. i see myself left-of-center, politically. i am not rigid. some of that is because of the academic training. if you are well trained, academically, you understand that you have to look at all sides of the issue before you decide which way you want to go. to the decision you make, in terms of which way you want to go may be guided by your own ideology, but i do think you need to be cognizant of all views.
>> on your web site, i will read back to you what you say and i want you to define it. you say, "telling it like it is." this whole slogan obviously came from somewhere. explain it. >> part of it is howard cosell. he always talked about telling it like it is. i really do believe that our political discourse is opposed to trying to filter through making sure they are locked into their own ideological view. you have to call it as it is. >> and then you say, "no spin." >> what i want people to know is that they will read
something that is not intended to spin them, but is designed for the express purpose of expressing my own opinion about the issue and then leaving it up to you to decide if you know what i am talking about. i emphasize in my classes, all the time, that when i give commentary, i tell the class that this is my view. i just want to give you my sense of it and we can talk about your position. >> when do you hear spin the most often? >> there are two places.
there is the political ad operation which exists for the sole purpose of spinning. i think there is also too much spin in news. on some of these shows, they are just chasing the same story. everybody is talking about the same story at the same time when there is so much else going on in the world. there are some stories that deserve the media coverage. i understand that. there is too much of beating a dead horse. >> the next thing you say on your web site is, "no stupidity." >> there is a lot of stupid stuff on the internet and on television and radio.
>> no axes to grind. >> i am ideological, but i am not partisan. i am not carrying a flag for anyone but myself. >> no hidden agendas. >> i do not have any hidden agendas. this is a way to express my own position. i do so to the best extent possible and leave it to others to decide what is going on. >> just, provocative commentary. >> i try to be provocative. i have gotten some interest in responses to some of what i have written, some which leads me to wonder if they read what i have written. >> explain. >> let's take the presidential campaign. i voted for president obama.
i was skeptical for his capacity to win because i was not sure the country was ready to do that. i was also disappointed to the extent of which issues of race and equality were never sufficiently discussed. when i wrote about that frustration and my skepticism about how committed he is to racial justice and solving inequality, i got hammered pretty good. i was fine with it because i spoke my own truth. if people disagree, that is fine. >> you have a question. are you ready to go beyond conventional wisdom?
>> i tried to look at issues in a way that goes beyond just what you could get anywhere else. i would not always be successful, but that is what i try to do. >> this must be your bio page. >> i should say all my truth. and truth is a relative thing, right? >> i really do think this is an opportunity for new voices to get seen and get heard and that is one of the things i am trying to do. you can go to the people you always have gone to. that is your choice. if you want something new, then check me out.
>> you wrote about race and the campaign. first, grade barack obama from your standard. >> overall? >> overall. >> i would give him a strong "b." he has a very difficult job with the international part of that because he is trying to undo some of the problems that were created by the previous administration. i support what he is trying to do. i think he is doing as well as he can. nobody is perfect. >> you say that you agree with eric holder's comment when it comes to race. >> yes.
in that particular column, i am saying that eric holder's comments let me just say a couple of things. i think that the only time we really talk as a nation about race is when there is a crisis of some sort. when a police officer arrested professor. or when rodney king is beaten by cops. when susan smith says that some black man took her car and kids and we later find out that that was not the case. they are only discussions when they are crises. i think that is the wrong time to get the ball rolling.
for eric holder to make those comments was a wake-up call. >> there is an implication in this whole business that something is not being said. during the bill clinton administration, we had that whole discussion on race. we probably carry more about race on this network than anyone else. what is not being said? >> there is something missing in what is being said and what is being done. in what is being said, i do not think the country has a real sense of what the problems are. we think we know. one book that i am reading is by william julius wilson. it speaks to some of the conservative arguments. wilson is arguing more about
structure. we do not talk about structure. we do not talk about the fact that roughly 46% of people incarcerated are african- american. there has to be some sort of structural explanation for this. otherwise, the explanation is that black people are pathological and they will end up in jail so we should not do much in terms of public policy. i think that we need to do a better job of explaining the context in which this exists. i do not think we do it enough. >> i tried to figure out a way to do this to get you to put it into context. you may not like this, but i
went back and found some quotes from jeremiah wright. i did that because he created at all this back in the campaign. i wondered if you could tell me if you think he is right or wrong. this is a quote. i actually found this on wikipedia. >> by the way, if you were one of my students and you submitted a paper that cited wikipedia, we would have problems. >> the quote itself is accurate. --
>> is there anything you disagree with? >> to the extent that i disagree, it would be that he did not acknowledge that there are exceptions. there are examples of african- americans that have met with great success. after being granted access, i think that the history is what it is. i cannot believe i just used that phrase. our history is irrefutable.
>> you know how incendiary that was. they ran the clips. >> right, right. what is interesting about that, we are not in church. as you know, preachers are also entertainers. i think, and i do not know this to be true, but i think that a number of pastors around the country that have said incendiary things in their pulpits to make a point. >> did he say anything wrong? >> let's go back through it again. >> government bills bigger prisons and they want us to sing god bless america. >> on a per-capita basis, the united states incarcerates more people than anywhere in the world.
some of that is out of an explosion of the "get tough on drugs" in the '80s. that is a fact. i do not think there is any refuting that. we talked earlier about eric holder. eric holder said something that i think is notable. drugs are being allowed to be carried into black neighborhoods around the country. but eric holder once said that somebody can bring the drugs in, but that does not mean we have to use it or sell it. i think that that context has to be added as well. >> i have read wikipedia text before and never once had anybody tell us is not accurate. >> it is an open source.
i think that it compromises the legitimacy or validity of something that comes through. it is better than it used to be. when i first started seeing students use it, some of the stuff was patently false. i'm sort of say -- sort of relating open source research. >> but it is not that nothing ever goes wrong. we were involved with several conversations when wikipedia accused him of something very wrong. i just wanted to hear your response. here are some more quotes. from jeremiah wright --
>> we have an amendment process. there are those about equal protection, the right to vote, women's suffrage and more. it is irrefutable that the constitution did not include a white women or slaves. there is no questioning that. when you look at the history of the constitution, it was intended for people who were wealthy enough to own land, and the thinking behind that was that those that were healthy enough would be smart enough to run the country. >> some of the other stuff -- i will not touch that. >> i think he is someone with a
very interesting and commendable personal story treated i'm obviously not on the same side of the fence. personal -- personal story. i am obviously not on the same side of the fence. >> it turns out that he got 95% of the black vote. the biggest in history. >> it also should be noted that al gore got 91%. >> what is it about the black person in this country that loves the democratic party? >> it is about not having a better alternative.
i think that african-americans always vote democratic. when i was doing research, i would hear from african- americans that we are trying to bring the party back to its roots. african-americans were probably more supportive of the republican party during reconstruction then they were for the democrats now. african-americans are where they have always been, which is center-center/left. democrats are more closely aligned with african-americans because they are no longer were they used to be. to the extent where we can say that african-americans love democrats, over the course of
the century, they have been closer to african-americans than republicans. i have to vote for the person who is closest to me ideologically. >> you're talking about "republicans and the black vote." why would you want to write about republicans? i am trying to get tenure. you have to publish. i have always considered myself a writer. you want to deal with issues that are not easily addressed. during the course of my research, i did not find very many books that dealt with this
issue. i have to emphasize that too often people have assumed that this is a book about black republicans. it is not. it is a book about the republican party. i emphasize that because i have had some unfortunate incidents where people would assume that imus be a republican. >> in 1944, thomas dewey got 44% of the black vote. he was a republican and you had charts like that in the book. >> one of the things i wanted to do was lay out what to do would allow. richard nixon, in 1960, when vice-president nixon ran, he got about 30% of the black vote.
>> can you tell me what happened that began the shift? >> it was not just one moment. i trace it back to the republicans in dealing with a construction. if you want to come into the mid-20s century, you can book that harry truman. what has to be noted is that the republicans began to retreat from some of their commitments. as a result of black migration, democrats began to get a new black voters that they had to beg -- had to deal with.
the final straw, i would say, was the 1964 goldwater campaign which was an abomination to most black people. >> you are married to a woman that is a lawyer? >> yes, my lisa. she is a wonderful woman. i am lucky because i married up. she probably cannot say the same pain. she is a lawyer. i am very proud of her. it she is the highest ranking attorney in the company. she has been there for 13 or 14 years. >> wanted to name your daughter sunshine?
>> -- why did you name your daughter sunshine? >> that is not her official name. her official name is loading. but she is a bright and sunny baby. she is a suite. >> how old is your brother? >> two. they are twins. they are great. we are so lucky. they are healthy. they are smart. very smart. my daughter is smart as a whip. just watching them grow has been a tremendous honor. >> back to some more issues. in 2007, wrote about the imus fallout and lessons for black america.
>> i can always tell about how things are going in racial issues by media schedule. when i am doing a lot of television, that means that something is going on. again, we only talk about race when there is a crisis. he said some ridiculous things on television. we had this conversation while the dust was still on the air and then when the dust settles, we go on to something else. >> let me do a brief analysis and get your reaction. >> the rev. al sharpton goes after him. cbs fires him. they have to pay him of some $20 million. he is now back on television and back on the radio and problem has multi-year contracts. what did we game?
>> nothing. nothing. he sat out a little bit. i guess we gained -- his show has not whitefaces. i want to explain to people that the educational process is how we change views on people. we cannot just educate and times of crisis. >> what was the statistic? >> 46% of those incarcerated are black americans. we are talking about massive numbers of black men engaged in one way or another in the criminal justice system. >> what is your take on why? >> i think it is a systemic and
i also think it is personal. from a systemic standpoint, we never really fixed education in america. we never really fixed the placement of jobs and a way to give people opportunities. he wrote a book about a decade or so ago called the "when work disappears." would we have people who are not well-educated and have no real opportunities all types of social dysfunction is allowed to spread. we have too many fatherless children. we have too much going on in our
community that does not lead or encouraged achievement. one of the disappointing things to me, and this happened to me when i was an elementary school kid. it happened years before i got to elementary school and it continues on. i have no idea where this came from. on too many black school yards in america, kids that want to do well and are trying to do well are not. you are trying to be wiped, as if trying to be educated is trying to be why. >> where did that come from? >> if i knew, i could solve some of these problems. i do not know. it is frustrating and demeaning. it is unfortunate. it is also depressing to kids that are unsure of themselves and want to belong.
we talk about the power of words. words can help the derail kids. >> you have a forum and we are recording missed before you did your speech at george mason. there are eight different speeches during the school year and you have to stand before an audience said talk about what? >> this is something that is done by the office and mason is designed to feature faculty members and their research. in this case, i got the invitation back in march. i was trying to figure out what i would talk about. i was interested in race and politics.
i am trying to wrap my brain around the fact that this is a post ratio america. the topic is post racial politics and the impact on politics. that is what i am going to discuss. >> what does it mean? >> i think post ratio is a term that is used in polite company to say that we as a country or beyond race. on the surface, i think that sounds great. we need to be careful so as not to premature hoist the mission accomplished sign with regards to america's racial issues.
i think it is also important that we not cast aside the history. when we say post racial, just as we say opposed civil rights, -- post civil-rights, people including michael walter. >> on " walter fauntroy. do you think we will ever have a representative from the district of columbia? >> yes. she is trying to shepherd through congress a bill that would grant the district delegate full voting representation.
what we have had and is where a special rule is created so that the delegate of the district of columbia and the delegates of the territories can vote on the floor, but if their vote constitutes a margin of victory, then there has to be an automatic revoked in which they cannot participate. that was something that was first created when the democrats were in control in the early '90s but done away with when the republicans took control. >> this book, "home rule or house rule." when did you publish this? >> i did it because it is near and dear to my heart.
if you are of a certain age, you understand congressional interference. >> any other capital city in the world where citizens can vote? >> i did some research on this. no, to my recollection. even in havana and caracas, they have some voting representation. many of them have complete autonomy and in some, there is a special district in which there is some federal or local relationship. >> from your knowledge, could to live in any other country of the world that is multiracial and get a better deal than the united states?
it would be a better world for different reasons? >> i don't know. i haven't thought about that. >> it is not to imply -- i just wonder if folks ever think about that they want to move to this country because they want to be treated a lot better. >> it is curious that you would ask that. i know of gays that have moved to canada because they feel they could get a better deal. but in terms of race, i am not sure. if you are african-american, you could find a capital city in africa somewhere. race is endemic everywhere.
>> why do you think that? >> i think because we are conditioned to understand and appreciate and embrace people that look like us and when we come across people who do not, we do not really know how to mix. my brother-in-law and his wife got married in france in 2002. after that trip, my wife and i met some friends and we were walking along the beach and it is blazing hot outside and we find a guy pushing a cart with some ice cream. i buy an ice cream bar, and all the wrapping of the bar -- on the wrapping of the bar is the most offensive imaging of an african with big lips, a huge
eyes, a spear and a grass skirt. i was thinking that i am in spain. what am i seeing this in spain? spain is probably no more indicative of the rest of the world than any other country. it to me, race is something that is part of the human condition. my interest in it is to focus on making sure that race is not used to disadvantages' some at the expense of others. >> there are 700 or so people that work for the congressional research service. how long did you work there? >> i worked there in 1997.
after i finished graduate school in 2000, i finished my dissertation of the congressional research center, i like to call it the greatest science department. researchers, many of whom have ph.d. s. they are people who do great research at the request of congress. >> can a member really just call up and say they did a study on this? >> yes, it happens all the time to rid people have their own research areas and build relationships with staff members.
because these staff members are calling to find out who does x. they ask if you have any thing on this issue and you may already have something. if you do not, then the question is if you can get something quickly on this. it is very interesting and can be very intense. >> you can also remember when a member would request something and it would release it to the press. >> that is one of the really -- i almost said week. those of us who worked there, we wanted to make sure that the reports were not used to facilitate a particular
[unintelligible] that cannot always be protected. it is frowned upon. the last thing we want is to hold a report done by a partisan think tank. it is another thing altogether to hold a report from the research service that plays it straight and they have no axes to grind. it was a great experience for me. it helped improve my riding and it helped get me to see -- my writing. what you try to do is shake of the request in a way that it can be done and in a timely fashion. it is not unusual to get a call
at 430 on thursday afternoon for a member saying that they need this tomorrow. it may not be possible, given the size and scope of the request. -- at 4:30 p.m. on thursday afternoon for a member saying that they need this tomorrow. >> where do you live? my wife and i live along the u street corridor. >> with a name like fauntroy, do you think in terms of, if there is an opportunity, you might run for that voting member of congress from the district of columbia? >> oh, brian, the only job i have ever coveted is serving in congress did that and playing
point guard for the lakers. listen, i am one of the two people that actually reveres the institution of congress. i know those tunnels under congress like the back of my hand. i have seen it from a very small child. i revere the place and what it represents. it is not perfect. there is -- it is far too partisan. at its best, congress is the most incredible institution. i would love that job. >> i can see in that phase right there, walter fauntroy. there is a resemblance. >> i get out a lot.
the other thing i get is that i am so much taller than he is. i got up from my mother's side of the family. >> teaching american government at george mason university in virginia, the class is in front of you. is it usually graduate classes? >> yes. >> what is the overall mission. >> i want them to be very well focused on the institutions. you would be better able to understand how a certain lockout passed. i talked earlier about the importance of understanding the political part of this in addition to the policy part. it is one thing to shape great policy but it will not be passed into law if the politics do not allow it. government is participatory.
with interest groups and, there is a reason why things are the way they are. >> your wife has a law degree. as you walk around life, why do you think you did so well? >> we talked about this earlier. my father is a college graduate. my mother is a carlos graduate. >> why did they do well? >> my father had an athletic scholarship, but he also had people around him who were pushing him in that direction. a family, mentors, that sort of thing.
it is not always easy, butvv we recognize that what you see around you is not necessarily what you want -- in line >> so if you go back even farther -- >> so, if you go back even farther? >> when the opportunity presented itself, they seized the opportunity. my mother, in her teens, knew that staying in north carolina would not work for her. she moved to d.c., not knowing anybody. she ultimately got a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees. it just becomes a part of your
dna and you understand that that is what the expectation is 3 >> do you have a favorite historian or writer in your life? >> -- the expectation is. >> to you have a favorite historian or writer in your life? >> i watched you interview him talk about that book. >> it has to be about 15 or 16 years ago. that is one of the books that sticks with me. it is interesting. i do not get a chance to read for pleasure anymore because every time i read for pleasure, i think that this is a time i can be devoted to reading for my work.
>> how old are you now? >> 48. >> we are out of time. michael fauntroy at michael fauntroy.com. thanks for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> for a dvd copy of this program, called 1-877-662-7726. for free trade scripps or to give us your comments about this program, visit us and c- span.org. q&a programs are also available as c-span podcasts. host: caller[captioning performy
national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2009] >> keep up with the latest on the health care senate bill. what cloud cover on c-span 2. we're the only network with the whole debate. we have updates from the reporters and editors of the congressional quarterly poll called group. you can also listen with the new i found out. -- you can also listen with the new iohone app. >> up next, your calls and comments on "washington journal per-q."