As the Al Sharpton Campaign correspondent for Left Coaster, I have come to discover something about the coverage. I use a news alert service provided by Google to cut down on the amount of time I spend looking for articles on Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, whose campaign I also cover. In the case of Moseley Braun, who media coverage dwindles daily, this is very helpful. but in the case of Al Sharpton, it's becoming evident that Google has favorites - and Al Sharpton is not one of them.
I have found that the alerts I get about Sharpton are neutral at best and quite negative at worst, including virulent screeds from Rush Limbaugh. Perusing the links I get, I find that most have a conservative bent to their philosophy, and not one of the True Conservative kind. In a couple of cases, the link points to an artilce about George W. Bush, in which a sentence mentioning Sharpton or Braun is used.
If I want to find articles that are positive toward either candidate, I find that I have to go to their web sites for links.
Here's an example of a negatively slanted article. I have italicized the phrases I find slanted.
They don't ask just anyone to host NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
The show's producers can draw from any number of cultural cutting edges. So, if they wanted a politician, why go for a guy who's polling at 3 percent? A guy who's never held elected office? A person who has been found guilty of defaming a prosecutor? Why did they go for a traveling preacher known for hair-dos and fashion don'ts? Why did "Saturday Night Live" ask Al Sharpton to host their latest show? Maybe, as CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod found out, because he has put himself smack in the middle of the Democratic presidential race by sheer force of personality -- illustrating just how far you can go in America if you've mastered the art of the sound bite.
[One of the sad facts about politics in America today is that the sound byte elects. So why does the author if this article feel it necessary to slap Al Sharpton for something every politician does? - ed]
Maybe because, at this stage, the presidential campaign is as much reality show as campaign. It is starting already, as Democrats get closer to voting candidates off the island.
For now, a candidate could get a lot of attention by being entertaining. It's almost unfair to watch Sharpton in a debate format with his opponents. After all, Sharpton is the "Boy Preacher," as he was known as a kid. The presidential hopeful has been celebrated for his prodigious gift as an orator since he was 10.
"He has stood out in the debates, someone who is quick-witted, who sort of makes people laugh, who has a dominating personality in terms of dealing with crisis when they arise in the debate format," University of Maryland Professor Ronald Walters says. "I think a lot of that plays to his acumen as a Baptist preacher and somebody who's very comfortable in this kind of a setting."
To this day, no matter where he finds himself on Sunday morning, the Reverend Al preaches. But if the ability to connect on an emotional level was the only criterion for president, Sharpton could start measuring the Oval Office for curtains right now. But it's not. There's that pesky little combination of experience, record and political philosophy, which candidates end up getting judged on. Philosophically, Al Sharpton thinks the Democrats move to the center. He says it is that move that help make Bill Clinton president twice, and it is where all the party's problems start.
"I think that we lost our way," Sharpton says. "You know, the Bible says, 'What profits a man to gain the world and lose his own soul.' We lost our soul. We stopped speaking to working class people. We stopped speaking for labor. We stopped speaking for minorities. But then we expected them to rally around us after we had abandoned them. "It's like a father leaving his family and then wondering why no one showed up at his birthday party. Maybe because you left them, and there's nothing to say 'Happy Birthday, Dad' about."
The phrasing is always catchy. But Sharpton's follow-through is sketchy.
[And Bush's isn't? - ed]
He's been in the middle of every major racial issue in New York for the last two decades. He led protest after protest. But he's never held elected office. The reverend ran only for high-profile positions that were out of his grasp. "If he actually had to do the constituent service, the legislation and so on, the deal making, I don't think he wants to be on that line," newspaper columnist and Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper says. "I think it tells us that he is silver-tongued. That he is a great producer and promoter of theater. But that it ends there."
Sharpton says his presidential mission isn't misguided – believing he can do more as a president, even an unelected presidential candidate, than as an elected congressman. "In my capacity as a leader of a civil rights group, I've done all that," he says. "I also think that even running, and I intend to win, but even if I don't, I'm going to do a lot. I'm going to register a lot of voters that I couldn't register if I was just a congressman."
Sharpton is a guy with no experience governing or running a campaign on a shoestring budget. This candidate doesn’t check his poll results because Sharpton believes talking to the people gives him more insight into the minds of the voters than any poll.
[I think there is a lesson here for Karl Rove - ed]
Spend some time with Sharpton in Harlem, N.Y. and it's easy to see his charm. He can't get through lunch without half a dozen requests for his picture. But there, he does not have to lug around the heavy political baggage that he will have to elsewhere.
The case of Tawana Brawley is a subject that may slow his presidential campaign. Brawley was a 15-year-old girl in upstate New York, who claimed she was raped by several law enforcement officers and a prosecutor. Sharpton loudly took her side. But a grand jury found the charges baseless, and Sharpton was found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay $50,000.
[It was more than that, but why let a good fact get in the way of a good rant? - ed]
Sharpton never apologized. But would he be repentant to be elected President of the United States?
"No," Sharpton says. "If I were to say that I must stand up and apologize for something that I believe in, no. I would not do that. Why would I do that? Because then who you elected, somebody that would say and do anything just to get in office? We don't need that kind of person in the White House. The next thing I'd be doing is announcing weapons of mass destruction that wasn't there. We're trying to get that kind of guy out of the White House."
And if that isn't enough to make him unelectable, he's also fighting another factor.
[If this is enough to make Sharpton unelectable, then it is enough for George Warmonger Bush as well. How much has he to apologize for that is worse than what Sharpton has done? - ed]
"There is the question of whether or not a Sharpton, whose history has been one that represents sort of controversial issues connected to the black community, could be president," says Ronald Walters, who helped run Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. "I've come to the conclusion that kind of a person can not make it as president of the United States."
Sharpton, however, thinks America is absolutely ready for him to be president of the United States. "We're going to surprise a lot of people in southern states," he says. "And then we come into 'Super Tuesday,' which has a lot of northern urban cities and urban western cities. So, I think the nomination is nowhere near as unreachable as people think."
He could run strong in South Carolina, where 40 percent of the democratic registered voters are black. And Sharpton could continue to pick up delegates through the winter and spring, which brings him to the Democratic convention next summer. "I think I roll into Boston, if I'm not the nominee, certainly with leverage," Sharpton says. "Before we go to November, we have to go into Boston in July. And a lot of the disagreements and a lot of the marginalization has to be straightened out." Which is how a guy with no record, no organization, no money, no polling and a lot of reasons why democrats would shun him, becomes a man to cozy up to.
Al Sharpton doesn't have a college degree. But you don't survive two decades of protests in New York, including jail time and being stabbed, without earning a Ph.D in street savvy. So you've got to wonder, what does he got his eye on, if not the presidency? "I think that he may be attempting to try to become the second sort of Reverend Jesse Jackson, in a sense," Walters says. "I think that it's logical that somebody would have come along to try to do that."
Sharpton, however, says he's not trying to be the most influential Black leader in America. "I think we need a lot of leaders," Sharpton says. "When I was growing up, you had Dr. King and Malcolm X and Thurgood Marshall … all at the same time. There are a lot of people that do a lot of different things. I hope to be one of them that does well. But, I don't think we need a one leader for anything."
So, forget about waiting until next November to see who the big winner is. If what Sharpton wants is a national platform or national stage, he's already got it.
Meanwhile, back at the sound stage, ...
NBC affiliates may not show Sharpton on 'SNL'
NBC viewers in California, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C. may not see Al Sharpton's scheduled appearance on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. It could also cause headaches for NBC affiliates in states where Sharpton is already on the ballot. An NBC official declined to comment on the network's plans for Sharpton's "Saturday Night Live" appearance.
Sharpton is a Pentecostal minister and civil rights activist from New York City, where the show originates. Sharpton's campaign aide said Sharpton is not appearing on "Saturday Night Live" in his capacity as a presidential candidate and that the campaign is not involved in Sharpton's preparations for the show.
The candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has agreed to host the 90-minute comedy show this weekend but his appearance will trigger federal rules regarding equal time for political candidates. Because federal rules require stations in those areas to provide equal time to legally qualified candidates, some stations may choose to broadcast an older episode of the show instead of taking the live feed. NBC plans to provide affiliates with a previously broadcast show, according to officials at an Iowa affiliate.
The Federal Communications Commission regulates the broadcast networks and the amount of time candidates are on air as a way to protect the public airwaves.
[And what a fine job they do! - ed]
The equal time rule would apply nationally if Sharpton were on the ballot in more than 10 states, according to Bobby Baker, an FCC attorney. Because Sharpton hasn't qualified in more than 10 states, the rule will only effect stations in states where Sharpton has already qualified for the ballot. So far he has met the ballot requirements in only a handful of places, according to a campaign aide.
The rule does not apply to news programs and talk shows. Earlier this year, Howard Stern pulled strings and got the FCC to reclassify his radio program as a news show so that he could interview Arnold Schwarzenegger and weasel out of providing equal time to the other 134 candidates for California governor.
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