By: April D. Ryan, aprildryan.com
2012 did not disappoint on the news front with so many interesting stories. I can only pick a few for the year. So here is my twist and slightly different perspective on the Year in Review, 2012.
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN
December 2012 revealed new efforts to analyze a national assault weapons ban since the Clinton-era ban expired earlier in 2012. The latest calls for gun control and bans on assault weapons stems from the killing of innocence in Connecticut. 20 children ages 5 and 6 were killed along with six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In late December, a mentally disturbed man took his mother’s assault weapons to the school and proceeded with a killing spree considered one of the worst in this nation. Five days after the horrific shooting, President Barack Obama announced a gun panel headed by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is charged with bringing findings back to the President by the end of January 2013. President Obama says the report is meant “to pull together real reforms right now.”
As some look at creating new bans others are examining existing programs that are not functioning as initially planned. Months ago, after another horrific and fatal shooting inside a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, there was much thought about what could be done to stop these shootings at the hands of disturbed individuals.
Kurt Schmoke a former Mayor of Baltimore City reflected on solutions to the problem. Schmoke feels “this debate about reducing spending is a good time to reassess the ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms).” While examining the Clinton era Assault weapons ban, Schmoke questions the purpose for the ATF. He says, “The future of the ATF should be one of the topics considered by the Biden Task Force that Obama recently created to look at reducing gun violence. Abolishing ATF, or dramatically restructuring ATF, is probably something on which Obama and the NRA could reach agreement. He says “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) was established over 75 years ago to enforce alcohol prohibition. This agency now has over 5000 employees and a billion dollar budget. In view of the fact that prohibition has been repealed and the agency has demonstrated no ability to control the flow of firearms in our society, do you think it is time to eliminate that agency?”
Rewinding to the beginning of the year, January 2012 marked the two year anniversary of the fatal Haitian earthquake. United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice said, “We obviously have seen progress since the earthquake. Rice’s comments from my interview with her earlier this year:
The removal of rubble, people being able to leave…and return to more permanent housing.” Rice also said during that exclusive interview the Haitian people were working on “accelerating normalcy” to Haiti.” Ambassador Rice said “thousands of thousands” of persons are still displaced. In October, Cheryl Mills, Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Clinton says, “all displaced Haitians will be in permanent housing in a year and a half.” Listen:
The United States has fulfilled its financial pledge of at least 2.1 billion dollars for Haiti to include emergency and reconstruction funding. Even before the earthquake Haiti was considered the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Rice said it was not just about money for Haiti. Rice feels “Haiti will not reach the stage of development that its people needs through donor assistance of any magnitude. It’s going to require private sector investment.”
In October 2012, Mills reported a new business center was operational in North Haiti. She deemed it “the largest industrial park in the Caribbean.”
In February, a local story of a man shooting a black kid wearing a hoodie went beyond the Florida community to become a national and international frenzied story. Those reports sparked a rallying cry in the United States over racial profiling. The Fatal shooting of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman created a national debate and led the news for months, ultimately forcing President Obama to address the issue. In the Rose Garden the President said, “it was a tragedy.” The President drew questions from reporters after he acknowledged, “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon.”
The president indirectly discussed the alleged racial profiling aspect of the story. Some Civil Rights leaders questioned if Trayvon was singled out because he was a black youth wearing a hoodie. The President said, “We have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this could happen.” The President spoke with caution trying not to intervene in the investigations of the fatal shooting to include efforts by the Justice Department.
Weeks later after the shooting death and the President’s address, AME Bishop John R. Bryant Attended a White House event with some of the nation’s top religious leaders. Bryant, chose to wear a hoodie to the event in memory of Martin and to further push the issue of racial profiling. President Obama never commented on Bryant wearing the hoodie.
Spring in Washington DC always is special as it is picturesque with the cherry blossoms. The Spring also marched in lots of news. One historic news story that has changed the landscape of inclusion is President Obama’s announcement on Same-Sex Marriage. Listen:
The President spoke about how he evolved on Same-Sex after trying to reconcile issues of his faith and legal rights for all Americans. The Same-Sex Marriage issue fell into Obama’s lap after Vice President Joe Biden led the way in his support for Same-Sex marriage. The President said during an interview, “I have stood on the side of boarder equality for the LGBT Community. I thought civil unions would be sufficient. That was something that would give people hospital rights and other elements that we take for granted.” The LGBT community embraced the President’s decision that does not change any laws. A magazine even proclaimed the 44th President, the “First Gay President”; a label placed on him because of his support for the rights of that community. Meanwhile, the White House was quick to reply to the title by calling him the “Rights President.”
Also, in the Spring, there was a political switch-a-roo for a prominent former Democratic African-American Congressman who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 in support of President Barack Obama. The former Alabama Congressman Davis said, “Even if you were the most ardent Obama supporter I think in the world, it is hard to make a case the promise of four years ago has been born out. It is hard to make a case that we have the economy we wanted. I think it is hard to make the case we had the level of civil unity we had four years ago.” Davis, now a resident of Virginia, in 2012 contemplated a run for some political office in the State of Virginia as a Republican.
Earlier in 2012, Artur Davis shared his perspective – Listen:
In August, Davis played a role in the Republican National Convention speaking in support of Mitt Romney as President. Civil Rights Icon and Congressman John Lewis said,” I was very surprised my former colleague Artur Davis did what he did when he spoke out against the President, the President and the Democratic Party…to me it was hurtful and most painful to see him standup and speak at the Republican Convention…I don’t know what happened to him.”
In June, Governor Mitt Romney held a 20-minute meeting with three black reporters and a producer for an off the record discussion on issues pertaining to the black community. Those reporters joining the Romney 2012 Presidential campaign bus tour in Frankenmuth, Michigan were: T.J. Holmes, Perry Bacon and yours truly, April Ryan. Unfortunately, the conversation cannot be reported as it was an OTR or off-the-record discussion. In fact, Governor Mitt Romney in 2012 only gave two interviews to African Americans in the media to include Oprah Winfrey. But his one and only interview to the black press was to Derrick Dingle of Black Enterprise magazine. Dingle conducted the interview this summer at the NAACP Convention where Romney addressed the crowd. At that same convention, Romney’s speech drew loud boos and hisses when he said he would repeal Obamacare. After the speech he met with Dingle. Romney was asked how would your presidential cabinet look? Romney said “I would love to have a cabinet that reflected the fabric of America.”
Another Black Enterprise question, “If you’re elected, where do you expect to see the unemployment rate?” His answer, “I see it being 6% or less by the end of my [first] term.” Some in the black media who have complained about Romney’s lack of on-the-record access, say this is consistent with his 47 percent and gifts comments. On the other side of the aisle, President Obama gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey and also participated in over 35 interviews with black media since his official early April re-election bid. Those statistics are from Dr. Martha Joynt Kumar, Professor of Political Science at Towson University. During a campaign interview with Tom Joyner, the President conveyed confidence in an election win saying “After the election I will have won my last race.” He also told the TJMS they “banked a million early votes in the swing state of Ohio.” Around the time of that interview in an off-the-record discussion with reporters, President Obama said he will win the election because Mitt Romney has alienated Hispanics.
LEAD UP TO THE ELECTION
After 18 months of presidential campaigning it boiled down to some verbal sparring matches in October. The world watched the three debates with President Obama and Mitt Romney and the on Vice Presidential debate with Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan.
The Presidential debates were on domestic and foreign policy as well as a town hall style event. The Vice Presidential debate focused on it all. Going into the first debate that proved a dismal performance by President Obama, the Obama camp was already trying to lower expectations revealing historically a Presidential opponent is deemed the perceived winner. The source also said an opponent’s stature is raised by simply debating a President. But President Obama did not do so well because he did not rehearse as much as expected according to his campaign. They said he was running a country.
Democratic Pollster, Cornell Belcher did not expect the debates to be as widely watched because in recent years their numbers were not like before particularly with the advent of more choices for TV viewing. According to reports the first presidential debate drew 67 million viewers, the second presidential debates drew 65.6 million Americans and the third debate drew 59.2 million viewers.
Mike McCurry, Co-Chair of the Presidential Debate Commission says, “We made a lot of progress in the 2012 debates, especially with new formats that encouraged the candidates to be more engaged and direct with each other. But we have lots of room for improvement… in the use of social media and in bringing more diversity to the debates, both in the personalities of the moderators and in the scope of policy substance that the candidates address. The debates are here to stay and that is important, but they are also here to improve in what they can offer to the voters.” On debate viewership, McCurry stated, “The Nielsen figures suggested that 67.2 million watched the first debate in Denver… a record. There were also a record number of people watching and commenting on-line… for example, Twitter recorded 10.3 million tweets during the Denver debate.. a record for them. Audiences for the 2nd and 3rd debates remained strong and also for the VP debate. The third prez debate in Florida had an audience of 59.2 million according to Nielsen… that was well above the 52.4 million recorded for the first debate in 2008. So audience viewing was up and the on-line, internet/social media audience was record-setting. With Internet audience, the first debate reached 70-80 million people… a record. And the subsequent debates had record viewership as well (though less than the first debate.)” Ultimately, in November, the campaigns and debates ended giving the 44th President a historic re- election win.
And, 2012 continued the perpetual problem in the black and brown communities of higher unemployment rates than the national averages. Those facts remain as the overall unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent for the first time in four years. In October, I spoke exclusively with President Barack Obama. He says,” I spend every day in this Oval Office thinking about how to ensure America is the land of opportunity for everybody.”
My full interview with President Obama – Listen:
During the year, the Labor Department promoted the creation of one million jobs in a time frame of several months. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis acknowledged 50 percent of those million jobs were given to the Hispanic work force as the black unemployment rate remains the highest unemployment rate in the nation.
As the hours pass making way for 2013, several major stories of the year are unfolding. One story worth watching from both ends of Pennsylvania Ave., is how politicians will devise a fix of the national debt problem? This same time in 2011, it was almost the same faces entangled in a web of budget tape in efforts to avert a fatal fall of the Fiscal Cliff. The players for this round of 11th hour negotiations: President Barack Obama, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. On the table for negotiations are trillions of dollars and entitlement programs.
Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings who is the minority leader of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee says “No deal is better than a bad deal!”
Embattled United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice has a place in the Obama Administration according to the President. Those words after Rice pulled her name from consideration for Secretary of State. Sources close to the process contends the 48 year old African American was one of the top choices for the position. Rice in mid December withdrew her name from consideration after opposition against her comments on the Sunday shows concerning the Benghazi fatal attack. She said the controversy stemmed from a protest over an inflamatory video. It was later found that was not the case. Rice followed the early talking points used by the President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rice withdrew her name after weeks of heated debate over her potential nomination and her attempts to calm Hill lawmakers concerns. President Obama accepted her decision. About a week later the President nominated Senator John Kerry for the post soon to be vacated by Hillary Clinton. Kerry’s nomination is expected to win approval in the Senate confirmation hearings.