SAJAforum: Rekha Basu on John McCain’s Meeting with the Des Moines Register’s Editorial Board

Last Tuesday, Sen. John McCain met with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register in a bid to once again obtain the paper’s endorsement. (In December, shortly before the Iowa caucuses, the Register endorsed McCain and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the nominees of their respective parties.) As news outlets widely reported, and as you can see for yourself in the video to the right, the interview at times became somewhat contentious.

On Friday, SAJAer Rekha Basu, who is a columnist for the paper and attended the meeting, shared some of her reactions in a column for the Register:

John McCain is angry.

You can feel it in the clenched muscles in his throat, the narrowing of his eyes, the controlled tone with
which he handles a question he doesn’t like, as if struggling to contain something that might spill out. We’ve seen that body language on TV. But around a Des Moines Register table Tuesday, the anger and tension were palpable. And unsettling.

McCain’s volatility has been written and whispered about by staff and Senate colleagues: the mercurial temper, the quixotic outbursts of reproach, then jocularity. But those alleged episodes were behind the scenes. The combative, prickly McCain we saw was seeking the Register’s endorsement. He already got it in the caucuses.

He took frequent offense at questions, characterizing them as personal viewpoints of the questioners rather than legitimate topics. True, he was asked some tough, pointed questions about his running mate and his honesty. But America is having those discussions, and you’d expect he’d be ready, not defensive. It takes a thick skin to be president. [link]

The entire column is available here, and video of the entire interview (which runs just under an hour) is available here. Basu answered three quick questions about the McCain interview:

SAJAforum: Compared to what you describe in your column, what was McCain’s temperament like during his meeting with the Register‘s editorial board last fall, in advance of the caucuses?

Continue reading at SAJAforum….

SAJAforum: Temple grad student on “gotcha journalism” and his exchange with Sarah Palin over Pakistan

A couple of weekends ago, Gov. Sarah Palin made headlines for her informal exchange, while ordering cheesesteaks in Philadelphia at Tony Luke’s, with a Temple University graduate student about Pakistan:

"How about the Pakistan situation?," asked [Michael] Rovito, who said he was not a Palin supporter. "What’s your thoughts about that?"

"In Pakistan?," she asked, looking surprised.

"What’s going on over there, like Waziristan?"

"It’s working with [Pakistani president] Zardari to make sure that
we’re all working together to stop the guys from coming in over the
border," she told him. "And we’ll go from there."

Rovito wasn’t finished. "Waziristan is blowing up!," he said.

"Yeah it is," Palin said, "and the economy there is blowing up too."

"So we do cross border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan you think?," Rovito asked.

"If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any
further in, absolutely, we should," Palin responded, before moving on
to greet other voters. [link]

The comment was interpreted by many to be closer to the position of Sen. Barack Obama than to that of Palin’s own running mate, Sen. John McCain, who just the previous evening had criticized Obama’s position on Pakistan during the first presidential debate. The next day, the McCain campaign retracted Palin’s comments, and in a joint interview of McCain and Palin by CBS’s Katie Couric the following Monday, McCain blamed the entire episode on what he referred to as "gotcha journalism."

Today, the Temple graduate student in question, Michael Rovito, has published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about his exchange with Palin and the subject of "gotcha journalism":

No one was engaging the Alaska governor beyond small talk. Most of
the people in the crowd appeared starstruck, including some Obama
supporters we had spotted earlier.

I felt compelled to ask the governor about the U.S. incursions into
Pakistan that had been in the news recently. My parents urged me not
to, but I thought she might respond in this informal setting….

Continue reading at SAJAforum….

SAJAforum: McCain and Obama Debate Afghanistan and Pakistan

The South Asian subcontinent continued to feature prominently in the presidential race this week, as Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama clashed over U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan during their debate on Friday night. In the New York Times, David Sanger characterizes the exchange as a "role reversal," with Obama seeming "more aligned" than McCain "with President Bush’s current policy of authorizing American special forces to cross the Afghan-Pakistan border into Pakistan’s tribal areas that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have used as a sanctuary."

Video of the exchange to the right. Other reactions to the debate, along with excerpts from the debate transcript, after the jump.

Continue reading at SAJAforum….

SAJAforum: On the Sidelines of the UN General Assembly

Asif Ali Zardari, in a hugging mood with Manmohan SinghYesterday, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly session in New York:

[The leaders] agreed to kickstart an embattled peace dialogue between the two nuclear-armed rivals, with new talks to be scheduled by year’s end….

Singh and Zardari also decided to launch trading between the divided zones of the disputed Kashmir region from October 21….

The leaders agreed that a special meeting of a joint anti-terror mechanism be held next month to address "mutual concerns," including the bombing of the embassy, the statement said….

Singh and Zardari appeared satisfied as they emerged from the meeting.

In brief remarks, Singh praised Zardari’s vision for a progressive South Asia, saying they decided that issues be resolved through "peaceful" means.

Zardari called Singh the "architect of modern India," saying, "I hope to learn from him."

The meeting helped eased tensions, officials from both sides said.

"The leaders met for well over an hour, spent most of their time without aides and had a comprehensive discussion of the entire realm of issues in our relationship," Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters….

According to the statement, crossborder trade will commence on the road between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capitals respectively of Indian and Pakistani zones of Kashmir, as well as the road from Poonch, in southern Indian Kashmir, to Rawalakot in Pakistani Kashmir. [link]

The text of their joint statement is available here.

The Singh-Zardari meeting, however, was overshadowed in the U.S. media by coverage of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin‘s courtesy calls with visiting world leaders during her own trip to New York. South Asian leaders featured prominently in Palin’s schedule. While media access to Palin’s meetings was strictly limited,
journalists were able to get some access to Palin’s initial exchanges of pleasantries with the visiting heads of state.

Continue reading at SAJAforum….

SAJAforum: South Asian Women React to Sarah Palin

Aisha SultanSAJAer Aisha Sultan, the home and family editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has a column this weekend discussing what she calls the "Palin Paradox," the irony of Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin’s intense support among social conservatives who, not long ago, might have "pilloried" a woman and mother who made the kinds of choices that Palin has made in her career:

Continue reading at SAJAforum….

SAJAforum: Five Questions for Rinku Sen

Rinku Sen with Fekkak Mamdouh, The Accidental AmericanThis month, Rinku Sen launches a new book, "The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization." In the book, Sen, along with Fekkak Mamdouh, narrates the story of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, an organization that supports and organizes workers in New York’s restaurant industry. ROC-NY was initially founded by Mamdouh and fellow organizer Saru Jayaraman to support workers, like Mamdouh himself, who were displaced from their jobs at Windows on the World, the restaurant that was at the top of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. In the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attack, which claimed the lives of 72 individuals who worked at Windows, ROC-NY helped the surviving Windows workers launch a cooperatively-owned restaurant, Colors. Since then, the organization has expanded its work to organize and advocate for improved working conditions for restaurant workers throughout New York City, and has explored the prospects for expanding its work nationally.

Sen and Mamdouh tell the story of ROC-NY’s founding and the ups and downs of its subsequent campaigns on behalf of New York’s restaurant workers, critically assessing the challenges faced by advocates for immigrants’ rights and drawing lessons from the local story about ROC-NY for the broader, national debates over immigration reform and globalization. Sen previously wrote about ROC-NY in a 2007 article, and she and Mamdouh discuss the themes of the book in a short video prepared in connection with the book’s release. They launch a national book tour in New York on September 3, 2008 (details are available here).

Sen is currently president and executive director of the Applied Research Center and publisher of ColorLines, ARC’s magazine on race and politics. She began her career as an organizer in 1988 with the Center for Third World Organizing and was named one of Ms. Magazine’s "21 Feminists to Watch in the 21st Century" back in 1996. Her previous book, "Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy," offers advice for activists and social change organizations based on her own experiences as an organizer and other case studies. She recently answered a few questions from SAJAforum about her new book, the role of journalism in her work as a community organizer, and her views on the current debate over immigration reform:

Continue reading at SAJAforum….

SAJAforum: London Mayor Boris Johnson “Struts His Funky Stuff”

Last week, London’s new Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson made a pitch in support of the upcoming London Mela, a major festival celebrating British Asian arts and culture that some have called the "Asian Glastonbury." Speaking at the press launch for the festival, which will be held in early August, Johnson urged Londoners to "get on down" to the festival and "strut [their] funky stuff." He acknowledged that he had merely a "passing" acquaintance with bhangra and reminisced about his effort to learn some moves at a cousin’s wedding in Delhi:

I was told you had to do "lightbulb lightbulb, motorbike motorbike." I
practiced a great deal, and I had my kurta pajama, and my chappals, and my everything else, and I thought I looked absolutely tremendous. And everybody else turned up in a suit. [link]

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

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SAJAforum: Five Questions for Aitzaz Ahsan

(Cross-posted from SAJAforum)

This morning, Aitzaz Ahsan, the President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association and the leader of Pakistan’s “lawyers’ movement,” spoke to a large audience at the New York City Bar Association about the lawyers’ movement, the importance of an independent judiciary, and the role of U.S. policy in Pakistan’s judicial crisis. During the past year, the New York City Bar has played an active role in support of Pakistan’s lawyers and judges — organizing a solidarity rally with other area bar associations after Gen. Pervez Musharraf imposed “emergency” rule in November, issuing a statement strongly urging Musharraf to restore the rule of law, and awarding an honorary membership, one of the organization’s highest honors, to Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

In his remarks, Ahsan thanked U.S. lawyers and bar associations for their “unstinting support for constitutionalism, rule of law, and reinstatement of an independent judiciary in Pakistan.” He said that last November’s rally — which drew hundreds of New York lawyers to the steps of the courthouse in lower Manhattan — “was an unprecedented collective action, and it was noticed throughout Pakistan.” Ahsan expressed his view that “what has endeared the people of America to the people of Pakistan, despite the adversarial policies of the American administration, has been the support of the bar associations.”

Following his address at the New York City Bar, Ahsan briefly talked to SAJAforum about the lawyers’ movement, the prospects for reinstatement of the judges ousted by Musharraf, and the role of Pakistan’s media:

Continue reading at SAJAforum….