From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
It will be interesting to see if tonight's Howard University debate panel asks Obama about his track record as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. The Chicago Tribune's David Mendell highlights in his upcoming book "Obama: From Promise to Power" that Obama's loudest critics at the Law Review were black students who believe Obama didn't promote enough minorities to editor positions. Obama said in the book that while he feels strongly about promoting diversity, he made promotions at the Law Review based solely on ability and didn't want to appear unfair. Obama was thrust to power at the Law Review, Mendell reports, by the conservative bloc of students who didn't like the liberal students' tone and thought Obama, a professed liberal, would at least take their opinions seriously.
Since his famed 2004 DNC speech, Obama has used centrist language on the issue of affirmative action. Obama said affirmative action is "a useful tool but a limited tool in terms of advancement" and added that education should be a higher priority. "There are a whole bunch of young inner-city children right now that aren't touched by affirmative action because they won't get to go to college because they're dropping out of school." (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/21/06)
Also: "Promoting diversity is a compelling national interest, but it has to be done in a way that is not a back-door use of quotas and takes into account the full record of the students, not just race and test scores." (Chicago Tribune questionnaire, 10/18/04)
It remains to be seen if African-Americans and African-American leaders will fully take to Obama, who is not seen as an "empowerment" candidate.