With its consistent left of center bias, CNN is usually worthy of criticism, and writing in American Thinker I have taken my shots at the network, last year here and last week here for its fawning coverage of Sen. Obama.
But there's an exception and I'd like to give credit where credit is due, to CNN's anchor Lou Dobbs.
Dobbs has been an on air anchor personality with CNN almost continuously since the cable news network's inception in 1980. In recent years, he has established a niche as an "independent populist," in particular focusing on the costs of. illegal immigration, the "destruction of the middle class," and the outsourcing of jobs.
A highly opinionated anchor for a nightly news program, Dobbs has his critics on both the Left and the Right. Shooting straight from the hip as he often does, he occasionally scores a direct hit.
Since the recent controversy about Sen. Obama and his (former) pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, broke, Dobbs has been unafraid to look squarely and critically at the issue. His hard hitting opinions are noteworthy because -- for those who truly follow his work -- Dobbs is not a conservative with a predictable ideological agenda -- an observation that could be made about some Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity, for example.
On the nightly Lou Dobbs Tonight (7-8 PM ET) on Monday, March 24, 2008, Dobbs was at his best on the Obama-race issue, as he moderated a panel of three guests (all of them regulars), at least two of them from the Left -- Keith Richburg, New York bureau chief of the Washington Post and Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf -- and Roger Simon of Politico.com.
From the transcript (I made several minor corrections in the online transcript in order to more accurately reflect the dialog in a video recording I made of the program):
DOBBS: One of the things that happened over the weekend, Barack Obama's new pastor, Reverend Otis Moss defended the Trinity Church saying that recent national scrutiny will only make the church stronger. He added this ..
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. OTIS MOSS III, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: When people try to crucify you, when they try to lift you, you end up getting lifted up. And during your crucifixion experience, you will see things that no one else can see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Well, that may be true, but Roger Simon, here we go again? Is that what's happening?
SIMON: That's not Barack Obama's message and that's not the message that the Barack Obama campaign wants at the moment. It does not ...
DOBBS: People try to lynch you?
SIMON: Right. They don't want Barack Obama being portrayed as a victim. They want him to be portrayed as a healer. And to tell you the truth, they would very much like to move beyond race at the moment and get past it. It is, as Senator Obama said in his now very famous speech, an important matter, but it is really a matter that most Americans don't feel comfortable talking about.
DOBBS: You know, I beg to differ. Senator Obama, in my opinion, Keith, has lost the opportunity to be the moderator here. In my humble opinion, his church's pastor has lost the opportunity. We can all participate in this without benefit of a moderator. What in the world is going on when this kind of language comes right back into a church which has already embarrassed this senator? What in the world is going on in this church in this town with this senator?
RICHBURG: I think in the community of south side Chicago, this is probably happening in a lot of black churches around the United States.
DOBBS: Do you really think that?
RICHBURG: I really do think that this kind of split going on here. Because you've got this world that Obama came out of, this kind of south side Chicago world now kind of ...
DOBBS: Wait a minute, Senator Obama came out of Indonesia, Hawaii, prep schools. . . Harvard and Ooccidental.
RICHBURG: But he made his base in the south side of Chicago.
DOBBS: But that's what he came out of. What is going on? Have we reached a point in this society where we're going to talk about race with the doors closed here for the black community and the doors closed over here for the white community? Because I'm going to tell you something, I haven't heard a single white person in 40 years -- I'm going to say 40 because that's safe -- utter anything close to what Reverend Wright uttered in a pulpit in a black church in south Chicago. And I don't understand what's happening.
SHEINKOPF: What is happening here is that people are saying what's on their mind. Maybe they ought not to. And maybe they should be quiet and let Barack Obama be the nominee. Lou, wait.
DOBBS: No, I don't think so. If it's [unintelligible], let's say it. This is America.
SHEINKOPF: Then don't be surprised when in a general election if he's the nominee, the Midwest and the south gang up and say, guess what? We're not going to live this way.
DOBBS: By the way, I don't think anybody's going to live this way in this country by preference. Anybody I know. I've got to be honest with you. Do you know somebody who wants to say these horrible things about any other race, about any other people in this country? I mean, I literally do not.
RICHBURG: I think there are a lot of people that want to move beyond that kind of ugliness and get away from that.
DOBBS: They continue to perpetrate the ugliness.
SHEINKOPF: Keith's right. People do want to get past this. Every time there's a day comes back, some lunatic shows up and starts it all over again. It is not helping Barack Obama or the United States to get past this. . .
RICHBURG: I recall that Barack Obama first decided to get involved in politics because the rap against him was he wasn't black enough in the black community. He had to establish his street cred because here's a guy who came out of Harvard from Hawaii, born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia. He had a funny name. He wasn't seen as black enough. That was in the black community. Now he's on the national stage, the danger for him is among some who don't like that, he's going to be seen as too black.
DOBBS: I have to tell you, I don't think it is an issue of being black enough or not being black enough. What I think it is a question of tolerating ignorance from the pulpit. I'm going to say that straight out. I don't care. People can call me a racist, whatever they're going to do, but I'm saying to you, wherever we encounter ignorance in this country, we have to lance it, period. And if there's anybody in the church that wants to argue with me about it, come on and let's sit down and talk about it because I disagree.
If we are dividing, when people talk about two Americas, you know, as John Edwards did, we have a thought in terms of economics in populous views of what's happening in terms of income distribution, but if we have people consciously and intentionally separating themselves on the basis of the color of their skin in 2008? God help us. That's the sermon I want to hear from Otis Moss in Senator Obama's church.
SHEINKOPF: The sadness of all this is that this kind of rhetoric from this minister will shut down the discussion we ought to be having because people will run in the opposite direction.
DOBBS: It sure as hell is not going to stop the conversation on this broadcast because any man or woman who doesn't have the heart for the discussion is saying something, too. I think it's time for people to really be honest. We've got to be able to care about one another. And act on it but not because of some political advantage but because that's who we are and the way we ought to be.
Complete transcripts of other recent Lou Dobbs Tonight programs on CNN can be accessed here.
Peter Barry Chowka is a widely published writer and investigative journalist who writes about politics, health care, and the media.