Tavis Smiley's "All-American Presidential Forum on PBS" (Democratic)
Thursday, June 28, 2007 in Cramton Auditorium at Howard University in Washington, DC from 9:00-10:30 p.m. (EDT).  
[forum website]

Sponsor: PBS.

Candidates: Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Chris Dodd, former Sen. John Edwards, former Sen. Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Gov. Bill Richardson  participated.  [all 8 of the candidates].

Moderator: Tavis Smiley, host of "Tavis Smiley," PBS’ late-night talk show, served as moderator.
Panel of three journalists.  DeWayne Wickham, syndicated columnist for USA Today and the Gannett News Service.  Michel Martin, former "Nightline" correspondent and now host of the NPR show "Tell Me More."  Ruben Navarrette, Jr., a nationally syndicated columnist and member of the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Audience: About 1,200 people.

Broadcast: PBS and Public Radio International.

Format: 90 minutes (see notes).  Initially one-minute responses, but Smiley cut that to 30 seconds mid-way through "to cover more subject matter."  Unlike other forums which have been marked by more questions and time for some of the candidates, each candidate responded to the question posed, and then they moved on to take up the next question.

Background: In his introductory remarks Smiley stated, "Tonight's conversation then isn't so much a pop quiz for these candidates as it is an open book test.  Put simply, where do you stand on the issues that matter most to people of color in America?"  The forum website states, "Inspired by the book the Covenant with Black America, The All-American Presidential Forums on PBS marks the first time that a panel comprised of journalists of color was represented in primetime.  Many of the questions that were asked of the candidates focus on key domestic priorities that were originally outlined in the book."  [The Convenant with Black America is a book edited by Smiley, published in Jan. 2006].

Additional Notes:
-Introductory remarks by Howard University President Dr. H. Patrick Swygert, Tom Joyner, moderator Smiley and Gov. Deval Patrick went on for over ten minutes, cutting into the time for the candidates to speak.

-Crecilla Cohen Scott from Bowie, MD asked the first question.  "She is a winner of our online contest which we asked listeners of the 'Tom Joyner Morning Show' to submit questions to the website of blackamerica.com."

-Frequent applause from the audience further cut into the candidates' time.

-The candidates answered seven questions.

Cohen Scott: "In 1903, the noted intellectual, W.E.B. DuBois said, 'The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.'  Is race still the most intractable issue in America and especially, I might add, in light of today's U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down the use of race as a factor in K through 12?"

Wickham: "...According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 the unemployment rate of Black high school graduates was thirty-three percent higher than an unemployment rate for white high school dropouts.  To what do you attribute this inequity which keeps many Black families locked in the grip of poverty?"

Martin: "...you can imagine how disturbed we were to find out from the Centers for Disease Control that African Americans are seventeen percent of all American teenagers, they are sixty-nine percent of the population of teenagers diagnosed most with HIV-AIDS.  Governor and candidates, what is the plan to stop and to protect these young people from this scourge?"

Navarrette: "This week, billionaire Warren Buffett said that the very wealthy aren't taxed nearly enough.  In fact, he noted that he's taxed at a lower rate than some of his employees who earn much less.  Do you agree that the rich aren't paying their fair share of taxes and, if so, what would you do about it?"

Wickham: "According to FBI data, Blacks were roughly twenty-nine percent of persons arrested in this country between 1996 and 2005.  Whites were seventy percent of people arrested during this period, yet at the end of this ten-year period, whites were forty percent of those who were inmates in this country and Blacks were approximately thirty-eight percent.  What does this data suggest to you?"

Martin: "...would you support a federal law guaranteeing the right to return to New Orleans and other Gulf regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina based on the United Nations human rights standards governing the internal displacement of citizens?"

Navarrette, Jr.: A lot of Americans are concerned with outsourcing of U.S. jobs.  Most corporations, I think it's fair to say, don't show that concern.  In fact, they argue that we're living in a global economy and Americans have to compete in that environment.  Which side are you on and, if you agree that outsourcing is a problem, what's your solution?

PBS press release

Other primary debates and forums

Copyright © 2007  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action