Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 04/14/10 - NBC4 Washington

Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 04/14/10



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    While preparing for his sit-down, one-on-one interview with first lady Michelle Obama last week, NBC4 anchor Jim Vance asked the TV version of the Notebook what we thought he should ask about. He knew the answer before your Notebook could even get the words out: D.C. voting rights.

    It was actually already on Vance’s list, and he brought the subject up politely while in the White House.

    Vance -- who in our opinion ought to do more interviews with prominent people because he’s so good at them -- noted that the “overwhelming majority” of District citizens voted for Obama in 2008. “But they can’t [vote] for a ... representative in Congress.”

    Vance told the first lady that when it came to the president, he was “curious ... [whether] sometime you can whisper in his ear, 'voting rights, voting rights.'”

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    Michelle Obama, who has been open to having local citizens visit and be part of the Obama administration, answered softly.

    “You know, the whispers are there. That’s something he hears all the time. He is a supporter of the rights of the citizens here in D.C. to have the vote. I don’t think there’s much convincing that you have to do there. We just have to get it done.”

    As the Notebook has mentioned in previous columns, the first lady will be the graduation speaker at Anacostia High School on June 11. It’s a perfect time for a mention -- even if it's from the first lady, rather than the president. And she doesn’t have to whisper. It would be a shout heard round the nation.

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    • Fenty reaction?

    Mayor Adrian Fenty appeared last week on Kojo Nnamdi's “Politics Hour” on WAMU, for which your Notebook is the resident analyst. We asked him about the first lady's Anacostia speech and whether the mayor might be there to prime the pump for voting rights.

    Fenty said he thought the Obamas had done a lot for the city, ticking off a list of appearances they've made and federal funding that's been directed our way. He made no commitment to follow up on the voting rights suggestion.

    • DC Vote.

    The lobbying organization DC Vote -- which we have criticized for engaging in polite lobbying rather than truly fighting for voting rights -- put out a press release that praises the first lady’s response to Vance.

    “We would like to express our deep gratitude to the first lady for publicly supporting the D.C. voting rights cause," executive director Ilir Zherka said in the release. "She has recognized the plight of her fellow District residents and agrees that it is overdue for D.C. to have full congressional representation.”

    Well, pardon me, but that’s so polite it makes some people want to spit.

    It’s one thing to be polite to the first lady; that’s good manners.

    But we wonder if an aggressive voting rights movement might do something other than express “gratitude” for any mention of the subject. Gratitude is not enough.

    Perhaps DC Vote could demand that the Obamas stop shying away from this fundamental issue of American voting rights. It’s not like Americans are against voting rights. The majority just doesn’t understand our city’s colonial status.

    • Nuclear security tsunami.

    We’re posting this after only one full day of the president’s Nuclear Security Summit.

    There was a tragic death late Monday when a five-ton National Guard truck struck and killed a bicyclist at 12th Street and New York Avenue downtown. It’s unclear at this writing what happened to cause the collision. And there was another incident Tuesday, with even fewer details available at press time.

    We were out and about on Monday, checking things out. Mostly, we saw police and military personnel going about their traffic, surveillance and guard-post duties with the kind of professionalism you want and expect.

    A very polite but concerned U.S. Park Police officer pulled up to check out an NBC4 crew car -- jet black, no signage -- after we had pulled up too close underneath the 11th Street Bridge to take pictures of a U.S. Coast Guard boat with an intimidating machine gun on its bow.

    But, of course, there were some officers who couldn’t resist the cowboy impulse to speed around town in their squad cars, make sudden U-turns with sirens briefly blaring and park their vehicles at awkward angles that unnecessarily blocked lanes of critical traffic.

    And we do realize that in any of those individual incidents, there may have been a legitimate emergency. All the same, officers should know that when fake emergency runs are staged, someone usually sees them. And that's not the image you want to display.

    But again, the vast majority of officers we saw did not fit that category.

    Most of the commuters and shoppers we talked to throughout the day were surprised by the lighter traffic, caused by people heeding media warnings to stay away. Those who had to be around the convention center found they had to walk farther to get where they were going.

    Nearby residents and businesses on 9th Street along the west wall of the convention center did experience a sharp drop in business. We wonder if there’s a way to quantify those losses and whether there could be a tax break for enduring a national security event.

    Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans expressed concern for any business owner or homeowner who was affected, but he said the initial reports in the neighborhood suggested that the impact “was not as serious as first feared.”

    • WAMU Friday.

    Potential mayoral candidate Don Peebles will be the guest Friday at noon on the WAMU “Politics Hour.” We’ll see how far along his potential candidacy is, now. It’s been as jumpy as the stock market.