Thursday, October 26, 2006
Madonna adoption: Seeking the dad's story
We'd heard Yohane Banda, the biological father of Madonna's adoptive baby, was getting sick and tired of the press, sick and tired of being hounded, sick and tired of having to explain why he'd changed his story so many times. He'd gone into hiding and we needed to find him.
We set out for Yohane's African village at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, the day after Madonna's interview on Oprah. Two hours of bone-jarring dirt road later, we arrived at his tiny village tucked away in a remote corner of Malawi.
The padlock on his door was the first sign of trouble. Also, none of the villagers wanted to volunteer any information on his whereabouts. Finally, we managed to convince one of his relatives. She told us he was staying with his sister at a different village a short drive away. Now anyone who's done any travelling in Africa knows the minute you're told something is a short dive away, it means it's quite a distance.
A half-hour drive later we arrived at the village of Kazyozyo, not far from the Zambian border. A few inquiries later, we found Yohane sitting outside his sister's hut drinking tea with his sister. Her husband is a teacher at a nearby school and together they have two children.
Yohane was surprised we'd found him but he was ready to talk, ready to set the record straight. We sat down for his first interview since Madonna appeared on Oprah. Our interview will be on "360" tonight.
Yohane told us he was pressured by various civil society groups to say he didn't understand the fine print when signing over the adoption papers of little baby David. Now, he says he wants Madonna to have his son as her own, to raise him, educate him and give him the life he'd never have gotten here in this impoverished corner of Africa.
Yohane made a passionate plea to Madonna to ignore all the media hype surrounding the controversial adoption and said she shouldn't give up the fight for baby David. He says he'll be going to the High Court in Malawi on Friday to tell the judge to throw out the case brought against it by a group of human rights organizations that want the adoption law in Malawi to take its course -- namely, that any potential parents should live in Malawi for a minimum of 18 months before being granted adoption rights.
In the end, I felt sorry for Yohane, a 32-year-old illiterate vegetable farmer. His first two sons died of Malaria in their infancy and David was his third and only living child. David's mother also died of Malaria soon after he was born.
Yohane's had a tough life, and he doesn't get a cent from giving David to Madonna. What he does get is, literally, a one-in-a-million chance for his son. David is one of a million children scattered across various orphanages in Malawi who have lost at least one parent. He now gets an opportunity to grow up wealthy and privileged and maybe one day come back and help out his poor family in one of Africa's poorest countries.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
GOP ad strikes new tone on Iraq
The campaign ad linked above is from Mark Kennedy, a Republican congressman from Minnesota who is running for the U.S. Senate.
We find it interesting because Kennedy says, essentially: We've made mistakes in Iraq and I know a lot of you are unhappy about where we are today in Iraq, but you should support me anyway, because the consequences of leaving Iraq now could be dire.
His candor is striking. And it seems to be a bellweather for what is happening in many races in these last days leading up to the election.
It made us think of James Carville's battle cry featured in the "The War Room," the documentary that took viewers inside Clinton's 1992 campaign for the presidency. Remember, "It's the economy, stupid." It seems to me that in this mid-term election the key to many political futures comes down to Iraq. In other words, "It's the war, stupid."
And that's why we are using Kennedy's commercial as a framework to explore politics and Iraq on tonight's program. We've streamed Rep. Kennedy's ad online, so please take a look and let us know what you think. We'll be listening.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
If Dems win: Grand plans or gridlock?
Listen to President Bush and his political team these days and their closing argument for the final two weeks of the midterm election campaign rings clear: Elect the Democrats, the White House says, and get a weaker war on terror and higher taxes.
"The voters out there need to ask the question: Which political party will support the brave men and women that wear the uniform when they do their job of protecting America," is one way Mr. Bush has framed the issue in recent speeches.
The Vice President echoes that, and what you might call the White House pocketbook pitch. Says Mr. Cheney: "If the Democrats take control, American families could face an immense tax increase and the economy would sustain a major hit."
Lost in that pointed rhetoric is this reality: Even if Democrats take both the House and the Senate, Mr. Bush will be president for two more years and could use his veto to block any Democratic legislation. Even Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean concedes Mr. Bush could ignore the Democratic agenda if he so chooses, especially calls for a plan to bring the troops home from Iraq.
"We're not going to be able to change the policy overnight," Dean told CNN on Tuesday. "That's going to require a new president."
Winning one or both chambers of Congress though would give Democrats a major policy platform, to push for:
- raising the minimum wage
- repealing Bush tax cuts for upper income Americans
- revisiting the new Medicare prescription drug benefit
- and using the tax code or other incentives to make health care more affordable and accessible.
"If the Democrats win the Congress they will have a seat at the table, they will have a voice in policy but the president still has the veto," former Clinton administration aide Michael Waldman says.
For Democrats, one challenge if they retake the House, which even many Republicans see as a distinct possibility, would be to pick and choose their fights with the White House. Some Democrats who are in line for committee chairmanships for example have talked of impeaching Mr. Bush, or in the past have urged Republicans to join them in issuing subpoenas for administration records on issues ranging from Cheney's energy task force to defense contracts to Halliburton and other firms.
Mindful of the risks of alienating voters with partisanship, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, according to top advisers, already has told senior Democrats she would draw a sharp line betweeen legitimate oversight and investigations that could be cast as partisan witchhunts.
Waldman put it this way: "Revenge is a bad idea. It's a bad idea and the public doesn't like it. Oversight is not only a good idea, it's what the public is demanding."
We're tackling this subject on tonight's show, so we'd like to hear your thoughts. If Democrats are able to win one or both chambers of Congress, how much will they be able to get done?