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Whether or not we’ll have the same thing going on as we have now or a change in direction. I think our liberties are at stake as well.
In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.
In a discussion laden with anecdotes that veered away from relevancy only to come back again, renowned legal scholar Susan Estrich kept a crowd of several hundred in stitches Tuesday night, as she gave her perspective on the 2008 election at Woodruff Auditorium on Kansas University's campus.
Estrich, with credentials that include her present title as a law professor at the University of Southern California, the first female editor of the Harvard Law Review, former Supreme Court clerk, campaign manager for Michael Dukakis and FOX News commentator, said race could be a determining factor in whether the country elects Barack Obama or John McCain.
"I would say it's big. The only question is 'how big?'" she said. "The real impact of race is how many of the swing voters in the swing states who quote should be voting Democrat : consciously or unconsciously view Obama negatively because of his race?"
Estrich's assessment discouraged Lawrence resident Sallie Dickinson, an Obama supporter.
"When she said some of the things, especially about race, I was especially disappointed," she said. "I believe her, I trust her, but that's not news I want to hear."
Estrich said McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate has energized a conservative base that was not enamored with McCain, and chastised the media for attacking Palin on what Estrich called "sexist grounds."
"The bottom line is Palin was a brilliant pick," she said. "McCain can't get 20 people (at a rally); Palin gets 60,000."
But Estrich, who described herself as a rape survivor, said Palin was "out of her mind" for not supporting abortion in the cases of rape or incest. She also theorized McCain picked Palin simply to play to jilted Clinton supporters.
"Do you have a leader or a token?" she asked.
Estrich, a liberal known for her wit, showed it off while answering questions posed by four KU students who are Hall Center Scholars.
"Lawrence is to Kansas as I am to FOX News," she said, drawing laughs and a few cheers.
She predicted neither candidate would come to Kansas: "If Obama comes to Kansas, the question will be, 'Did your plane need to land?' If McCain comes to Kansas, the question will be, 'Is it that bad?'"
She said Obama made a mistake in picking Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate, instead of Clinton, but said Clinton is willing to help Obama however he wants. Estrich challenged the candidates to be forthcoming with a three- or four-point plan to revitalize the economy, and said both candidates have their hands in the pockets of Wall Street, thanks to donors.
Randal Jelks, a KU professor of American Studies and African-American Studies, wondered why no minorities sat on the panel asking Estrich questions.
"It would seem that KU could have (had) people asking questions from a different perspective," he said, noting the significance of Obama's candidacy. "I was quite disturbed that there was a lack of different voices to be heard and to ask questions."