On the Politics Show, Sunday 03 February 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Civil Rights Campaigner.
JON SOPEL: Rev Jesse Jackson, on Tuesday we should be a step closer to knowing whether the Democratic Party is going to have an African American as its candidate for the Presidency or a woman.
JESSE JACKSON: Two great historic choices.
JON SOPEL: Is America ready for either of them.
JESSE JACKSON: America is getting more ready every day and one can see with the historic turnout. If America were choosing between black or white a male or female that would be a case. But they're going to be choosing between the Iraq War which McCain embraces absolutely and the Iraq War which both Barack and Hillary think was a mistake.
In the Iraq War we're losing lives and money and honour; it has driven down George Bush's poll ratings to historic lows and so it could just be that the choices will not be, black white, male, female, it may well be for or against the war as well as the growing recession in the American economy.
JON SOPEL: You're supporting Barack Obama but you also know the Clintons well. What did it come down to? Would you rather support an African American, a black person than a woman?
JESSE JACKSON: No. It's - I have a great relationship with Hillary Clinton and Bill, I've talked with them throughout this whole season as a matter of fact. I think Barack is a uniquely global figure. He has the gifts of charisma, through his veins flows the blood of the world.
He has raised, he has the message of hope and reconciliation. At a time when there's so much expense in the system, he has the money and the timing. This is a very zeitgeist moment in American history and so he gets my nod but I embrace both of them very much and I've urged them when the campaign is over, they must embrace in a very fervent way because if either of their constituencies are so injured by the loss that they cannot support the other, they cannot win in November.
JON SOPEL: But it's been pretty fractious this time between Barack and Hillary and a lot of name calling that has gone on as well.
JESSE JACKSON: There were some hot moments but they are both mature and they know that America has to move from a racial battleground to an economic common ground. America kind of knows it has to happen now. We also know that we have, we're so isolated in the world community whether it is in Iraq, Afghanistan or whether it's Pakistan. I know that Barack has the capacity to give America a real view of world issues
JON SOPEL: Yes, I just wonder whether you think, I'll come back to some of those issues in a minute but you talked about the fractiousness that there was between the Clintons and Barack Obama in that it sometimes got a bit hot. Do you think that Bill Clinton overplayed his hand and maybe has done some damage in his relationship with African Americans?
JESSE JACKSON: Well he could have but I think it's temporary. I mean Bill has befriended the African American community. I mean under him we had the lowest recorded unemployment, the most appointments in key cabinet positions, the most appointments of judges, the most relations and trips to Africa for example and so Bill finds great favour in the African American community. But in this case he's running against a very distinguished African American scholar, constitutional lawyer Senator Barack Obama, and so some of his words I felt were perhaps misinterpreted.
JON SOPEL: And misjudged as well.
JESSE JACKSON: And maybe misjudged.
JON SOPEL: And one of the jibes that Bill Clinton made was, well, you know, yeah, okay Barack Obama won in Iowa, but look at Jesse Jackson, he won in South Carolina. What is the difference between the victories that you had when you ran and Barack Obama today?
JESSE JACKSON: Barack is running twenty years later and a much better funded campaign and a superbly qualified candidate and in Iowa in '88 I got double digits, that was a big deal for us at that basic all-white state. We beat Al Gore in Iowa in '88. Barack won the State that was an historic breakthrough for the maturing of white America.
After all it's not unusual for blacks to vote for whites. What's unusual is whites voting for blacks. The maturing of white America in choosing content and issues over colour is a fundamental shift among many white American voters and that's the good news in this campaign.
JON SOPEL: Then explain to me what you think happened in New Hampshire when everybody got it so spectacularly wrong and I've read various accounts by pollsters trying to explain how they completely misjudged it. Do you think there was an element that they were telling the pollsters, yeah, I'll vote for Barack Obama but in the privacy of the polling booth, in the polling station - they thought, you know what, I'm not ready to vote for a black man?
JESSE JACKSON: Well, it could have been that. I remember campaigning in Iowa in 1988 we would draw these huge crowds of people, unusually big crowds at these schools and these outdoor rallies and several farmers said Reverend, we really like your message about family farmers and workers but we're just not quite ready to give up on all this.
But I do think that we are getting better. I think there are more young Americans involved in the process, there are more immigrants who are now Americans and I think America has just positioned the question of race in many ways there's some unfinished business, let me act quickly because there is structural equality.
I mean blacks are the number one in infant mortality and number one in short life expectancy. Look at the unemployment rate. Look at the college rate. If you look at the criminal justice imprisonment rate - there are 2.2 million Americans in jail - a million are black. It's a big deal. So we have some unfinished business.
JON SOPEL: I just want to ask you a final question really about - I know you travel the world a great deal and you're often in the United Kingdom. Do you think Britain is ready for a Barack Obama?
JESSE JACKSON: Oh, Britain is ready for a Barack Obama. Britain must now address its own structural gaps between black and white. It must have its own commitment to commit itself to more people of colour in Britain, what we call equanomics there. Where there is equal economic opportunities. Equal educational opportunities, equal job opportunities, equal opportunities to be on Boards of Directors.
This could very well force a re-evaluation of Britain of its own unfinished business for people of colour. So in a sense that people know that it's an even playing field, with public rules. It makes all of us better. So if we can play soccer together and football together and fight wars together, why can't we vote together and share education and healthcare and life options together.
JON SOPEL: Rev Jesse Jackson, thank you very much indeed for being with us. Thank you.
JESSE JACKSON: Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH JESSE JACKSON
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The Politics Show Sunday 03 February 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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