Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
Back on January 1, 2008, I printed some remarks made by Senator Joe Biden (D, Delaware) as he appeared in Davenport, Iowa, during the Iowa primary campaign season. In light of Senator Biden’s selection Saturday (Aug. 23, 2008) to be Barack Obama’s running mate for the Democratic bid for the Presidency, I’m reprinting some of his more noteworthy comments. (For those who wish to see the original article, complete with photo of Joe Biden and Yours Truly, check the archives on www.associatedcontent.com).
There is no doubt that Senator Joe Biden is a great orator. Sometimes, he has followed in the tradition of “loose lips sink ships,” as when he used a line at an Iowa State Fair speech and failed to properly attribute it (he had attributed it appropriately in prior addresses). This furor derailed an earlier bid for the Presidency with charges of “plagiarism.”
When the position of Chairman of the Democratic Party was up for grabs, it was Dean and Biden who really stood head-and-shoulders above the field and commanded attention. (Dr.) Howard Dean had just come off his unsuccessful bid for the Presidential nomination during the “Sleepless Summer” tour in Iowa, which derailed in Iowa at the ValAir Ballroom in what infamously became known as “the shout heard round the world.” Howard Dean is now DNC Chariman, and the ValAir Ballroom derailing was nothing more than a dirty bit of Republican showmanship. (Ask Joe Trippi, his campaign advisor, if you don’t believe me). Howard Dean has been known to say a few things off the top of his head, to “lip off,” which he may later regret. And so has Joe Biden. But isn’t some candor refreshing after years of Darth Vader Cheney?
Here are a few quotes from Senator Biden’s Iowa appearance on January 1, 2008:
“I’ve been a Senator since I was 29. There are only 27 in history that have served longer than me. My Grandpa Finnegan would not believe this. Iowa is the last level playing field in American politics. You can’t do this anywhere but here. We owe you. The whole process owes you. Win, lose or draw, I’ll always be indebted to you. Absent you and New Hampshire, it’s all about the money.”
“I look forward to a country that is proud of its great heritage. The United States does not torture and does not condone torture. The world is not stable. George Bush has done more than mess up. He’s been the worst President in history…at least the worst in the twenty-first century. The next president has to know what they’re about. I am the only candidate with a specific, concrete plan to end the war (The Biden Exit Strategy creating a Federal State of Iraq.). Five years ago, when I visited Afghanistan, you could walk down the street. You can’t do that now. You have to stay in the Green Zone. We may be in the midst of losing Afghanistan.”
[This last nugget of information was seconded by a British Army member I met in Las Vegas recently, who had just completed his second tour of duty in Afghanistan and said that Britain would soon withdraw all its troops, as the situation was untenable and unwinnable.]
Biden: “You have the most dangerous and complicated nation in the region in Pakistan, armed with nuclear weapons. Their population is larger than Russia’s. It’s the place where Bin Laden lives, where the Taliban reside. Imagine a Pakistan taken over by 15% of the Muslim zealots. My God, the lack of focus we have! My god, what hat this President wrought? This is the single most consequential election of your lifetimes. If it’s about experience, well, heck, I win! There’s good change and there’s bad change. It’s not about change or experience. It’s about pragmatic action. Inaction is a decision in itself.”
Moving from the topic of national security, Biden noted that he wrote the Violence Against Women Act “back in the eighties” working alone, and that it took him six years to get it passed. He added, “Initiating change is about taking action.”‘
Biden also quoted the statistics that show him to be “the fourth most liberal Senator and the Crime Bill that helped him put 100,000 more policemen in the streets, with $10 billion of additional funds for the task. “I’ve gotten it done in the past, and I believe I can do it again.”
On the subject of Republicans, in general, Biden commented, “I’ve had it up to here with the moralizing on the part of the Republican party…Where in the bible does it say torture is good? How can a tax cut for the rich, while millions have no health care coverage and millions live in poverty, be good or fair?”
Biden ended that night by saying, “I can hardly wait to debate any of these Republican candidates. I can hardly wait. The test for the Democratic candidate for the Presidency is crystal clear: who can take these guys on and win? Who can turn this nation around?”
[For an exclusive AC interview with Finnegan Biden, Joe’s granddaughter, search the Associated Content archives.]
Barack Obama seems to have (finally) clinched the Democratic nomination for President. The path to this Holy Grail has been long and arduous, no less on him than on the public! I think that most of the Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Party and all other fractions of parties are happy to see the campaign end before the campaign begins. I know I am. It’s been like the Bataan Death March, and I’m sure the candidates couldn’t agree more.
Now, the question has been posed: “Why did Hillary lose?’ There are many pundits weighing in on this weighty question, and I keep wanting to tell them to read the “Rolling Stone” article that brilliantly described Obama’s “bottom-up” campaign strategy, versus Hillary Clinton’s old-style “Top down” campaign strategy. Indeed, that article even went so far as to say that, if the Clinton’s much-vaunted political machine could lose to that upstart Obama, this will be the last time you will even see the “Top Down” model used in a national campaign.
I don’t want to bore readers with all the details of how Obama’s people got the cell phone numbers of transient populations like college students and turned them into votes, or how the voter registration drives have cranked up record number of eligible voters for the fall general election, or any of the nuts-and-bolts in that “Rolling Stone” article, but let’s just say, as someone invited to become an Obama Organizer and attend a two-day training session to learn all the above, the man’s organizational know-how was and is amazing.
And, while we’re at it, let’s look at some of the other factors being cited in the loss of one of the most well-known, (if not well-oiled), political machines that still exists, that of Billary (Bill and Hillary Clinton).
The reasons I have seen cited most prominently for Hillary’s loss of the nomination to Barack Obama are as follows:
1) She represents the “Old” school (and certainly this goes double for McCain). Obama represented “change.”
2) They were basically the same on the main issues.
3) Hillary Clinton (aka ‘Miss Frigidaire’) never had the likeability factor going for her, while Obama did, in a phenomenal way.
4) Did race trump gender as a reason to vote? Obama, after all, is the candidate who best represents how the world will look by 2050: multi-racial, polyglot, a white mother and a black father producing a child who grew up in many areas of the world and has ties to them and is intellectually aware.
5) Everyman versus Ms. Entitlement. Need I say more?
6) Bill. Need I say more?
7) Obama the phenomenon. (See Point 3 above)
8) Tactical Errors: (See my opening remarks and read up on those tactical errors in the Clinton campaign in the much longer and much more complete “Rolling Stone” issue.) I would add that there are those that feel Hillary thought she’d have it all wrapped up by Super Tuesday, and the campaign had not been too well thought out past that date. Thus, they were playing catch-up from the beginning, when things did not play out quite the way the Clinton people thought they would.
9) The 8 Years Under Bush, the Younger. Hillary voted for the war. Obama was against the war. Hillary, much more than Obama, is tied to the failed policies of George “W” Bush, even though she was of the opposition party while a Senator from New York. Is there anyone in this country at this time who wants 8 more years of Bush’s incompetence, corruption and mismanagement? If so, raise your hand, and we’ll send you somewhere to read a book on it.
You might start with “In Defense of Liberty” (Richard Clarke, former White House Security Chief under both Clinton and “W”), or you might move on to Clarke’s newest one, “Your Government Failed You.” I recommend Paul O’Neill’s (Former Secretary of the Treasury) “Against All Enemies” and, failing that, try Scott McClellan’s (former White House Press Secretary under “W”) “What Happened” now hitting the bookstores. There are just so many books out there that give you chapter and verse on an amazingly bad run of Republican government under George W. Bush that, hopefully, will soon give way to something better. (See point #1).
Even staunch conservative Republican (and former Presidential candidate) Pat Buchanan said, in his column yesterday, that Bush, the Younger, while a better campaigner than his father, was not qualified to carry the old man’s loafers, in terms of governing. There are too many facts to support that statement, and some have even wondered if, in an amazing display of hubris, the younger Bush simply wanted to whale away at everything his father had stood for, as the CIA took hits under “W’, the “I’ll finish the war in Iraq, which you should have done” factor (Desert Storm vs. Operation Shock and Awe and Awesome Horribleness), and all the rest of those Bush 2 vs. Bush 1 comparisons. Books have been written about how George W. Bush viewed Reagan as his hero, and brushed aside his father’s accomplishments, because dear old dad was just playing second fiddle to the former film star. The result was “W’s” Churchillian attempt to make bold strokes, even if the bold strokes were all wrong. Don’t blame me for that analysis. Read the books.
Now, all we have to do is sit back and wait to see if Hillary Clinton is successful in lobbying for a spot on the ticket as the Vice President. If she gets that, and Obama is elected, she’d be “next in line” for the Presidency after he serves out his one or two terms, assuming election. That could be 16 to24 years of Clintons in or around the Oval Office, if Hillary is granted her wish. [You are either rejoicing or groaning as I write that.]
I am assuming election of Barack Obama. I have to. Otherwise, I have to give up all hope that we will get our troops out of Iraq safely and in a way that will both guarantee national security and save (national) face. It is impossible to occupy a country, long-term; the British proved that in India. We must leave. We must leave in a well-thought-out manner (which means that we don’t want Bush, Jr., organizing the withdrawal).
We must use the money being wasted on a senseless, useless war (Vietnam, anyone?) to build up our country here at home, and the new national leader of our country must turn his attention to “fixing” the many things that George W. Bush broke, both here and abroad. For openers, that individual needs to turn his or her attention to Al Gore’s pet issue, the environment and alternative energy sources, and, beyond that, it would be nice to have the tons of money wasted on this useless war to shore up our nation’s infrastructure, fix New Orleans, help make our schools better, get gas costs down or find a better solution to using gasoline to run our country, and a host of other worthy projects.
Lots of work to do. Let’s get cracking!
There are so many things that need fixing now that we almost need a new Department of What “W” Broke to figure out how to prioritize all the many mistakes. But it goes without saying that any “project” of George W. Bush’s that is costing thousands of American lives, snuffing out the lifeblood of our American youth (and our country’s future) and sending them home to inadequate V.A. facilities with horrific injuries from which they will (probably) never recover, is Number One on my list. And I suspect it is Number One on Obama’s list, as well.
West Virginia is Clinton country. It is such a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will carry the state on May 13th, that “Election Inspection”, online, put it this way: “Clinton will win West Virginia by more than 25%. There’s no point in nailing it down further, because it’s nearly impossible to be exact when there’s a blowout…”
The polls dating from 4/20 through 5/4 show this:
ARG – 5/2-5/4 Obama 45 Clinton 53
SUSA-5/2-5/4 Obama 42 Clinton 54
Suffolk U-5/3-5/4 Obama 43 Clinton 49
Zogby – 5/3-5/4 Obama 44 Clinton 42
Zogby – 5/2-5/3 Obama 43 Clinton 41
Zogby – 5/1-5/2 Obama 43 Clinton 42
ARG – 4/30 – 5/1 Obama 44 Clinton 53
4/30-5/1 Obama 42 Clinton 42
Zogby 4/30 – 5/1 Obama 40 Clinton 47
Down C Ctr.
4/29-4/30 Obama 45 Clinton 52
4/25-4/29 Obama 38 Clinton 48
Rasmussen 4/29 Obama 41 Clinton 46
SUSA – 4/25-4/27 Obama 43 Clinton 52
4/23 – 4/24 Obama 47 Clinton 45
ARG 4/23-4/34 Obama 45 Clinton 50
4/21 – 4/24 Obama 48 Clinton 47
Selzer & Co/Indiana-
4/20-4/23 Obama 41 Clinton 38
Chadwick Martin, writing online on “At the Foot of the Mountaineers” on 5/9/08 reported, “less than 25% of likely Democratic primary voters are planning to vote for Obama.” Martin gave a 43 point lead to Clinton and said that less than 20% of whites would vote for Barack Obama, and even the youth demographic would go to Clinton by 35 points.
This year’s vote in West Virginia is noteworthy because it is the first time that the state is having an “open” primary, where voters need only declare their preference to vote, according to Jennifer O’Shea. Back on Super Tuesday, 18 of 30 Republican delegates were voted to Mike Huckabee, but all of the Democratic delegates will be awarded on May 13th, according to “U.S. News & World Report” online on 5/10/08.
Obama has not been campaigning actively in West Virginia, ceding the state to Hillary Clinton. Since 1968, the state has voted Democratic in 6 of 9 contests. It was a pivotal state for John Fitzgerald Kennedy in overcoming Hubert Humphrey’s challenge in 1960, and he won it 60.8 to Humphrey’s 39.2.
RealClearPolitics online also gives West Virginia to Hillary Clinton by large margins, reporting that, on 5/07-5/08, the ARG poll of 600 likely voters gave Clinton a +43 point lead. Other polls on RealClearPolitics show the lead as +29 (Rasmussen), +40 (TSG Consulting), +15 (ARG on 3/29 to 4/02 and +28 for Rasmussen back on 3/13, all to Clinton.
“The Fire Society,” online, reports that, in a survey taken on May 4th of 840 likely voters, Hillary Clinton had a +43 point lead. She was viewed favorably by 72% of the West Virginia voters, versus 48% who viewed Obama favorably. In fact, Obama’s numbers had actually dropped by 5.7 points. The Jeremiah Wright pastor flap had been followed by 78% of polled voters and 57% said that they thought that Obama would “share Pastor Wright’s views.” (These were ALL voters; not just Democratic voters.)
In a general election, West Virginia voters say they would vote for Hillary over John McCain (72%), but if the nominee is Obama vs. McCain, only 56% of West Virginia voters respond affirmatively that they would vote for Barack Obama over John McCain.
On Sunday, March 3rd‘s versions of “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press” expert political commentators filled us in on how this year’s race for the Presidential nomination is playing out. A bi-partisan mixture of Republican and Democratic strategists had the opportunity to put in their two cents’ worth. This is how it sounded.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a guest on “Meet the Press”, said, “I’ll make a cash money bet right now on Obama.” There were no takers. Murphy backed up his bet with the information that, even if Hillary wins in both Texas and Ohio, she would have to win 70% of the votes in the 12 states that remain, which represent 611 delegates. (Most of those states, for the curious, are: Oregon, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Mississippi, Guam and Puerto Rico, which has 63 delegates.)
Bob Schrum—famous for his soaring speech work for the Democrats—commented, “You cannot go into this convention and not have some moral claim.” James Carville, the bald strategist to both Bill and Hillary, who appeared on “Meet the Press” alongside his Republican strategist wife Mary Matalin, said, “Nobody in the world can look at these polls and predict with any accuracy.” He did acknowledge, however, that he agreed with Bill Clinton, who told Texas voters during a campaign rally for his wife in Beaumont, Texas, “If you don’t deliver for her, I don’t think she can (win). It’s on your backs.” Carville agreed with his former boss, saying, “You gotta’ win something.”
Mary Matalin, his Republican spouse, laughed at most of the comments made about the continuing Democratic death struggle on “Meet the Press”, ultimately commenting, “It’s so khumbaya that they (the Democrats) can’t pick a nominee.”
Countered her Republican counterpart Murphy, “Turnout is his (Obama’s) demographic. The thing I’d be watching on Election Day is turnout. He creates a turnout demographic that is very powerful. My gut tells me he’s gonna’ take ‘em both (Ohio and Texas), and that’ll be the end.”
Democratic strategist and speechwriter “Schrummie” (Bob Schrum) interjected, “What we’re really seeing is a generational struggle inside the Democratic party.” He went on to liken Hillary to the Beach Boys when the Beatles came to America. The analogies were flying thick and fast. At one point, Obama was even compared to the hula hoop craze! Is it a fad? Will it last? What about staying power?
There was a lot of scrutiny of the latest ads that Hillary and Obama are running. The ads show a phone call coming in to a home with sleeping children in the dead of night. Hillary answers the pre-dawn ringing phone, dressed to the teeth (my husband wondered why she wouldn’t be in her nightgown, a valid Republican observation). The implication: a crisis call was coming in. Who is most qualified to answer it?
Obama immediately countered this Mark Penn-designed ad with one that used the same imagery, but underscored his judgment as being sounder, as he had been against the Iraq War since the beginning. Carville categorized both ads as “fair.” Then the experts began picking them apart, saying that the origin of such a ringing telephone ad goes all the way back to Walter Mondale in 1984, running against Gary Hart and using an image of a red phone. (Boy! Did that phone look dated!) The problem, the strategists said, is that the “red phone” fear message has become a bit of a cliché. The implication: this cliché charge is also true of Hillary’s entire campaign.
Next came some finger pointing. “Mark Penn has called the strategy in this campaign, dominated it.” This from Jason Horowitz’s New York Observer newspaper article titled “Ickes: Blame Penn.” As her chief strategist, Penn actually wrote the current phone call ad.
There were moments of mirth. After the phone ad began appearing in Texas and Ohio, someone asked Hillary during a campaign stop to give an example of a time when she had to handle a crisis phone call. There was apparently not a lot of thought given beforehand to this particular question arising. The best answer the campaign spokesman came up with was, “She’s on the Armed Services Committee.” Said Democrat Schrum, laughing, “You know the only crisis on the Armed Services Committee is when John McCain loses his temper.” Republican Murphy, laughing, added, “The only crisis call she (Hillary) might get is from Texas.”
Chuck Todd, the NBC News Political Director was quoted (“Meet the Press”) this way, “According to our delegate math, Clinton winning both Ohio and Texas by 52% – 48% would net her a combined 5-6 delegates. Yet, toss in a potential Obama landslide in Vermont, and then her next March 4th haul could be as little as 2-5 delegates.”
On “Face the Nation” Governor Bill Richardson was interviewed, as was former candidate Senator Chris Dodd (D, Connecticut), who noted that “If experience is the sole criteria, it should be Joe Biden and me,” something he said more than once on the campaign trail in Iowa. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Clinton supporter, was interviewed onscreen as well, and commented, “We’re hiring someone to do the toughest job in the country, and a big part of that job is being Commander-in-Chief. Intelligence people report renewed attacks. It’s a risky world. We need someone with the seasoning and the ability to be Commander-in-Chief. It’s a dangerous world.”
Chris Dodd (D, CT), who has endorsed Obama, countered with, “This is a person (Obama) eminently qualified to lead. It’s not, as they say, just about who answers that phone, but about what they say.” For those of us who have heard Hillary Clinton’s shrill tone of voice, we might add, “and it’s about HOW that individual speaks when they answer.”
From Santa Fe, New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson on” Face the Nation”, who has endorsed neither candidate, weighed in with, “I am legitimately torn (between the candidates),” saying, “The concern that I have is that the bickering is going on too long. D-Day is Tuesday. I want to see us, after Tuesday, come together and move towards the general election.” He added, “McCain cannot be taken for granted.” Richardson noted, “We haven’t elected a Senator in over 40 years. I guess we’re going to this time.”
Many charts and graphs were used to reinforce points being made. To share just a few: In Ohio, Clinton attracts just 38% of men under 50, while Obama gets 52%. Hillary gets the vote of 54% of those over 50 in Ohio, while Obama gets only 36% of those over 50. By race (in Ohio) Obama claims the vote of 86% of African-Americans (to Clinton’s 6%), while 62% of Hispanics favor Clinton, compared to only 30% for Obama. (“Meet the Press” graphic).
As to Super Delegates, those much-discussed 800, the change since February 5th has seen Obama pick up 38, while Clinton has lost 6, giving Obama a 111-vote lead. In a Pew Foundation Poll shown on “Meet the Press”, when asked whether a candidate was “very likable,” “somewhat likable” or “not likable,” Obama was judged “Very likable” by 50% to Clinton’s 26% and McCain’s 21%. In the “somewhat” range, the split was 35% for Obama, to 37% for Clinton, to 55% for McCain. In the dreaded “Not Likable” category, Hillary scored 33%, while McCain was at 18% and Obama at 10%.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy on “Meet the Press,” commenting on the general election, said, “We’ve got the one different kind of Republican this year who can go to the center, and a lot of the Obama stuff—the energy behind his campaign, other than the war—is stuff John McCain built his reputation on and frankly has shown a lot more courage on than Barack Obama ever has. He’ll (McCain’ll) co-opt that middle space and beat him on experience and leadership.”
All agreed that, if Obama were to be elected, it would “set the Conservative movement back 50 years.”
In another interesting bit, respondents to a CNBC Current State of the Economy survey (“Meet the Press”) were asked to respond with one word to the three remaining candidates in the race. The responses to each candidate and the word used most frequently follows:
True to my usual practice of listening for either applause or boos, during Thursday night’s Democratic debate on CNN televised from Austin, Texas, from on campus at the University of Texas, the only “boo-ing” was directed Hillary Clinton’s way, as she took after Barack Obama for (purportedly) plagiarizing a speech by Deval Patrick, the National Co-Chairman of his campaign (and Governor of Massachusetts). Hillary’s sharp retort that using Patrick’s words is “Not change we can believe in; change we can Xerox” did not go over well with the crowd. This was the only instance of “boo-ing” in the extremely civilized 19th debate the two leading candidates have had.
First, from a woman’s perspective, what was up with Hillary’s outfit? The neckline of the black outfit reminded me of a costume from an old Star Trek set. It had a high collar that was edged in gold, which then looked as though it connected physically to her gold omega chain. It was not an unattractive look; it just looked like an early sketch of something Michael Jackson would design, with epaulets still to be attached. To be fair, it was fairly slimming and fetching from the waist up— until Hillary stood up. The hemline of the jacket then ballooned unfetchingly, making her look larger through the hips than she actually is (surely not the desired effect?).
Fashion aside, here were some of the “zingers” heard during the largely friendly debate, listed in chronological order:
Obama: “What’s lacking now are not good ideas. Washington is a place where ideas go to die.”
Obama: “What the American people want is an America as good as its promise.”
Obama: (on talking to Cuba’s new leadership): “I do think it’s important (for a nation) not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies.” (The gizmo people liked this one.)
Clinton: “The Bush Administration has alienated our friends and emboldened our enemies.” I want to send a very strong message that the era of arrogance, pre-emption and unilateralism—those days are over.” (I wondered how this pronouncement would dampen the budding friendship between Bill Clinton and his newfound friend George Herbert Walker Bush.)
Obama: “I this the President today needs to take a more active role than 30 or 40 years ago. That’s the extra step.” (on talking to other nations)
Clinton: (“The wealthy and the well-connected have had a President for the last 7 years and I’d like the middle class to have a President now.” Clinton followed that up with the phrase, “innovation nation,” a nice rhyming phrase. She should have trotted that one out earlier in this campaign.
Clinton: (Talking about how young Latino children might come home to find their parents deported and no one there to take care of them) “That is not the America that I know. That is a stark admission of failure.” Pressed further on the immigration issue, Hillary, when asked if she would reconsider the border fence or commit to finishing it, said, “There is a smart and a dumb way to enforce immigration. I would say, ‘Wait a minute. We need to review this.’ As with so many things, the Bush Administration has gone off the deep end. I would listen to the people who live along the border.”
Clinton: “My opponent gives speeches; I offer actions…Actions speak louder than words.” (It was right about here that the offending Xerox comment crept in, surely the biggest faux pas of the night from either candidate).
Obama: (responding to Hillary’s plagiarism charge), retorted that her objections were “silly” and that it had become “silly season.” He added, “We shouldn’t be spending time tearing the country down; we should be building the nation up.”
Obama (on whether he is ready to be President “on Day One,” which, lets’ face it, Sports Fans, is becoming a really annoying phrase to hear over and over and over): “I wouldn’t be running (for President) if I didn’t think I was ready (to be Commander-in-Chief).”
Obama: (on the surge in Iraq) “The fact is that the purpose if it has not been fulfilled. We need to send a clear message that the Iraqis no longer have a blank check, like they had under President Bush….It is up to the Iraqis to determine what kind of future they will have.” Obama, after praising the efforts of the 1st Cavalry stationed out of Fort Hood, said that the decision to invade Iraq was “a tactical maneuver based on a huge strategic blunder.” He proceeded to decry how poorly our returning veterans are being treated and how veterans in Southwest Texas have to drive 250 miles to access health care. Spending $12 million a month in Iraq has kept the nation from attending to building up relations with Latin American nations (among others), and we are only spending about what is spent in one week in Iraq. He added, “Iran is the single biggest beneficiary of our invasion of Iraq.”
When asked about “earmarks”, the audience learned that there were $91 million in total “earmarks” from Obama, to secure funds for his home state of Illinois, and $342 million in earmarks from Hillary Clinton, for her home state of New York.
Obama: “The people want to know that they have a government that is listening to them again. They want their government back (echoes of Howard Dean here) and that is what I’m going to provide them with.”
The final question each was asked was, “Describe the moment when you were tested the most?” (Oh, oh. I thought. Is there really going to be an instant replay of the “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinski” days? Democrats can rest assured there will be if Hillary is the nominee.)
Obama gave a bland answer that dealt with his work on the streets as an organizer, early in his career, a task which he committed to out of idealism rather than accepting a high-paying job with a prestigious law firm.
Hillary paused and made a comment about how everyone in the audience knew of some of her difficult moments. After the debate was officially over, some of the analysts considered this final answer—which went waaaaay off on a tangent about returning disfigured Iraq veterans and how hard they have it, compared to anything she ever had to put up with—as a “humanizing” moment for the Robo-candidate. I just found it manipulative and staged. It didn’t look or sound “real” to me, at all. I was surprised that all these smart people, these paid analysts, had been “snookered” into letting a candidate twist the “real” question around and answer whatever-the-heck she felt like. I suppose we can give her points for agility and thinking on her feet ((“Boy! I sure don’t want to talk about Bill’s infidelity. Where can I go with this?”), but I don’t think we can give her too many points for candor in her “stagy” answer. To me, it was as bad as when I job applicant says that his chief failing is that he “cares too much for others.” Contrived. Manipulative. Deceitful. Not honest. Not real. Not human. Said for effect.
In the CNN Newsroom, post-debate, some of the prevailing wisdom included this prescient line from Gloria Borger (CNN Political Analyst), “We’ve heard all the themeswe are going to hear. It is what it is.” (Bring in Bill to parse the meaning of the word “is,” please. I know he can do it. He’s done it before.)
Jeffrey Toobin (CNN analyst) said, “Maybe she’s going to lose with dignity.” (My reaction: not bloody likely).
David Gergen, political analyst, decrying Hillary’s inability to “connect” with the voters emotionally said, “If she can’t establish that, I think she is going to lose.” (Gergen seems to be coming to this realization rather late in the game, but whatever.)
Donna Brasile, who ran Al Gore’s campaign and is a Super Delegate to the convention, said, “She (Hillary) needs a message firewall” and declared “Barack Obama tonight was exceptional.”
Donna Brasile, in all previous appearances and debates, had seemed to support Hillary Clinton, so this newfound enthusiasm for Obama may be indicative of the erosion of support from among the Super Delegates previously pledged to Clinton or previously listed as leaning towards Clinton.
A couple of other good moments for Obama came when he said, “On the single most important decision of our generation (the decision to invade Iraq), I have shown the judgment to lead.” He also skewered likely Republican opponent John McCain, saying, “John McCain says he doesn’t know much about the economy and he has proven that by embracing the failed policies of George W. Bush.”
One CNN analyst said, “It sounded as though Hillary was just reciting her resume.”
This was the tamest and most civilized Democratic debate since the last seated debate, when Edwards was still in the race. I found it telling that Hillary Clinton invoked John Edwards’ name not once, but twice, in praising various positions he had articulated while still a candidate. It made me wonder if she was, as they say, “sucking up” to Edwards to try to get him to endorse her and/or to try to woo and influence his committed delegates to come over to her side (the Dark Side?). Both Clinton and Obama are known to have been in contact with the North Carolina ex-Senator at his home in Chapel Hill, but no endorsements have been forthcoming so far.
It’s now do-or-die for Hillary Clinton. Most analysts expect that she will not be able to pull Texas out of the fire (it’s neck-and-neck), but that, if she does, it will be largely on the backs of the Hispanic voters in the state. Even if she does win in Texas, Hillary also has to take Ohio to be viable, according to her husband, the ex-President, and James Carville, who advised Bill Clinton and is advising Hillary.
I don’t see wins for Hillary in both Ohio and Texas happening. I’ve thought since Iowa (January 3rd) that Obama has the charisma and the rock-star aura that Hillary, on her best day, cannot summon. Nor could Bill lend Hillary his charisma. If anything, Bill has managed to tarnish his elder statesman image while bringing home few wins for his ambitious wife. Crowds, yes; wins, no.
Part of Obama’s appeal is gender-based. Part of his appeal rests on his mad oratorical skills. Much of his appeal is generational. Most of it is the “gut instinct” that each and every voter in our democracy is allowed to follow through on privately in the voting booth. (What a great country!)
It almost seems that, like Giuliani and Thompson, Hillary Clinton and the Clinton campaign all made huge mistakes (of different sorts) in planning their campaigns. In Hillary Clinton’s case, she did not anticipate this upstart Senator from Illinois being the tenacious performer he has proven himself to be. He was well-organized beyond the Clinton campaign’s wildest dreams…or nightmares. The carefully scripted plastic appearances in Iowa, prior to the first January caucus, didn’t do much to endear Hillary to voters there, and that’s where Obamamania began. Keeping Chelsea under wraps and away from the press only reinforced the image that Hillary is remote, in an ivory tower, not “one of the people.”
The biggest sticking point of the evening, the biggest debate point (which the candidates almost would not let go) was over health care, with Hillary accusing Obama’s plan (as she has on the stump) of leaving 15 million uninsured. Obama fired back that Hillary’s plan mandated that everyone have health care, which would prove a hardship. He made the very valid point that people who don’t have health care don’t have it because they can’t afford it, and garnishing their wages and making them have it, through a mandate, is not the way to go. (Obama’s plan does, however, mandate health care for children.)
Obama, while saluting Senator Clinton for her previous attempts to head up a health reform bill when Bill was President, pointed out that it was all done in secrecy, behind closed doors, and that he values transparency and would be better suited to bring people together to work to undo the damage of the Bush years. Nowhere has that been clearer than on the campaign trail.
Barack Obama Delivers Eloquence in Richmond, Before Virginia Vote
I heard Barack Obama giving a speech (from Richmond, Virginia) on CNN on Sunday, February 10th prior to Virginia’s Tuesday primary race on February 12th. I was struck, once again, with how many people he constantly thanks. People like to be thanked. I’m sure Tim Cane and Mark Warner and Doug Wilder and Bobby Scott and Jim Morain and Rich Baucher and Dick Granevald and Amy Rieger and all the others Barack was thanking so profusely were grateful. I remember that, when he appeared in Davenport, Iowa, he brought out all the young campaign workers and thanked each of them personally in front of the crowd. This “niceness” may well be a big part of Barack Obama’s appeal.
Said Obama, in the televised speech excerpt, “It has been one year since we began this race to the Presidency on the steps of the Old Capitol in Springfield, Illinois…I knew we wouldn’t be the favorite. I knew we would be the underdog from January till June. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But then something started to happen. Across this land, the message is the same: we are tired of being disappointed by our politicians. While Washington is consumed by the same distractions, another father puts up another for sale sign on the lawn…and it goes on and on and on and on and on. We become cynics. We lower our standards.” And then, swinging into full Obama Oratorical mode, Barack said, “Not this time. Not this year. The stakes are too high. People want to turn the page. People want to write a new chapter. Yes we can! We won in (fills in blank with recent states of victory) and I believe we can win in Virginia on Tuesday (February 12) if you’re ready to stand with me and fight…”
Obama went on to use the “no more Scooter Libby justice; no more Brownie incompetence; no more Karl Rove politics” line I have heard him use in person. “We are gonna’ be unified as Democrats to make sure that we bring it in from the failed politics of George W. Bush. That’s how we are gonna’ win in Virginia and that’s how we are gonna’ change this country.”
Get this man a church! He is dynamite from the pulpit!
If you have the chance to hear Barack Obama, in person, do not miss it. To wit: “There’s a moment in the life of every generation when we must act. Virginia, this is our moment. This is our time. You and I together will transform this country.” Chills.
I was instantly reminded of my all-time favorite Shakespeare quote, which I will (roughly) paraphrase for you here:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, if taken at the flood, leads on to fame and greater fortune. If omitted, all the voyage of our lives is bound in the shallows of misery and despair.” That’s not exact quoting, but it reminds of Obama’s eloquence and the sentiment is certainly similar.
You gotta’ love it! Unless you’re a Republican and you’re seeing doom in the upcoming November election trying to defeat Barack Obama, should he secure the nomination. The most charismatic speaker in a long time has come down the pike, and he’s intelligent, too!