Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama's SC Speech

Barack Obama is almost always a good speaker. But his South Carolina victory speech gave me chills. Watch it. Or read it.

"... This election is about the past vs. the future. It's about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation, a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.

There are those who will continue to tell us that we can't do this, that we can't have what we're looking for, that we can't have what we want, that we're peddling false hopes. But here is what I know. I know that when people say we can't overcome all the big money and influence in Washington, I think of that elderly woman who sent me a contribution the other day, an envelope that had a money order for $3.01 along with a verse of scripture tucked inside the envelope. So don't tell us change isn't possible. That woman knows change is possible.

When I hear the cynical talk that blacks and whites and Latinos can't join together and work together, I'm reminded of the Latino brothers and sisters I organized with and stood with and fought with side by side for jobs and justice on the streets of Chicago. So don't tell us change can't happen.

When I hear that we'll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who is now devoted to educating inner city-children and who went out into the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don't tell me we can't change.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can change. Yes, we can.

Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future. And as we leave this great state with a new wind at our backs and we take this journey across this great country, a country we love, with the message we carry from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire, from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast, the same message we had when we were up and when we were down, that out of many, we are one; that while we breath, we will hope.

And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words -- yes, we can."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Clintonian Tactics on Display

Hillary Clinton's "Meet the Press" appearance this morning was one of the most overt displays of the old Clintonian attack politics I've seen in this campaign. Her blatant and transparent attempts to blame Obama's campaign for "deliberately distorting" unfortunate remarks she, her husband, and others associated with her campaign have been making in recent days were, frankly, sickening and unworthy of a candidate for high national office.

Last Monday, Mrs. Clinton brought up Martin Luther King Jr. during an interview on Fox News. Here's how the New York Times described her comments: "'Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,' Mrs. Clinton said in trying to make the case that her experience should mean more to voters than the uplifting words of Mr. Obama. 'It took a president to get it done.'" Understandably, she quickly came to see how that remark - probably unintentional - could have been perceived as a slight to King. She "returned to the subject at a later stop, recalling how Dr. King was beaten and jailed and how he worked with Johnson to pass the landmark law. Clinton advisers said her first remark had not captured what she meant to convey. And they said she would never detract from a movement that has driven her own public service."

Fine. But it is also understandable that people might have been offended by her remark, including Rep. James Clyburn, a SC heavyweight who has remained neutral in the presidential campaign (so far). He said of Mrs. Clinton's comment "We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics. It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal."

Today on "Meet," Hillary blamed the Obama campaign for continuing to bring up her comment, quickly growing heated with Tim Russert when he brought it up. "I think it such an unfair and unwarranted attempt to misinterpret and mischaracterize what I said," said the senator from New York. "This is an unfortunate storyline that the Obama campaign has pushed very selectively."

Actually if she wants to blame anybody for pushing the story, it ought to be the media, but that wouldn't serve her purpose quite as well, so she goes after Obama (and, by association, Representative Clyburn).

On another front too she attacked her rival, suggesting that he has somehow changed his views on the Iraq War from 2002 to today. He's done no such thing so far as I can tell by any objective measure; yes, he's voted to fund and support the troops already fighting there (while maintaining his view that they should be brought home), but he among the major candidates was the only one in 2002 who had the judgment to oppose invading Iraq. It was this narrative - of Obama's longstanding opposition to the war - which Bill Clinton recently (and inexplicably) called "a fairy tale." It's true, the former president wasn't talking about Obama's race when he made those comments, and race shouldn't play into the evaluation of them, but it is also true that the Clintonian truth-twisting is getting pretty tiring (again).

Hillary's assault on Obama continued as she belittled his senatorial accomplishments (which do include the most far-reaching ethics reform package since Watergate) while refusing to come right out and call him a "showhorse" after making much of her so-called "workhorse" reputation.
Read more »

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Obama Gets Nelson Endorsement

Centrist Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska has endorsed Barack Obama, National Journal's Hotline on Call reports.

In a statement released by the Obama campaign, Nelson said of his colleague:

"Those of us on both sides of the aisle who have made it our purpose to set aside partisanship to address some of the important issues of the day want a president that will join the effort, not foil it. Barack Obama, to me, represents the best hope for our own political reconciliation and a future where the cogs of government are working smoothly for progress instead of being gummed up by partisanship. Barack Obama will be the strongest candidate in the heartland, because he puts solutions and consensus first and he inspires great crossover appeal among Republicans and independents."

Nelson's post-New Hampshire endorsement of Obama follows those of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry.

Obama's campaign also received praise this week from an unlikely source: South Carolina's Republican Governor Mark Sanford, who published an essay in The State on Friday noting the importance of Obama's candidacy to the South:

"Sen. Obama is not running for president on the basis of his race, and no one should cast their ballot for or against him on that basis. Nonetheless, what is happening in the initial success of his candidacy should not escape us. Within many of our own lifetimes, a man who looked like Barack Obama had a difficult time even using the public restrooms in our state. What is happening may well say a lot about America, and I do think as an early primary state we should earnestly shoulder our responsibility in determining how this part of history is ultimately written."

The wide range of support Obama is attracting from across the political spectrum is a strong testament to the great and powerful reservoir of positive, unifying energy for hope and change that he has made the central theme of his campaign.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

After New Hampshire

Last night was bittersweet for me. It was wonderful to see a man I respect with all my heart and soul win another great and important victory in New Hampshire. I remember the night eight years ago when my grandfather and I - stuck in traffic in Manhattan trying to get to the New York victory party - heard on the radio that we McCainiacs had managed to beat back Bush in the Granite State. Last night's victory was slightly less personal for me (I didn't spend my Christmas break this year trudging through the snow getting petitions signed so that McCain could be on the primary ballot), but no less exhilarating. Our positions on the issues may have diverged a bit since 2000, but I continue to believe, strongly, that he'll make a great and effective president of the United States. I hope that this win can propel him forward to Michigan, South Carolina and beyond.

My delight at McCain's win was tempered only by my disappointment that another man I greatly respect, admire and have high hopes for didn't manage to eke out a matching victory. The speculation as to just how the polls all had the Democratic race so wrong will continue for days, but in the end the only thing that matters, as the candidates themselves say all the time, is the poll taken at the ballot box. I was sad - very sad - that Obama didn't win in New Hampshire, but as today has progressed, I've come around to thinking that maybe this will be good for him. Rather than being stuck in the media-created "frontrunner bubble" now, Obama can refocus, spend some time fleshing out his policy proposals, rest a bit, and be prepared for Nevada, South Carolina and then Tsunami Tuesday on 5 February.

This election is about hope. It's about the hope that we can somehow rise about the meaningless and unproductive partisan games that have plagued us for so long, and work together to make progress on the issues that we do and must face as a nation. During a lunchtime discussion today I told some coworkers I'd like nothing more this November than to have to make a really hard decision between two candidates who both seek to unite us rather than divide us. I suspect I wouldn't be the only one having to make that tough choice.

Hope springs eternal. The campaign is young.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

"It Couldn't Be Done"

Listening to the new stump speech Barack Obama's giving in New Hampshire this weekend I'm reminded of one of my favorite poems: "It Couldn't Be Done" by Edgar A. Guest.

"It Couldn't Be Done"

Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.

I say let's do it. Let's change the world.