Water Man Spouts

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Obama: Positive Vibrations

{1} "Senator Edward M. Kennedy, rejecting entreaties from the Clintons and their supporters, is set to endorse Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid on Monday as part of an effort to lend Kennedy charisma and connections before the 22-state Feb. 5 showdown for the Democratic nomination.

"Both the Clintons and their allies had pressed Mr. Kennedy for weeks to remain neutral in the Democratic race, but Mr. Kennedy had become increasingly disenchanted with the tone of the Clinton campaign, aides said. He and former President Bill Clinton had a heated telephone exchange earlier this month over what Mr. Kennedy considered misleading statements by Mr. Clinton about Mr. Obama, as well as his injection of race into the campaign. …." – New York Times; Kennedy Chooses Obama, Spurning Plea by Clintons; January 28, 2008

Among the numerous news reports about the democratic primary this week are two that remind me of Senator Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama. The first is Bill Clinton’s claim that Bill Richardson "promised" him that he would not endorse Obama; and second is the report that Hillary Clinton, in a last ditch attempt to persuade Richardson to not make his endorsement, said that "Obama can’t win."

The discussions between Bill Clinton and two of the top democratic leaders in the country show that the former president reacts angrily when he finds that they support Barack Obama. With Richardson, it is evident that Bill felt there was an issue of loyalty involved. Even if we support Barack Obama, I think we can appreciate that a person could react angrily when they believe someone betrayed a sense of loyalty.

So James Carville was tasked with publicly calling Bill Richardson a "Judas," and spreading details of Bill Clinton’s interpretation of his talks with Richardson. This is the same James who was revealed in Woodward’s "State of Denial" as giving inside information from the 2004 Kerry campaign to his wife Mary Matalin, who then delivered it to her boss, VP Dick Cheney. And the same Carville who hosted a fund-raiser for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in his home. Who better to call Bill Richardson a "Judas," I ask?

Hillary Clinton’s statement that Obama can’t win is also interesting. From everything that I have seen, I am confident that Senator Clinton sincerely believes that she would be more likely to win the general election in November. It is almost certain that she believes, based upon polls, that Barack Obama would have a far more difficult battle in the general election, and that if he is the nominee, that John McCain would be elected to the third term of the Bush 2 presidency. So I have no problem with her saying what she did.

But Senator Kennedy’s reading of the polls makes more sense to me. After a careful and detailed study, Ted Kennedy concluded that four things were true: [a] that Hillary Clinton’s "negatives" were so high, that she would not win in November if she were the nominee; [b] that Barack Obama would be able to win the general election; [c] that the Clinton campaign was engaged in negative tactics that threatened to cause serious fractures within the party; and [d] that the "coat tails" issue indicated a Clinton candidacy would make congressional and state-wide elections more difficult, while an Obama candidacy would help the party make significant gains across the board.

{2} "A year later, near the end of Mr. Obama’s first year in the Senate, Ethel Kennedy asked him to speak at a ceremony for her husband’s 80th birthday. At the time, she referred to Mr. Obama as ‘our next president.’

" ‘I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did,’ Mrs. Kennedy said in an interview that day, comparing her late husband’s quest for social justice to Mr. Obama’s. ‘He has the passion in his heart. He’s not selling you. It’s just him.’ " –NY Times; 1-28-08

There are going to be some important contests in the nest three months. The Obama campaign is in a position of strength. Our candidate is winning because he offers a positive democratic message, rather than the negative message of fear that we associate with republicans.

I am hoping that Obama supporters will continue to follow our candidate’s lead, and focus on the positive things that our campaign offers to this country. There will be some people who react angrily, who say that Obama can’t win, and who may even say that they will not vote for Barack Obama in November. We are only responsible for our own actions. And it is more responsible, in terms of electing Obama and making gains in congress and in state elections, that we stay positive.

In the past, I’ve spoken about the three groups we find in every election: [a] those who support you; [b] those who oppose you; and [c] the undecided. It is important to try to widen your "group a" base, by making sure that family, friends and neighbors are registered voters. Also, it is important to reach out to "group c," with letters to the editor and similar actions. And it is also important to avoid engagements with "group b," unless it is in a setting that helps reach "group c" voters.

As a general rule, when we are involved in discussions – be they on campus, at work, or even on the internet – we should avoid attempts by those in "group b" to engage in arguments in which their goal is simply to fan the flames of anger, and to divide the democratic party. What they say and how they vote is not our responsibility. That’s up to them. Our focus has to be to send out those ripples of positive energy that Senator Robert Kennedy spoke of in South Africa years ago, and that Ethel Kennedy has concluded that Senator Obama represents today.

The Obama campaign is leading in the number of primaries won, in caucuses won, in popular vote, and in fund-raising. Those are all significant "positives." The "super delegates" are comparing two candidates’ campaigns: one who is winning with a positive message of hope we can believe in, and one who is losing with a negative message, which is reportedly trying to scare the super delegates with Rev. Wright.

The Obama campaign’s positives mean that we have no need to step into the gutter. We can keep it positive. And we will continue to win.


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