“Praise and honor to God”...was how he started the announcement. Was that a Moslem, Allah is great, or was it a Christian, praise be to God. Probably both because he appears to be a man of the world who comes from many cultures and many colors. He went on, “You didn’t come here for me. You came because you believe in what the country can be.” This was followed by some usual, but poetic, rhetorical comparison between war and peace, hope and despair. He continued by saying “We are one people reaching for what’s possible.” He said that ‘A young boys violent behavior leaves a hole in the heart that no government can fill.’ And speaking of government, he was firm in his belief that the ways of Washington must change. He said we were distracted by our own failures, and we shouldn’t believe the doody balls who tell us anything different. Well maybe he didn’t say doody ball, but that’s what he meant.
Barak Obama, born in Hawaii with an African father and a mother from Kansas, is prepared to lead the nation. And, he tells us, we don’t need to worry about his Washington experience—it doesn’t prepare you for anything but lobbyists and a fractured bureaucracy. I love this guy. I want to believe him.
Hillary must be beside herself. There is going to be constant comparison. And if she raises enough money, and the primaries are all moved up, she won’t have to confront the ongoing commentary about what he is and she is not because it will be over before it starts. But I would love to see a real campaign. One where we get to listen to debate about issues and the future. One where labor has to make a choice about who to endorse. Actually, that was the only part of the speech that I felt was too carefully crafted. Teachers getting paid more but being accountable—the teacher’s union hates that. Putting people back to work with labor taking a lead in rebuilding the economy. And he didn’t say that the government needs to work so people can aspire to the “middle class”. That is included in Hillary’s stump speech. I suggested they take that out because no one ever aspired to be limited to any class—people aspire to be successful. I believe one reason for Gore’s defeat was his constant reminder that he was for the people not the powerful. Now, who do you know that wants to think of themselves as powerless. And Kerry’s division of people by education—does the phrase non-college educated, instead of high school educated, sound a bit elitist. Sometimes we just don’t get it, but never mind, some people are simply not smart enough to ingest my wisdom. Yet another case of you think you get what you pay for.
Back to Barak. He is articulate and clean. When Biden said it he inferred that the other Black aspirants were not. But I think he is articulate and unencumbered by commitments to what he implies is a corrupt bureaucratic system. He is young (at least younger) vital, dynamic and yes, he admits to “doing a little blow.” But the most important quality he possesses is that he is comfortable about who he is... and his wife seems to be comfortable with who he wants to be.
This is no small item when crafting a campaign. The reports are that she will be instrumental in developing strategy and direction. There is always some danger in this kind of involvement because people who have personal relationships with a candidate think differently than campaign staff, about what needs to be done to win. Additionally, what is good for the candidate is not always good for the person--and since they care about the person—it may affect political decision making. From all reports she’s a terrific person, a smart and independent thinker. That’s the good news. The bad news for her future staff is that she is smart and independent. A spouse is critical to the success of the campaign. The dangers always come with over involvement. The 1992 “you’re getting two for one” the 2004 “I am entitled to say and do anything I want” approach to the campaign. I think the public and the media want to see a spouse in supportive rather than competitive role. When the spouse steps over the line, neither show any mercy. Much of my campaign expertise was in roles on a spouse staff. Quite simply it’s more difficult to be a spouse than a candidate because everyone takes care of the candidate, and no matter how it begins, ultimately the spouse becomes an inconvenience and creates problems for all involved. It just can’t be prevented because the candidate is distracted and the politics becomes so complicated.
In my first political campaign I worked for Ella Udall, the funniest and most difficult political force I ever encountered. And I don’t say force frivolously. She kept Mo Udall (a popular but unknown Congressman. from Arizona who ran for President in 1976) on the road. He loved her and wanted her to be with him when he traveled. And she loved the attention of the people and the press. But she drank too much and wanted to party all the time. Mo wanted to work and sleep but Ella would drag him to whatever bar in whatever hotel, to keep her company and entertain the press. It was fun but not very productive and eventually who she was did not help to move the campaign along. Interestingly, the press loved Mo so much that they never address Ellas’ follies in anything they wrote but if had he been the nominee they would have had no choice.
I think the saddest thing that has happened to 21st century Presidential campaigns is that they are not much fun. There is no camaraderie between staff, press, and Secret Service. The times and technology have changed so drastically that there is little trust and less levity. Too much media, too many pitfalls, and technology that prevents interpersonal, one on one communication. It’s a year until the primaries. Plenty of time for novelty. I wonder what new political gimmick or issue will emerge as the reason for candidate success or failure. I can hardly wait to see. We’re just sayin... Iris