Thursday, April 24, 2008

Running Away? Oh, Spare Me

For the next two weeks we are going to hear every Clinton surrogate say that Obama is ‘running away’. He’s running away from the debate, the vote in Michigan and the vote in Florida. It started today with Carville and Begala—people I always liked and respected. The next thing you are bound to see is a chicken popping up at Obama events. You may recall there were chickens used quite effectively when Bush tried to avoid debate with Bill Clinton (who was at that time an inexperienced Governor from Arkansas, a year younger than Obama is now.)

The appearance of chickens at times such as these is something with which I am quite familiar. You see, (and this may be my first public confession), I hatched the chickens in 1992. We worked independent of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. And we presented to the nation, in a very funny way, the reasons why George Bush shouldn’t be the President. We delivered a serious message in the most amusing ways possible. When President Bush refused to debate we commented on courage with chicken appearances at all his events. After he agreed to debate we transitioned into Pinocchio—and talked about his ability to tell the truth. Then there was the ‘Harry Truman truth squad’ and on Halloween we asked ‘witch’ George Bush. My own personal favorite was a 20 foot banner that simply said “Hey, George, your lie is open”. I believe we marched that past the White House about a year ago and didn’t get arrested.

To his credit, President Bush the senior wrote a note to one of the Pennsylvania chickens that said, “What you are doing is in the best spirit of American politics. Keep up the good work”. Despite everything we did, he remained a classy guy. And although every message we delivered was serious, we were never disruptive and we were always funny. Humor is often the best way to make a point. But Senator Clinton and her minions are neither good spirited or amusing. They want this win so much that they are willing to sacrifice the election to have their way.

So what does Obama do to get through what will be an onslaught of ugly? First of all, he shouldn’t have to do it alone. But where are the Obama surrogates? Bill Richardson was on Larry King tonight going toe to toe with James Carville. Richardson was terrific, but it’s hard to get beyond “Obama’s running away” because that resonates while reasoned argument does not. On another show, an Obama spokesperson (not a surrogate – and there’s a big difference) was double teamed by Begala and Carville (I wish he were more of an ice cream). The Obama people need to identify ten surrogates who appear everywhere and take the Clinton surrogates to task. The argument about Michigan and Florida is easily argued by the Clintons as “people voted and their votes should count”. The right to vote is important. But the other candidates agreed not to campaign. The people voted without getting to hear or know the other candidates. Of course they voted for Hillary—at that point she was the only name they knew. And name recognition is no small matter in a political campaign. But Hillary, who has a record of problems with the truth, also seems to have a problem honoring a commitment. In this case the one she made, not only to Obama (who they never expected to be viable), but to all the candidates and the Party.

Don’t you think that works better as an argument than ‘you can’t change the rules.’ One appears to be whining and the other presents questions of character.

As voters (and women are voters, not a constituency group) we have to decide what it is we want in a President. Is Obama running away. I think not. There have been at least 21 debates. Should he agree to another debate? I think so. But he needs to insist they address issues that impact on the future of this country. And that is not a lapel pin. Should the votes from Michigan and Florida count? Not unless there is another voting opportunity—one in which both candidates participate. That’s probably not going to happen. But given the party rules, I doubt it would make much difference.

If the Obama campaign allows the Clinton campaign to define the argument i.e. “he’s an elitist who is both unpatriotic and has no courage (he’s running away),” then they may not be able to convince the super delegates to get on board the Obama ship. (I ordinarily despise seafaring analogies. I must be desperate.) But if they use the tools that have been most effective – such as ridiculing the Clinton ‘noise’ without being either nasty or ugly, they stand a terrific chance of being the nominee. Let’s get back to ‘hopeful’. It worked on me, and I have tried never to run away. We’re just sayin...Iris


Unknown said...

I have been thinking of doing a blog post about using surrogates. Normally I think they don't do that much good, but my thought now is that Obama should blanket Indiana and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina, with every good surrogate he has, and that is a lot. They could send several in at one time. Obama has the money to send them to the Indiana media outlets, including those in neighboring states. If the media outlets are small enough, even surrogates can get attention. And, hey, they could carry chickens.

Iris&David said...

Be, we both know how valuable surrogates can be-- and lot's of people want to go out and work for him but the campaign seems not to know how to use them.. They need to take Lanny Davis lessons.

Unknown said...

Lanny Davis drives me nuts as a TV commentator, but he's probably effective. I tell you, girl, get out there.