Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Chase for Change Week in Review: Scandals, Speeches and Endorsements

So I had said the Chase for Change series would go on a hiatus until the next primary, unless there were any major developments, well I’d have to say the events of this week were pretty big. When I last wrote about this race the Clinton campaign was still reeling from Ferraro’s offensive comments and she had just resigned. I said she was probably desperately hoping for something to knock Obama off stride. Well at the least to begin the week she got her wish.

So I don’t think there’s any question that Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments are extremely offensive and deserved to be condemned in every way. He should certainly have no place in Obama’s campaign going forward. Certainly now Obama will face questions for some time about what he heard while sitting in Wright’s church for the past 20 years and why he never left. If it turns out to be shown that Obama was not truthful when he said he never heard the words directly out of Wright’s mouth that were the source of this controversy then he may be in deeper trouble (arguably it could sink his candidacy), but until proven otherwise I think harshly condemning and denouncing Wright’s words and ensuring he has no future role in the campaign were about as much as Obama could have done.

Honestly though while these are legitimate questions to ask Obama (though what matters far far more is what Obama has said he would do as President) why does no one ask McCain? I understand McCain has said he is proud to have had (or in the case of those still alive, still have) the support and endorsements from several crazy and bigoted preachers like Jerry Falwell (who said America deserved 9/11 for being too tolerant of “abortionists, feminists and gays”) and Rod Parsley (who has called for a war of Christians against Muslims and called Islam a “false religion”). McCain should be denouncing them as well, not embracing them. The media seems to be dropping the ball on this by focusing only on Obama if they want to make this an issue.

Though of course that was at the start of the week. Then there is the matter of Obama’s speech on race that can now be found be on probably thousands of blogs by now (so I don’t think you need me to post it too). Now as someone who has not endorsed Obama over Hillary or vice-versa, If found it pretty impressive. I think the major points about it have now already been made on so many other blogs: that it was amazing to finally see a major politician not give a safe speech but one that tackled the issue of race relations and racism head on and how it can’t be ignored going forward. Is it up there with the greats? I think I’ll leave that for others to judge, but it certainly was a strong departure from politics as usual and I think we need to see more of that in politics these days. While some people have deplored the speech (and even said they might now back McCain despite him being more Conservative than any Premier or Prime Minister we’ve had in Canada in decades and pretty much a direct continuation of George Bush foreign policy), for me it added to my respect of Obama, as I think it has for most of the U.S. and Canadian media. I think one thing is almost certain, if Obama does lose the nomination he will end up on the ticket, I think it’s clear he’s earned that.

However, I completely agree with Radwanski that it’s extremely unfortunate that in today’s 24/7 news cycle such a monumental speech can get so easily buried and replaced by talk once again of polls and momentum and “was it enough?” Yes Hillary has gained ground in the polls this week, but it’s sad that the media couldn’t just appreciate the speech on it’s own as an important event from the campaign and had to go right back, seemingly within less than 24 hours, to the same horse race lexicon. Well that’s political media coverage for you these days. Maybe some day it will change, but I won’t hold my breath.

So a major scandal, a major speech, you’d think that would be enough for a week, but I guess I picked the wrong week for a hiatus. So just yesterday, New Mexico Governor and former Democratic candidate Bill Richardson endorses Obama. I don’t think people can underestimate the importance of this.

Richardson had arguably the longest CV in this race among the Democratic candidates and has great depth in foreign policy and executive experience so for Richardson to endorse Obama really helps to take the sting out the “he’s not experienced” critique against him. As well, Richardson was Bill Clinton’s energy secretary so if anything the smart money would have been on him endorsing Hillary Clinton, so the fact that he’s gone to Obama must really bother the Hillary campaign.

That said, despite what others are saying, Hillary Clinton is not out of the race because you know the saying “a week is a lifetime in politics” and this week showed that Obama could be knocked off course and in the end whether anyone likes it or not it’s almost assured that super-delegates will decide this race.

I personally think it would be insane for them to go against Obama if he has a clear lead in pledged delegates (BEYOND what Hillary would have won in Michigan and Florida which is a separate messy issue) AND popular vote, but Hillary can still win the popular vote if she pulls out big victories from this point on and I’ve seen at least one poll (likely an outlier but still) showing her with a 25 point plus lead in Pennsylvania, if she actually got close to that result that would be a massive blow to Obama going towards Denver. IF (still a big if) Hillary ends up winning the popular vote I think that would carry tremendous momentum and might actually make her the favourite. As well, if there is something else big happens to bring Obama off side in this campaign then the super-delegates might just argue that he’s unelectable and had the earlier states known more, Hillary would have done better. A dubious argument for them to make perhaps (and one they might live to regret), but not one that is not out of the question.

Personally I still say Obama is the favourite, but never count out the Clintons and Pennsylvania will still matter so the next month of the campaign will be crucial. We’ll see if this time the hiatus in the Chase for Change series holds or if big news strikes again in the coming weeks before the next primary.

In the meantime I am looking forward to seeing 3 new Liberal members in the House of Commons.

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Scott Tribe said...

Her own staffers say she only has a 10% chance of winning. She's done. The only thing she's doing by staying in the race is trying to destroy Obama's chances for the presidency.

calgarygrit said...

Well, I'm an Obama supporter, but even if you have a 10% chance, that seems like a reasonable enough reason to stay in the race to me.

Brian Dell said...

McCain essentially cost himself the 2000 Republican party nomination by dubbing Falwell (and Pat Robertson) America's "agents of intolerance".

Scott Tribe said...

Ironically, he was very correct in that assessment of them. He was too honest in that case, and he's trying to learn from that lesson this time around. That's why he's been pandering to the press so they'll give him favourable headlines and overlook slipups like his "Iran-Al Queada" confusion that even Joe Lieberman felt compelled to correct.