Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Morning After

This morning I’ve been in a conversation with myself about Obama winning the Democratic nomination. While it has been a 16-month campaign for him, I’ve been on the journey with him for only the past five months. His extraordinary victory speech after winning Iowa in January inspired me. I knew I didn’t like Hillary Clinton, so I’d been looking for a candidate I could support. After listening to Obama I knew I now had a viable and exciting alternative.

I recognize the historic nature of Obama’s nomination. A black president? On TV in “24,” maybe. But in this country? Not likely. At least not likely soon. So I am surprised and happy that the process has taken us this far – and hopeful it’ll go all the way in November.

Today, however, my internal dialogue has not focused on the historic breakthrough. It has been on more mundane matters, specifically the role Clinton should play as the campaign moves forward. Her speech last night reinforced my existing attitude toward her. What would have been appropriate would have been to acknowledge that she had lost and to congratulate the winner. She could have been human, even emotional. She could have reiterated what she stands for, that would have been fine. Instead, she gave us a self-serving, defiant justification of the way she has behaved as a candidate, with barely an inkling of graciousness.

In his speech Obama gave us vintage Obama, soaring rhetoric, great vision, belief in a better future, and an abundance of appreciation and graciousness toward his opponent – qualities lacking on the other side. And importantly, his speech was the foundation for the campaign ahead. The issues that he’ll focus on were all laid out. In the coming months his job will be to fill in the blanks, to put substance behind the words.

As to Clinton, the news yesterday was a drumbeat of stories about whether she should be offered the Vice Presidency, clearly inspired by her and her supporters. My first reaction was “no way.” Don’t do it. Don’t compromise. Yes, she brings strength, but also a lot of baggage. Then, this morning, I began to think that maybe it is a good idea. Maybe it’s worth it if it means a better chance to beat McCain. In other words, all the practical reasons, rationalizations, for such a move. I almost convinced myself.

But then I came back to my senses. Back to my instinct, which I trust. And even with some practical reasons thrown in. For example, when did the second person on a ticket really make a decisive difference? Cheney didn’t win elections for Bush 43. Gore didn’t win elections for Clinton. Quayle didn’t win it for Bush 41. Nor Bush for Reagan. And on back. Maybe you could argue that Lyndon Johnson was critical for Kennedy in 1960, but even if Kennedy had lost Texas he would have won that election.

My hope is that over the next six weeks or so Obama will strike out on his own. Be his own man. Define himself more clearly for those who aren’t already committed to one side or the other. Not share the stage with any other Democrat. And then pick a running mate who shares his basic commitments, has experience that he doesn’t have, and is not a business as usual, politically expedient choice. Let the current turmoil and emotion subside. Then make a choice.

And by the way – I still don’t want it to be Clinton.


Blogger steve said...

Whatever it takes to beat McCain is the ticket. If Obama & Clinton can sort of close the wounds of the primary & define her role as a VP, then I say select her.

Given the histoical value of the race, having a black man & a woman on the same ticket would really be a ticket of change. Or, Obama can look at the fact that over the last 12 months he's made up a 30 point defecit when & no one even knew his name a year ago. He may think he's come this far and doesn't need any kind of trump card to win.

So, we'll see how it plays out.


7:02 AM  

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