The Political "Brief"
Star Power, Mississippi Primary, Wyoming, Client No. 9 & Etc...
When is celebrity too much in politics?
Some people think that having a name that sounds like he's the 20th hijacker handicaps Barack Hussein Obama. Not so. "I'm on the train with Hussein" is a saying gaining steam with the Democratic underground, acknowledging and poking fun at the negative stereotypes attached to a name linked to 1) a brutal dictator & enemy of the state and 2) Islam, what many view to be the Enemy.
It's only one indication of the celebrity of Obama, the broad appeal he has going for him. He's won a Grammy, has a hit music video, was photographed swimming and shown off in People. Few politicians ever reach this level of stardom, but he did it with relative ease and quickly. Does this bode ill for him as a President, to be seen as a rock star before policy-maker? His supporters say no. In fact, this helps him reach a broader audience, couching his candidacy in terms of "star power" and not politics as usual.
The meteoric rise of Barack Obama began before he gave his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, eclipsing Kerry's own speech later in the event. As soon as he began moving through Illinois' state house, there were whispers among Democratic rank-and-file - and kingmakers - that he was the star to guide to the top of the heap. Peter Fitzgerrald leaving after one Senatorial term, and the IL Republican party awash in scandal and apathy, opened the door for a Democrat to step onto the national stage. Obama handily won in the primary and beat the carpetbagger Alan Keyes in November '04. It was a big year for him, and since then, he's been running for president, whether he knows it or not.
Some have cynically referred to him as the Great Black Hope, the one black man (who is half-white) who has a real chance to win the Presidency. The young, the old, the disenfranchised, the Hollywood liberal elite - all have flocked to his banner, shouting "Change!" as though he is the only person who had the ideas he has. But what are those ideas? Let's not think about that; why not watch him give a speech set to a hip pop music video on YouTube? It's far more fun to celebrate the cult of personality that has erupted around him over the last four years than worry about such silly things as concrete policy. His speeches are rallying cries for hope, for change, for telling the naysayers that Yes we can!
Thinking this way, as many of his supporters do, Obama's campaign runs the risk of his message - and his Movement's - being lost in the cheers when he walks into a room or repeats that mantra as though it were a catchphrase for some sitcom character. We haven't stopped to look at the man in the suit as much as we've been entranced by the Beatles-like frenzy that surrounds him. SNL did a parody a few weeks back where the debate moderators were fawning all over him as some sort of second coming; they were honored - privileged - to be in his presence. Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and John Legend are hosting a contest to see what supporter can come up with the best 30 second ad spot for Obama.
When will we stop focusing on the sensation and start honing in on the substance?
At this point, if Obama doesn't get the nomination, there'll be a political split the likes of which we haven't seen in modern political history. He will come out of the primary season with the most pledged delegates and votes. Right now, according to CNN, he leads 1,404 to Clinton's 1,243. The major debates of the week center around the delegations from Michigan and Florida, as well as Geraldine Ferraro.
Florida Democrats have concocted a plan combining in-person voting and mail-in votes, the former taking place June 3rd. 210 (D) delegates were stripped from FL, and when the state voted anyway in January, it went for Hillary (50%, over Obama's 33% and Edwards 14%). Does that mean the re-vote would fall the same way? Hard to say with Obama's momentum what it is, but it's likely. That would give her another "national state" in her column, giving her all of them so far (save IL, which blah blah blah). She says go for it! with a revote, and Obama wants the DNC to decide, reminding us rules were broken.
The rational for the Dems' primary schedule revolves around history and demographics, wanting a mix of the party base to participate before the country as a whole dives in. Florida and Michigan are diverse states, and give a national perspective to the vote, but that's what Super Tuesday is for, DNC officials argue. Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC and still bitter in voice and demeanor, is open to suggestions but offers no direct solution to cut through the controversy. We'll no more over the next few weeks.
On the primary front, Obama won in Mississippi (61% to 37%). Granted, this only nets him 5 delegates, and the he got the black vote by over 90% (Miss. is 1/3+ black); it's not some huge shocker here. Were this Ohio, yes, but not Mississippi. The shocker would've been a 51/49 win for him, with Hillary barreling up from behind, cutting into a state demographically in Barack territory. That all said, she should've broken 40%.
Obama also won the Wyoming caucus, first Democratic contest there I think since ever. Like that enthusiasm was centered around Hillary....
As mentioned earlier, Geraldine Ferraro made some comments this week: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he were a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept." How could she not think this would raise hackles?
Regardless of the accuracy of the statement, and the cynicism it means is inherent in the country and political system, such a key player in Clinton's campaign and Democratic history (first woman VP candidate...or woman on a major party Presidential ticket, for that matter) should've known better. That comment of hers was going to be said by someone, but it should have been and underling, a disposable element. Now, Ferraro handicaps Clinton, attaches the spectre of racism and brings any positive media spin she had since mini Super-Tuesday (March 4th) to a standstill.
She claims reverse racism, that because she is white, people are in an uproar. Hypothetically speaking, were it a black Clinton supporter, would her claim hold water? I tend to think there would still be a furor, but not to the same degree. Instead of "racist," we'd hear terms synonymous with "traitor." What rankles some is that Ferraro is actually a charitable person, and a champion of civil liberties. Her comment comes from her position as a female politician seeing a sexist media keep Hillary's notable and historic candidacy as somehow less than Obama's. Which matters more, the first black or the first woman as President? It's a question she posed, in a roundabout way, and the uproar provides and answer.
Who is Client Number 9? Gov. Elliot Spitzer of New York, a crusader against corruption, graft, prostitution and organized crime has admitted (more/less) to using a prostitution agency, at least once. He did not live up to his own standard, he said in a statement, his shattered wife numb at his side, and he will resign as of Monday, 3/17/08. What does this matter? Aside from the wild hypocrisy it raises, Hillary loses a superdelegate. The Lt. Governor takes over (he's also legally blind, so he could always claim he thought it was his wife...) and his position remains vacant until the state gov't can straighten it out with an election or legislated appointment. Because both Gov. and Lt. Gov. are superdelegate positions from New York, and both were for Hillary, she loses Spitzer's vote and doesn't make it up with a replacement for soon-to-be Gov. David Paterson.
The Democratic nomination might come down to a few dozen votes, but not one.
What more can I say? We're weeks out from the Pennsylvania primary, Hillary is polling in a statistical dead heat nationally vs. Obama and in a head-to-head with McCain (so is Obama) and Romney is jockeying for the VP slot. Republican news is slow, Democratic news keeps recycling and scandals are perennial.
More news later, as I see fit to plagiarize other blogs.
Hooper, Agent of H.A.M.M.E.R.*
Heirarchy for Annihilation, Mass-Murder, Extortion and Ruin
A Republican P.A.C.