You know what they're saying. They're saying we are mean. They're saying we are condescending. They're saying we are sexist. We are saying they're delusional. We are saying they're divisive. We are saying they're immature. But it wasn't always like this.
It wasn't always like this. I remember a time, not too long ago, when Obama supporters and Clinton supporters admired one another. Before things got so heated, Obama supporters - even before they became Obama supporters - would vigorously defend the Clintons to their Republican friends. I myself lost friendships defending the Clintons.
And I still defend the Clintons against silly attacks. Ridiculous assertions made by irresponsible Republicans that Bill Clinton didn't go after Bin Laden, despite the public record which shows that Clinton did send a number of cruise missiles in Bin Laden's direction, despite the fact that they missed their target. Ridiculous assertions that Clinton didn't help the economy and didn't help job growth. Ridiculous assertions that Clinton didn't reduce the deficit and the poverty rate.
I used to love the Clintons. I looked on them with such pride. And I always thought Hillary was such a great gal. I remember back in 1992 when the media trumped up that phony attack on her for saying, "I'm not like Tami Wynette here, just standin' by my man." I thought, 'You go, Hillary.' I really admired Hillary's strength and independent spirit.
So when it came to pass that Hillary was seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, I assumed she would win it easily. I did have a couple of concerns. I was afraid of the concept of the Republican attack machine going after the Clintons again, and I was fearful of her polarizing nature - though I definitely didn't blame her at all for this.
During the Fall of last year, I knew I liked pretty much all the Democratic candidates. What an embarassment of riches that was! Any one of them would make a fantastic President!. Dennis Kucinich for his absolute consistency and devotion to progressive causes. Chris Dodd for his superior knowledge of policy detail and excellent sense of compromise. Joe Biden for his foreign policy expertise and likeable nature. Bill Richardson for his down-to-earth regularness and deep weatlh of experience. John Edwards for his unswerving devotion to those less fortunate in our society. Mike Gravel for his obvious integrity and talent for telling it like it is. Barack Obama for his positive energy, his consistent opposition to the Iraq war and to failed Republican policies, and his transcendent charm and charisma. And yes, Hillary Clinton, for her mental toughness, her never-say-die attitude, and her understanding of the inner workings of Washington.
I swear, I must have changed my mind over two dozen times in the early part of this process. I always knew I liked Hillary, but as I stated, I had some worries about her electability. But, as I would point out to my friends, the "Clinton Machine" is a force to be reckoned with. And I firmly believed she could win Arkansas, West Virginia, and New Mexico, so that was a good start as far as electability goes.
I fell in love with Barack Obama watching his speech from the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Even my staunch, dyed-in-the-wool Repulican friend Jon exclaimed, "He hit it out of the park!" I liked Obama very much on just a gut level, but didn't know that much about him.
So, watching Barack Obama at the beginning of 2007, I thought,'Is he a real contender this time around? I was skeptical to say the least. So I gravitated to Joe Biden - I viewed him as a brilliant man and I thought his solutions for the Iraq crisis were the most intriguing. But then I would listen to Bill Richardson and I would really like what he had to say. Then it was John Edwards. Then it was Dennis Kucinich all over again, when he reminded us that he wanted the troops out of Iraq NOW. And then it was Mike Gravel with his eminently honest economic agenda. And Hillary Clinton for her wealth of knowledge.
When did I eventually gravitate towards Barack Obama? I think it was in December when I really became excited about his campaign. I had been following the polls and was surprised by how well Obama was doing in Iowa. So I read his 2002 Iraq speech. It was amazing. It was uncanny. Every single negative impact he said would happen in Iraq turned did happen.
I was also amazed to discover the breadth and depth of Obama's experience. He had been a community organizer, a Constitutional law teacher, a devout Christian, and a Harvard scholar.
It was around this time that a man outside my local grocery store was doing a voter registration drive. (As a side note, I was a registered Libertarian for a long time, but usually voted Democratic due to the Republicans' obnoxious pandering to the Bible-thumpers and their outrageously anti-intellectual policies on the environment.)
In any case, I decided on the spot to re-regsiter as a Democrat so I could vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming California primary. Needless to say, I was surprised and delighted at the strength of his showing in Iowa. But by the time New Hampshire came along, I had a slight change of heart. I actually thought to myself, 'Do I really want this to be over now? What about Hillary? She's been dreaming of this for decades. Isn't it Hillary's turn?' So I was a little unsure. It bears repeating: I really liked both Barack and Hillary a lot.
So when it came to pass that Hillary won New Hampshire, I thought, 'Okay, now it's a real race. Let's see what happens. May the best candidate win.'
The turning point in my thinking is very easy to find. I was driving home from work one day, listening to Johnny Wendell on KTLK and was shocked to learn that the Clintons were behind a lawsuit in Nevada, led by a teachers' union, the purpose of which was to change the rules in order to suppress voter participation in the polling stations in casinos. My thinking was, 'Wait a minute. The Clintons are trying to... Stop. People. From. Voting.' 'Hold the phone,' I thought to myself, 'Isn't that something ripped from the Republican playbook?'
To me, this was absolutely disgusting, outrageous, and almost unforgivable. True, I do admire the Clintons' toughness and their willingness to fight to win. But there's a right way to do that and a wrong way. The Clintons chose the wrong way. I remember so clearly listening to a woman in her 50's call into the Johnny Wendell show and expressing how she had always loved the Clintons but would no longer be supporting them. 'My thoughts exactly,' I reflected.
So the Clintons' reckless campaign continued, with Hillary's chief strategist Mark Penn attempting to marginalize Barack Obama (and marginalize the black community as a whole in my opinion) by sending out an internal email comparing Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson - which basically implied: black people vote for black people because they cannot think for themselves. The comparison of Obama to Jackson was parroted by Bill Clinton during an interview on BET - a network run by a major Clinton supporter.
Then came another outrage, in my view. Hillary Clinton stated that the civil rights movement would never have been successful without the advocacy of President Lyndon Johnson. While this was factually correct, it left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm sure in the mouths of millions of other Democrats. To me, when I heard it, it seemed to say: black people - you owe white liberals something so vote for me. This to me, was one of the most silly mistakes of the Clinton campaign. All the statement did was alienate people and lose votes.
It is important to note that at one point late in 2007, Hillary Clinton was crushing Barack Obama among black voters, outpolling him by over 30 points. True, black voters gravitated toward Barack Obama in a conspicuous fashion after Iowa. But the Clintons' racially-tinged statements helped to accelerate this trend.
But there was, in my mind, still some hope for the Clinton campaign. The California debate just prior to Super Tuesday was a marvelous outpouring of togetherness from both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The outcome of Super Tuesday was, at best, a split decision, with Obama taking more states and pledged delgates, and Clinton grabbing some of the biggest prizes (California and New York).
Following Super Tuesday, Obama went on a run of 12 straight victories which I found truly stunning. It wasn't a huge shock that he won these states. But the margins. 17 points in Wisconsin? 36 points in Washington? 30 points in VIRGINIA? Are you kidding me?
I was absolutely thrilled.
And then came the kitchen sink. The Clinton campaign, hopelessly behind in pledged delegates with almost no chance of winning that metric, decided to throw whatever they could at Obama, no matter how irresponsible, untrue, ridiculous, or dirty.
The official point of no return - the thing that made it absolutely impossible for Obama and Clinton to share the Democratic ticket for the Presidency was this statement made by Hillary Clinton on March 6th:
"I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy."
For any Democrat to place another Democrat below John McCain in terms of being qualified to be President was, in my mind, way beyond the pale. Way, way, way beyond the pale. Can anyone imagine what would have happened if John McCain had said to his fellow Republicans that Hillary Clinton would be a better choice than Mitt Romney? There would have been hell to pay. Amazingly, Hillary Clinton went on to repeat this idea at least three more times, culminating in this pearl of totally mean-spirited dishonesty:
"I have a lifetime of experience I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he made in 2002."
It was at this point that I began to grasp the full extent of Hillary Clinton's campaign: she would say just about anything to win. It reminded me of 2004, with the machinations of Karl Rove and the Bush campaign and the swift-boaters.
But it didn't stop there. There was Hillary Clinton declaring that she would be willing to "obliterate" Iran if they attacked Israel - a policy idea that even Pat Buchanan found offensive and outrageous. There was Hillary Clinton declaring her support for a "gas-tax holiday," a totally laughable and pandering move that was roundly and deservedly booed by economists and members of the press corps alike. There was the Clinton campaign (obviously caught) floating a picture of Obama dressed in traditional African garb in order to scare voters about his heritage. And there was Hillary Clinton saying Barack Obama wasn't a Muslim, "as far as I know," on national television - implying that he could actually be a Muslim - she just wasn't sure. There was Hillary Clinton's campaign strategist, Mark Penn, doing double-dealing with the Colombians (along with Bill Clinton), there was Hillary's outright falsehood regarding sniper fire in Bosnia, her lies on NAFTA, Bill Clinton's bullying of the press corps behind the scenes, and so on.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama was doing things like promising to fully investigate the Bush policy regarding torture.
And then, recently of course, there was the race card. It was dealt from the bottom of the deck. Hillary Clinton claimed with a straight face that she was getting the votes of the "hard-working Americans" - you know - the ones who are white - implying somehow that all the people who vote for Barack are lazy or don't work hard. Never mind the fact that, indeed, Barack Obama does have white working-class support and that it just happens to come more from the Midwest and West than from Appalachia. And never mind the fact that some of us who have white-collar jobs did, in fact, WORK OUR ASSES OFF to get through college and maintain, in some cases, three jobs at a time just to make ends meat while getting our degrees so we could go on to achieve more. And never mind the fact that there is a black working class and a Latino working class and an Asian working class and a Native American working class - all of whom are completely necessary to the success of our country.
And then there is the Clinton campaign's obsession with trying to change the rules in the middle of a contest and allow completely illegitimate primaries to count for something, even though there is clear evidence that hundreds of thousands of people skipped out on them because they were told their votes wouldn't count anyway. (How else does one explain that Democratic turnout relative to Republican turnout was far higher in Georgia and Missouri than in Florida or Michigan?)
But the most ridiculous accusation that the Clinton campaign has made against Barack Obama: He's sexist. The media is too, didn't you know? Oh, that's rich! In fact, I think I heard Barack obama say just the other day, "You know, I get the votes of the hard-working men. The hard-working black men in this country." And I think I heard Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews saying over and over again, "Can we really trust a woman to defend our country from terrorists?" Give me a break!
So it is for all these reasons, and many, many others that I don't even have time to mention that I fell out of love with the Clintons. Quite frankly, when I am being totally intellectually honest with myself, I cannot think of anything that Barack Obama has done or said regarding Hillary Clinton that is morally objectionable. He has been a paragon of patience and restraint in situations where I myself would have probably gone off the deep end. I guess that's the quality about Barack Obama that defines a great President.
In conclusion, I want to be clear that I used to love the Clintons. It was their ridiculous words and actions, over and over and over again during this Democratic primary that made me turn away from them. I still stand by my notion that if Hillary Clinton had run a positive campaign, absent of dirty tricks and divisive tactics, she would have been the nominee. I no longer believe that either Bill or Hillary Clinton have any integrity or care one iota about anything or anyone but their own power and status in this country. I remember with longing the first time I cast a vote for President of the United States. I voted for a vibrant, energetic, young-looking, fresh face; a man with little foreign policy experience who appealed to our better angels. I voted for Bill Clinton.