Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Virtues of being a Fighter not a Quitter

Barack Obama's campaign is in grave danger thanks to his pastor the Reverend Wright. Just as the whole pastorgate thing looked like it was dying, up pops Wright on national TV and according to the Washionton Post

Wright praised Louis Farrakhan, defended the view that Zionism is racism, accused the United States of terrorism, repeated his view that the government created the AIDS virus to cause the genocide of racial minorities, stood by other past remarks ("God damn America") and held himself out as a spokesman for the black church in America.

It wouldn't have been so bad if Obama had denounced Wright in no un-certain terms when the pastor problem first arose. Instead, Obama tried to explain the pastor and said he could no more denounce him than his own grandmother (who is white). The speech was very elegant and won many plaudits for it's prose, but from a political point of view many wondered why Obama didn't simply dump the pastor (who is clearly bonkers). He might as well have, as Pastor Wright seems to be speaking out now in revenge because he's ticked off that Obama didn't praise him to the skies in the speech. His behaviour would have been the same if Obama had denounced him, but at least moderates would still be onside. As things stand Obama, by hedging, has upset everyone.

Why did Obama not grasp the nettle earlier? Did he believe that denouncing the pastor would hurt him with the African-American community? He's surely wrong - African-Americans must be horrified that the pastor is stereotyping them so negatively on national TV just at the point they had thought they'd beaten back this sort of profiling.

Thank goodness Hillary is still in the race! If this gets worse, the superdelegates have the option of choosing Hillary as the least damaged candidate, whereas if it had been all over in February, they would have had the horrible prospect of watching a trainwreck, powerless to do anything about it. She's in the race simply because the people of New Hampshire, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other places were determined not to make the mistake they had made in 2004, when they chose too early before the candidates had been properly vetted (the 2004 race was practically over after New Hampshire). This time they've gone for a proper trial by ordeal to see what skeletons will surface (as they always do).

It's also a credit to Mrs Clinton herself that she's still there. She started off the campaign with the reputation of an ice-queen, distrustfully masking her thoughts. She got attacked relentlessly and viciously by everyone, being called a witch, a b*tch, the terminator, and worse and was repeatedly told to give up and step down. But she decided to fight and as she did so, the real Hillary broke through the mask, and she's proved herself feisty, full of nerve, un-expectedly warm and completely shameless in her determination to win - not only throwing the kitchen sink but boldly announcing in advance she'd do so. The only thing she didn't throw at Obama was Pastor Wright - he did that to himself.

It's hard not to smile and be charmed by this shameless, bravura and up-front display of guts. You know exactly where you stand with the Clintons. In a fight you'd want them on your side. People have criticised her chaotic campaign, forgetting that Bill Clinton's campaign (and indeed his entire white house administration) was equally chaotic. It's not always the case that disciplined campaigns such as that of Obama (and George W Bush before him) produce the best presidents. On the contrary, an atmosphere where people feel free to argue the toss prevents group-think, shows up flaws in arguments and in the end makes for better decision-making.

By holding firm, she's put herself into a position where she can now profit from Obama's mistakes. All eyes will now be on North Carolina and Indiana. The Wright thing can only hurt. They say you should never write off the Clintons. The last time they lost an election was in 1981. Since then they've been winning everything they contested, governorships, the presidency, the senatorship, now possibly the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for president again.

Even if she doesn't pull it off, the Labour party should take notice of how she's handled herself, because she's far more popular now than she was at the start of the contest. No-one likes people who pathetically give up and "resign themselves to losing". Everyone likes people with the gumption to fight because it implies you believe you have something worth fighting for.

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