by D. Cupples | New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is set to endorse Barack Obama at a campaign event in Oregon today. Richardson, who withdrew from the Democratic presidential race in January, is a superdelegate. The Associated Press reports:
"'I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America's moral leadership in the world,' Richardson said in a statement obtained by the AP. 'As a presidential candidate, I know full well Sen. Obama's unique moral ability to inspire the American people to confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad in a spirit of bipartisanship and reconciliation.'" (AP)
Gov. Richardson can endorse whomever he likes and for whatever reason. But on what evidence did he base the statement that Sen. Obama can "bring our nation together" and promote "bipartisanship and reconciliation"?
These days, Sen. Obama is not having much success uniting his own party. In December, most Democrats (even Hillary supporters) seemed to see Obama as a fine option if he becomes the nominee and a fine vice president if he doesn't.
Just last week, Pew released a poll indicating that 25% of pro-Hillary Dems plan to vote for John McCain if Obama becomes the Democratic nominee.
That's not party unity. That's a sizable chunk of Dems viewing a Republican (one who recently embraced some of George Bush's policies) as preferable to Sen. Obama.
In public, Sen. Obama has not been particularly nasty or divisive. Neither has Hillary. Most politicians have enough self-control to avoid being terribly unpleasant in public. (I'm not counting Joe Biden, John McCain or Dick Cheney among them.)
Less publicly, however, Sen. Obama's campaign has been divisive and polarizing. On March 11, for example, the campaign sent a fund-raising email stating that Sen. Clinton attacked Obama's supporters.
That email was as divisive as it was factually questionable. It was also hypocritical, given that the Obama campaign has tried to market Obama as a unifier (as opposed to a divider). Such hypocrisy also left him vulnerable to questions about whether his image and substance are in sync.
Sen. Obama's campaign began sewing seeds of divisiveness and polarization in January, with the absurd notion that voters had to choose between "Change" and "Experience." Actually, a person with experience (Hillary) can effect change -- as can a person with less experience (Obama).
Obama's campaign also tried to package him as having clean hands and advocating a new (cleaner) style of politics -- the implication being that Hillary Clinton was into dirty, old politics. That imagery likely drew some supporters to Obama.
In February, Sen. Obama's wife said on Good Morning America that she might not support Hillary against John McCain if Hillary becomes the nominee. This not-so-unifying message came from the person closest to the candidate.
This primary season's standard has been that a spouse's words can be attributed to the candidate (e.g., Bill Clinton). True enough, Michelle Obama hasn't been a high-level politician, but she has been a political wife for more than a decade. She's not naively wandering around the forest.
Admittedly, Obama's campaign (and some media) have promoted unity -- among Hillary supporters and right-wing commentators (e.g., Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, and Charles Krauthammer). MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said that his Republican mother feels defensive of Hillary.
They've found common ground in opposing Obama (and Obama-friendly media bias). I doubt that many Hillary supporters actually started agreeing with right-wing commentators on other issues, but it's more than a little odd that any Hillary supporters find temporary comfort from such commentators.
Is this the kind of unifying power for which Richardson praised Obama?
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