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March 08, 2008




I'd encourage you to listen to Samantha Power on BBC's "The Interview" before deciding that Obama's only getting advice from the hacks one expects to see in Presidential campaigns. She's gone, of course, but I was touched to think of a presidential candidate getting advice from someone who's really a human rights activist, not a calculating realpolitik type.

I guess we've gotten to that stage in the campaign where it won't be about what people really think anymore, just what they get caught saying in a "gotcha" moment, but I'm unhappy to think we no longer can hear candidates talk honestly about what matters in the nomination struggle now.

Let's hope that however it turns out, we see real change come November.

D. Cupples

Hi Bill,

I agree with you in that I wish this race weren't bloody to the point that issues are taking a back seat (and that the Dems are being so divided that McCain may end up in the White House whichever D gets the nomination).

About Ms. Power, there's an extreme irony, as I pointed out yesterday. As a human-rights expert, she KNOWS that one root of human-rights violations is dehumanization of others (the oppressed).

And yet, Ms. Power showed in a moment of candor that she thinks of Sen. Obama's opponent in a de-humanized light ("monster"). She didn't want the public to know her sentiments (hence, "off the record") -- but alas, now we do know.

I can't help but wonder if that's how Obama's advisers and campaign big-wigs talk about Hillary amongst themselves when journalists aren't around.

We saw George Bush dehumanize many opponents after 9/11 (e.g., Tom Daschel, who lost his race in part because the dehumanization worked with fearful voters).

We expect that from most modern Republicans and some cynical Dems -- but certainly not from a candidate who has been trying to sell himself based on the idea that he is above nasty politics and has clean hands that he will use to fight Washington's ways in general.

If Sen. Obama hadn't campaigned that way pretty heavily since January (and, via implicit comparison, essentially called Sen. Clinton dirty and old), "Monster-gate" wouldn't be an issue now.

How are you doing, btw? I'm so glad that the screenings have gone well. Let me know via email when I can post another plug.


Yeah, this whole thing is basically a race to fill the current news cycle with a favorable "gotcha" moment.

I couldn't care less about all the NAFTA stuff; as I said before, neither candidate made any promise that they will have any trouble keeping, and neither of them has any intention whatsoever of repealing the whole deal. This is 100% spin cycle, 0% real politics.

"Monster-gate" -- I mean, my goodness, is this NEWS? Power was clearly pissed off about the way the campaign played out in Ohio (and judging by Hillary's McCain>Obama comments of late, the way the campaign is headed), and vented. She said some very inappropriate things that were explicitly intended to be off the record, NOT campaign rhetoric. Unfortunately, the newspaper interviewing her decided that ignoring her intention on a technicality, and getting some free publicity, was worth making her lose her job. When it went public, she immediately apologized and resigned. Seriously, this is news? Somebody being screwed by an interviewer, caught with their pants down, and losing their job deserved a "-gate" designation?

As far as Iraq policy goes, Obama explained rather clearly what he meant in 2004 in the last debate, when he said (roughly) "once you drove the bus into the ditch, there's only so many ways to back the bus out." As for not relying on the "plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate" - again, this is news? OF COURSE you're going to look at things and tweak them if you take office in 10 months. Obama is essentially saying "here's what I think we should do right now", which gives us as voters a much clearer sense of what mindset he's operating from. As a rational voter, I know that things will be adjusted a little, but knowing what starting policy they will be adjusted FROM gives me more information. If he does deviate from this as president, he will be expected to give a clear explanation why. He's telling me what I should expect from him as president. This is not a bad thing in my opinion.


What you said about dehumanization struck at the heart of what's been increasingly bothering me about the Obama phenomenon.

His message of transforming politics is inpirational indeed, but his ardent supporters appear to see it only as a message for those who don't support him and don't take it to heart themselves. When Clinton goes negative, it's a bad thing. When they call her foul names and speak of her as if she invented evil, that's not considered 'negative', that's speaking truth. The hypocrisy in some quarters is astounding.

I still like Obama, but I'm watching this as a competion between two politicians, not as a contest between good and evil. Hillary is flawed and so is Obama. They are humna beings, after all.

I'm more interested in who has the best health plan, etc.

D. Cupples


Most voters aren't as rational (or knowledgeable or tuned in) as you. When they hear a campaigning politician say he or she will get the troops out in 16 months (or 30 months, whatever) they tend to believe it.

When a top adviser says that the campaigning politician doesn't really mean it, less-in-tune voters tend to smell double talk. That's what makes it news.

Power's Iraq interview happened before the "monster" comment. I suspect that the Obama campaign wisely started thinking about distancing itself from Power AFTER it got wind of the Iraq interview but before the "monster" comment.

If so, Rightly so -- given the public's PERCEPTION of the so-called NAFTA "double talk."

Power didn't "get screwed out of a job." She was a volunteer. Furthermore, she handled her position as a campaign representative very badly (personally oriented nastiness -- as opposed to just attacking Clinton's issue stances -- that Power had hoped to hide by going "off the record").

That's no way to represent a campaign or a government (except, maybe in the minds of Bush Adminsitration officials).

Lastly, the "NAFTA-gate" issue is not about the merits of NAFTA or both candidates' similar positions. It's that evidence surfaced that Obama's adviser had edited (for concerned Canadian officials) what Obama had only days earlier said to Ohio's (and the nation's) voters.

Admittedly, it wouldn't be news if the conversation hadn't taken place -- or if Obama's campaign hadn't denied that it had taken place before coming around to admitting that it did take place.

Even if I supported Obama, I'd see that as news (and a tad disturbing, given that the campaign is partly about cleaning up the ways of Washington).

D. Cupples


I'm with you re: being more interested in health plans (and the economy, the war, contractor fraud, corporate crime...).

I don't really have bad feelings toward Obama, as much as I do toward the way his campaign has gone. What first bothered me (in January) was the campaign's implications that voters had to choose between "Change" and "Experience" (which aren't mutually exclusive concepts).

I also resented the implication that Obama represents shiny-new politics while Hillary represents dirty-old politics. They've both slung enough dirt to convince me that neither candidate has clean hands.

You said it perfectly: they're both politicians and flawed human beings.

I just wish that the media and the more ardent supporters of both candidates understood that.

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