Tag Archives: Mike Huckabee

Hillary Clinton: The Comeback Kid Does It Again…and Again…and Again

Senator Hillary Clinton, RFK Jr.'s choice for President

(Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton: She takes a licking and keeps on ticking)

CLINTON: THE COMEBACK KID 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

After 11 straight primary losses in a row, there’s only one word (or an old Rolling Stones song, if you prefer) to describe how Hillary Clinton’s supporters must be feeling today: Satisfaction.

Last night, Clinton once again stunned the pundits and savants by pulling off a sweep of three key primary states in what by any standard must be deemed an impressive comeback.

Just a week ago, the press and pollsters were all but declaring her candidacy dead in the water. Again. And so in a command performance of Senator Clinton’s astounding comebacks in New Hampshire and on Super Tuesday, she proved `em all dead wrong. Again.

I DIDN’T MEAN TO SAY I TOLD YOU SO, BUT…

If there is one time-honored rule of modern politics, it is: never count the Clintons out.

No matter how many scandals may befall the Democratic golden couple, no matter how many “Hillary Haters” there are out there, no matter how many attacks Hillary takes for being too-this-or-too-that, she survives it all and somehow seems to take it in stride. Like Elton John, she’s still standing, baby. And she’s still fighting. More than that, she enjoys a good scrap. Which means she’s one hell of a good politician.

Love her or hate her, you’ve got to admit this woman is a master of the political art. With a keen sense of knowing when to pull back on her opponent and when to pounce, Hillary Clinton stayed above the fray earlier in the campaign by letting her husband do the dirty-work.

The former president took the flames for his comments about Barack Obama on the campaign trail while Hillary took the high road. Brilliant good-cop/bad-cop strategy, and unprecedented at that; who ever heard of a former president and first lady tag-teaming her opponent in a presidential race? Who could have been ready for it? Certainly not their unfortunate opponent, who was too blindsided to respond adequately. (“At this point, I’m not exactly sure which Clinton I’m running against,” quipped a baffled Senator Obama.)

Shedding a few perfectly-timed tears on the eve of the Hew Hampshire primary (when she was trailing by as much as 13% in the polls) didn’t hurt a bit, either.

Even when many within the Kennedy family (longtime Clinton allies) split off and endorsed Obama just after the South Carolina primary and all the pundits once again declared this was surely the end for Senator Clinton’s candidacy, she rebounded again on Super Tuesday, claiming the biggest prize of all, California…even with a Kennedy sitting in the Governor’s mansion. (Maria Shriver had just endorsed Obama two days earlier.)

You wanna talk about Shock and Awe? How about Clinton winning Massachusetts, the home state of Democratic darlings Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, who also endorsed Obama?

Then there were those 11 straight primary losses. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. The mainstream media could hardly wait to write her political obituary and deem her as insignificant to this race as Mike Huckabee. But then… something happened in the week before the March 4th primaries.

Something turned this thing in Clinton’s favor last night, and now all the pundits scratch their heads in bewilderment and engage in more Wednesday-morning quarterbacking. Particularly amusing was watching the MSNBC gang, who can’t seem to bring Obama enough pillows here lately. (Although Clinton is not my candidate, I’ve got to tell you that I rather enjoyed watching these overpaid geniuses try to figure out what her secret was.) How did she do it, despite their best efforts to effectively kill her campaign?

WAS OBAMA OVERCONFIDENT OR DID CLINTON JUST TRY HARDER?

Here in Austin, Texas, I had a front row seat for the whole process and can easily lay out how Clinton’s victory happened. Simply put, Hillary and her campaign staff worked their asses off. The Clinton campaign did a lot more than just throw a zillion ads on TV. They didn’t just relax and wait for the inevitable votes to come rolling in. They took nothing for granted this time.

From my standpoint on the ground here, not just as a political reporter but as a voting citizen, here is what I personally saw: over the past three weeks, every single candidate (regardless of party affiliation) has called my home to ask for my support. EXCEPT, to my surprise, Barack Obama.

I’ve recieved numerous pieces of direct mail from every candidate running for dog-catcher, let alone the presidency…everyone, that is, except Barack Obama. Campaign volunteers have come to the door pushing their candidate’s literature under my nose so often that I nearly ran out of milk and cookies to offer them all and began to reconsider just how far this whole Southern hospitality thing should really go.

Not that they weren’t pleasant to talk to…all of them were, even the Republicans. (Ron Paul’s people were especially cool to hang out with – hell, I even invited them to stay for lunch.) As a political animal and staunch independent with no dog in this race, I quite often enjoy hearing their sales pitches and of course, engaging them in a bit of friendly debate. So I sparred with campaigners for John McCain (thoroughly enjoyable!) and the Clinton camp, too, of course. Was really looking forward to a tete a’ tete with the Obama people, but unfortunately, they never showed up.

Inexplicable as it seems, it’s true. As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m not supporting any of the current candidates in this race and therefore have no reason to lie. I’m just telling you what I saw – and most importantly, didn’t see. Never once did I get a piece of direct mail from the Obama campaign, not a single phone call, no email, no one knocked on my door. Meanwhile, every other candidate courted me like the belle of the ball.

Voters like that sort of thing, you know. When our state is in the primary spotlight, we enjoy the process of candidate courtship. Most of us do not object to a quick phone call or better yet, a personal visit. We may not wind up voting for you, but we sure like being asked to. Matter of fact, we are far more likely to vote for you if you simply ask for our vote. I know it sounds simple, but you’d be surprised just how well it really works. 

Barack Obama (Stetson and all!) in Texas

(Senator Obama may have learned a valuable lesson from his Lone Star defeat: that it takes a lot more than donning a ten-gallon hat to win the hearts, minds, and votes of Texans.)

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED? WELL…MAYBE NOT JUST YET.

Now, I’m not exactly sure what all those fervent, youthful volunteers over at the Obama camp do all day long -eat pizza, play video games, post Hillary-hatin’ attacks on Democratic Underground, who knows? – but they’re sure as hell not out knocking on doors and ringing phones. At least not in my neighborhood, which is largely comprised of young middle-class, college-educated whites and a mix of Hispanic and African-American families, presumably the target demographic they hope to reach.

Whereas the Obama campaign was conspicuously absent from my doorstep, mailbox and answering machine – hell, I didn’t even get one of the obligatory recorded messages from the candidate himself which are so popular nowadays – Camp Clinton pursued me fervently. Their approach was surprisingly personable, even…dare I say it aloud? – humble.

For example, two Sundays ago, my phone rang all day long with campaign calls – McCain, Huckabee, Ron Paul, Governor Rick Perry endorsing McCain, even Cindy McCain called with a pre-recorded pitch for her hubby (who doesn’t sleep around with attractive lobbyists)…to the point where I just let the answering machine take all these bothersome robot calls. It was bad enough to have my Sunday afternoon constantly interrupted by candidates I wouldn’t consider voting for anyway, but something about all these damn prerecorded messages was rather off-putting. If a candidate really wants my vote, you’d think they might go to the trouble to put a live human being on the phone.

Just when I was about to rip the blasted phone jack out of the wall, it rang again. I let the call go to my answering machine, thinking, “oh shit, here comes another canned campaign message,” and lo and behold, it was the sound of a real human being on the other end of the line. She introduced herself as a volunteer for Hillary Clinton, gave her name and a callback number, encouraging me to call anytime if I had questions for the candidate or wanted to volunteer. While I certainly had no intentions of doing either, something about the personal approach appealed to me and I picked up the phone.

The Clinton campaign volunteer I spoke to was a Hispanic woman calling from New Mexico, and she was audibly relieved just to hear a friendly voice on the line. It was obvious she hadn’t had much luck calling Texans today, and had already been yelled at a few times. Sheepishly, she went into her script about how men have been running the country forever (and just look what a mess they’ve made of things! My goodness gracious!) and didn’t I think it was time to give a woman a try?

Nice approach – and since I am female, I got script B. If I had been a male voter, I’m sure I would have gotten script A, as I somehow don’t think the whole feminist slant would have proved effective with menfolk down here in Texas. Nonetheless, after talking with the volunteer for a few minutes, it was apparent that Camp Clinton was putting in the effort that no other campaign was, and I must say, I was duly impressed.

(Not that it changed the way I voted, but it did change the way I view Hillary Clinton as a candidate, and to be honest, my impression is far more favorable than before. I respect any candidate who is hungry enough to work hard to win every last vote. That’s The Way It Ought To Be, dont’cha think?)

That was even before the now-infamous-but-effective “3 A.M.” ad hit the airwaves late this week, and before Hillary Clinton made her perfectly-timed, self-effacing appearances on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. All of this, combined with her raising questions about Obama’s NAFTA rhetoric and some of his campaign advisers in the days leading up to the Texas primary, was again a brilliant strategy and proved decisive in swaying the vote of the last-minute undecideds.

The proof of all that hard work and strategizing was in the pudding: big victories for Clinton in Rhode Island, Ohio and Texas.

THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING, BUT THE DEVIL IS IN THE DELEGATES

As the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding, but the devil is in the details.” And in this case, the details are the delegates. On that front, Obama is still leading in Texas.

Texas, always priding itself on being different (often just for the sake of being different), has an admittedly bizarre system of having both a primary and a caucus.

“Run that by me again,” you say?

Okay, here’s how it works: the delegate count is not given on a winner-take-all basis here. Two-thirds of the delegates are awarded by the popular vote count from the primary – then the remaining third are decided through caucuses held at local polling precincts the same night. After the polls close, you simply return to your precinct and caucus for your candidate, sometimes into the wee-wee hours.

While Clinton won the popular vote in Texas by a slim margin, Obama is doing very well in the caucus, the results of which are still being tabulated at press time today. If the caucus vote turns out as expected, Obama will beat Clinton by 10 points or more, which certainly makes a considerable dent in her delegate count. So win or lose, this thing may well turn out to be a draw..but it ain’t over. Just ask Hillary.

Little more than a week ago, everyone from James Carville to her own husband, former president Bill Clinton, were saying if she didn’t win big in Texas and Ohio, she would just have to fold up her tent and go home to Westchester. Well…better rewrite that headline.

Hillary may not have scored landslide wins across the board last night, but it was enough to keep her viable and very much in this race.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

While the Republicans caved quickly, the challengers fell away, the conservative opposition melted, and a nominee was decided last night in John McCain, the Democrats may well be taking their fight to the convention floor in Denver. And that’s five months away. While I like Barack Obama and think he’s a candidate with incredible promise, allow me to just offer a bit of advice on the subject of Hillary Clinton: if you think she’s going to drop out of this race before Denver, you’re out of your mind.

This resilient woman has proven herself not only a formidable political force to be reckoned with down through the years, but she has also proven in this race that she always knows the right move to make at the right time. She’s a shrewd strategist and a brilliant politician. She’s a tough campaigner and a down-in-the-alley streetfighter when need be. Just ask Barack Obama, who spent most of this week fending off the slings and arrows.

Is this good for the country? In my humble opinion, no. Is it good for the Democratic Party? Well, I’ll probably get shot for saying this, but yes, I think it’s very healthy for the Democratic process, and even for the party itself.

If this battle winds up on the convention floor this summer, not only will it be the most exciting convention in recent memory, but will keep the process exciting – not just for Democrats, but for the country and all who are closely watching our elections around the world.

After all, who wants to pick a nominee in February, forcing all other contenders out of the race? Borrrrrrring. We might as well nap `til November. And isn’t that exactly why so many Democrats fought against the idea of Hillary as the “inevitable” nominee all this year? Did this attitude not contribute to the sudden rise of Barack Obama as the anti-Clinton?

Hillary Clinton didn’t turn out to be the inevitable candidate she first painted herself to be, that’s a fact. Senator Obama is certainly giving her a good run for her money. But, Hillary has proven over and over again that she can’t be quite so easily dismissed or defeated.

In the fight for her political life these past few weeks, Senator Clinton has shown us that she’s still got “it” (whatever ‘it” is). Call “it” blonde ambition or fanatic feminism, a refusal to be a loser, an ego-trip, a mad grab for power, or what you will, but after last night, you’d also have to call her a winner.

Again.

So hold that obituary, MSNBC. I have a sneaking suspicion that Hillary just might surprise ya’ll a few more times before it’s all said and done.

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com.

 

 

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Filed under austin, election 2008, hillary clinton, media, politics, RFK Jr., robert kennedy jr., senator robert kennedy, texas, the kennedys, Uncategorized

Is Nader Nuts or The Bravest Man In America?

Ralph Nader on Meet The Press Feb. 24, 2008

(Ralph Nader said on “Meet the Press” that he will seek the presidency for a third time in 2008. He plans to announce a running mate later this week.)

IS NADER NUTS? OR THE BRAVEST MAN IN AMERICA?

Let’s face it – to run as an independent candidate in this year’s political climate, you’d have to be either richer than Bloomberg, crazier than Mary Todd Lincoln, or The Bravest Person In America.

Since Ralph Nader’s bank account doesn’t come anywhere close to that of Mayor Bloomberg’s, that pretty much leaves us with the latter two possibilities: he must be nuts or just really, really brave. Which is it? Well…that depends on who you ask, of course.

Ask any “good Democrat” and they’ll likely start sputtering obcenities about how Nader cost them the White House in 2000. Watch the veins pop out of their foreheads as they rant and rave “how dare he run again?” Simply bring up Ralph Nader’s name in their presence, and you’ll start to wonder who really is crazy around here, anyway.

Ask the Republicans, and you’ll get a more polite answer. Naturally. They seem to benefit nicely every time Ralph Nader throws his hat into the ring. Que Sera, Sera, they say with a shrug…whatever will be, will be.

Ask a progressive, and they’ll tell you that Nader is a hero for the common man, a real Democrat in an age of lost liberal principles. They’ll also tell you he’s got balls of steel to take on these corporate-controlled major party candidates. And you know, they’re right.

FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Maybe this is why Nader scares the Democratic party so much. He’s a tireless crusader, unafraid of speaking his mind to anyone. He never played political loyalty games or sat silent on any issue. Whether it was the President of General Motors or the President of the United States (Republican or Democrat), he held them accountable.

The truth of his record over the past 40-plus years cannot be denied. Nader fought for the little guy against big corporate interests and whupped `em time and time again. He was an environmentalist long before it was hip to be green – but never was he yellow. He’s been stabbed in the back by his own Democratic fellows so many times, he could be Swiss cheese with legs.

But that’s not the way it used to be.

Nader was once the Democrats’ Golden Boy in the 1960s; memorably taking the auto industry to task alongside Senator Robert F. Kennedy in nationally televised Senate hearings. He made headlines with his groundbreaking book, Unsafe at Any Speed, exposing those automakers who knowingly put profit above safety. 

Nader became an American folk hero when executives of General Motors hired private detectives to try and entrap him (unsuccessfully) in a sex scandal – they later apologized publicly and admitted they could not dig up even a speck of dirt on the man.

As a consumer advocate, he went on to create an organization of energetic young lawyers and researchers (known as “Nader’s Raiders”) who produced systematic exposés of industrial hazards, pollution, unsafe products, and governmental neglect of consumer safety laws. Nader is widely recognized as the founder of the consumers’ rights movement.

He played a key role in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Freedom of Information Act and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For the last three decades or more, Nader has continued to work for political reform through his watchdog group Public Citizen.

Ralph Nader testifies before the Senate in 1966

(Nader testifies before the Senate Commerce subcommittee in 1966)

And now, the unyielding consumer advocate who ran for president in 2000 and 2004, says he’s going to make another bid for the White House this year.

“I have decided to run for president,” Nader announced Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Although he isn’t getting any younger (he’ll turn 74 on February 27th), Ralph Nader says he feels a duty to enter the race because the major party candidates aren’t adequately addressing the influence of lobbyists and wasteful spending in government.

In other words, the real issue, the 800-lb. gorilla in America’s living room. The corporate cancer that is eating our country alive. But how can voters expect the two-party candidates to address the issue of corporatism when they themselves rely on corporate money?

“When you see the paralysis of the government, when you see Washington, D.C., be corporate-occupied territory, every department and agency controlled by overwhelming presence of corporate lobbyists, corporate executives in high government positions, turning the government against its own people, one feels an obligation to try and open the doorways,” Nader said.

IT’S A TOUGH JOB, BUT SOMEBODY’S GOTTA DO IT

When Nader formed a committee to consider a White House run last month, he said he believed the current contenders weren’t standing up enough to corporate interests.

“Look at the major areas of injustice, deprivation and solutions that are not being addressed by the major candidates,” Nader said in a Jan. 30 interview with Bloomberg News.

Among other issues, he cited the need for a “practical timed withdrawal” from Iraq, programs to crack down on corporate fraud and a rearrangement of the U.S. tax system.

Nader said last month that he would want to raise $10 million over the course of the campaign. By comparison, Clinton and Obama each have raised more than $120 million in political contributions.

“I offer the prospect of a competitive discourse over major areas of public policy that are being totally ignored or opposed by the major candidates, Obama, Clinton and McCain,” he told Agence-France Presse.

Nader said he expects his candidacy to do better this time around and will work to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states.

“This time we’re ready for them,” said Nader of the Democratic Party lawsuits that kept him off the ballot in some states.

Challenges to his ballot access would not be surprising, he says, given that both political parties typically treat third-party candidates as “second-class citizens.” Nader said he will decide in the coming days whether to run as an independent, Green Party candidate or in some other third party.

Pointing a finger at Republicans, he described McCain as a candidate for “perpetual war” and said he welcomed the support of Republican conservatives “who don’t like the war in Iraq, who don’t like taxpayer dollars wasted, and who don’t like the Patriot Act and who treasure their rights of privacy.”

So if McCain becomes the Republican nominee, expect more Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul Republicans crossing party lines to support Ralph Nader this year. Picking up these populist conservatives will certainly help Nader’s numbers, but will it make any difference against the Democrats in a general election? Even Nader thinks not.

“If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up.”

WILL NADER BE THE RAIDER IN `08?

Nader risks the wrath of Democrats, many of whom blame him for spoiling former Vice President Al Gore’s bid for the presidency in 2000. Nader got 97,488 votes in Florida, the state that decided that election; President George W. Bush ended up winning the state by just 537 votes.

Nader rejected the suggestion that his campaign cost Gore the election.

“If you look at it analytically, Mr. Gore would tell you that if he’d won Tennessee, everything else being equal, he would’ve been president,” Nader said. “It’s his home state.”

Nader won 2.7 percent of the national vote in 2000 when he was the Green Party candidate. In 2004, his independent presidential campaign drew 0.3 percent of the vote nationwide.

Nader dismissed Democratic criticism of his latest bid for the White House.

“For anybody who thinks that the third try is something that should be demeaned, it represents persistence, it represents never giving up the struggle for justice,” Nader said. “The forces of injustice never take a holiday.”

Ralph Nader in 1976

(Ralph Nader at a Public Citizen press conference, 1976)

CANDIDATES RESPOND

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Sunday called Nader’s decision “unfortunate.”

Senator Clinton said aboard her campaign plane on the way to Rhode Island that Nader’s candidacy is “not helpful to whoever the Democratic nominee is.”

Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, said that while Nader is “a heroic figure” for his work on behalf of consumers, “Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you’re not substantive.”

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said on CNN’s “Late Edition” program Sunday that Nader “would probably pull votes away from the Democrats, not Republicans.”

“Actually, Republicans would welcome his entry into the race,” Huckabee said.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat who supports Obama, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he doesn’t think Nader’s candidacy will affect the presidential race.

Well, that’s not exactly the way they felt eight years ago.

After Democrats lost the 2000 election, the party faithful’s first response was to clobber their old pal Ralph. Even the mainstream media got into the act, blaming Nader for everything from spoiling the election to the invasion of Iraq to the horrors a George Bush presidency has inflicted upon us all. Nader responded with some equally harsh words in a 2000 Village Voice interview, saying:

“By the way, not one of these critics called me to interview me or to get my views. And they’re reporters? They don’t want to have their fixed mindset challenged.

…And Katha Pollitt, I called her. In my view, she was making incorrect assumptions. I mean, I’ve fought for women’s rights since the ’50s. I’ve been a leader in documenting marketplace discrimination against women that jeopardizes their health, safety, and economic rights. Women pay more, whether for dry cleaning or unnecessary operations. This is something we could never get Ms. magazine and Gloria Steinem to take an interest in. She never called me either, and she said false things about me—that I only called her about platform shoes (which, by the way, broke a lot of women’s ankles). But we’ve talked about the WTO, about the plight of African women when they come down with malaria.

Bobby Kennedy Jr. never called me. When they don’t call, you realize there’s something less than authentic at stake.”

So I take it this means a Nader/Kennedy ticket in `08 ain’t gonna happen?

It’s really too bad, you know. If party loyalty weren’t always in the way, these two men should be natural allies. No doubt they would make one hell of a powerful ticket, a force to be reckoned with in November.

Seems that on every substantive issue, RFK Jr. and Ralph Nader are on the same side of the barricades. They’ve fought for the same causes all their lives and share core beliefs. Then there’s that connection to Bobby’s father, dating back more than 40 years.

But that was then, this is now. The party, and indeed it’s principles, have changed drastically over the past four decades – and some might argue, not for the better.

INDEPENDENTS FINALLY HAVE A CANDIDATE

I rather doubt that Nader, at the age of 74, really wanted to run again. He most likely had hoped someone else would do it this time so he wouldn’t have to. But no viable independent or third-party contender came forward. 

No one.

Millions of progressive, independent, Green Party and Libertarian voters cried out for a candidate to represent them — Ralph Nader listened. He took the risk one more time and threw his hat into the ring because…well…no one else would.

Love or hate Nader, you gotta respect the man for standing up again and going to bat for us. He’s doing what no one else dared to do in 2008 – and for that alone he deserves unqualified praise, not ridicule or scorn.

 

For more information about the Ralph Nader for President campaign, visit the official website: VoteNader.org.

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com. 

 

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Do Celebrity Endorsements Matter?

EVERYBODY WANTS TO GET INTO THE ACT

In light of the recent tug-of-war between the Clinton and Obama camps over who-has-the-most-Kennedys, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of this year’s other celebrity endorsements.

In the 2008 race, it seems Everybody Is A Star (as Sly Stone once sang) and of course, every candidate wants to be a rock star. Hey, even Mike Huckabee is a decent bass player, always making a point to jam with the band at campaign events and he looks pretty cool onstage …um…for a Republican, that is. (Just spare us John McCain singing “bomb, bomb, bomb…bomb, bomb Iran” again – please!)

Well, you know what they say – if you can’t be a rock star, try to be seen with as many rock stars as possible. If you want to throw off the old Washington fuddy-duddy image, you need movie stars, TV stars, hell, even porn stars to say you’re hip. Even better, get them to endorse and campaign for you.

But does star power really sway Americans at the polls? In our celebrity-obsessed society, “the Oprah effect” may just make a bigger difference this year than ever before. So here’s a look at who’s-endorsing-who in the Hollywood Who’s-Who – and a fascinating glimpse backwards at celebrity political endorsements of years gone by.

(Incidentally, if you’re old enough to remember Frank Sinatra singing “High Hopes” for Jack Kennedy’s 1960 campaign, you’re not old – you’re retro! – and that’s very cool nowadays. Bouffants and pillbox hats are making a comeback, too. So now your grandkids must think you’re totally groovy, baby…especially if you have one of these up in the attic: )

Frank Sinatra 45 rpm record of

45 r.p.m. record (anybody remember those things?) of JFK’s 1960 campaign theme song. But don’t let the label fool `ya – it’s Sinatra doing the vocal – not Kennedy, thankfully.

THE STAR-SPANGLED BANTER

Monday night’s “O’Reilly Factor” featured a video clip of 50 Cent in a brief in-car interview. When asked why he endorses Sen. Hillary Clinton, he replies: “I think she’ll do a good job.”

The clip cuts to the end of the interview, and as the reporter steps out of the car and thanks “Mr. Cent” for the ride, 50 Cent adds: “I’m not sure America’s ready to have a black president. I think they might kill him.”

Although their endorsements stem from various reasons and issues, dozens of celebrities — from A-listers to D-listers — have publicly announced support for candidates for the 2008 primary election. Most recently, John Mayer and Perez Hilton joined 50 Cent on Clinton’s campaign trail. Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and folk singer Arlo Guthrie are Ron Paul supporters, and Usher, Ne-Yo and the Goo Goo Dolls are backing Sen. Barack Obama.

Musicians and actors are not the only ones voicing their support. Three of America’s notorious action heroes — Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), the Terminator/Governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Walker, Texas Ranger (Chuck Norris) — endorse Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, respectively.

“Chuck Norris doesn’t endorse. He tells America how it’s going to be,” Huckabee says in a “Chuck Norris-approved” campaign advertisement.

Stallone announced his endorsement for McCain on Fox News in January, expressing his appreciation of McCain’s military service in the Vietnam War. And it’s not hard to see why a beefcake actor like Stallone would be drawn to the war veteran candidate, regardless of whether he agrees with McCain’s views on Second Amendment rights.

“There’s something about matching the character with the script, and right now, the script that’s being written in reality is pretty brutal and pretty hard-edge, like a rough action film, and you need someone who’s been in that,” Stallone said in his interview.

However, it’s not easy to tell whether celebrities’ endorsements have had significant impact on individual candidates’ campaigns. No doubt Oprah Winfrey’s support for Obama has captivated America’s attention. But it is difficult to say if pornstar Jenna Jameson’s — and the group of exotic dancers from the New York City club Scores, for that matter — endorsement of Clinton has attracted much more than an afterthought.

Celebrity endorsements are nothing new. Former President Warren G. Harding is frequently considered to be the progenitor of the celebrity endorsement, running for president in 1920 with the support of silent movie stars Lillian Russell, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Al Jolson.

Former President John F. Kennedy had the Rat Pack on his side in 1960, although he distanced himself from the group based on rumors that it had mob connections. And former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt even had the endorsement of a B-List movie star by the name of Ronald Reagan.

Obama's Star Power 

Usher and will.i.am are among the celebrities lending name recognition to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.

But with all of these presidential endorsements, the question still remains: Do celebrity endorsements affect voters’ preferences? Although data on the subject are sparse, Political Science Associate Professor David Jackson of Bowling Green State University has conducted the most research in the field.

In his studies, Jackson determined that celebrities’ political views are likely to strengthen the support of those who already were inclined towards that position, and also make unpopular views slightly more acceptable to those less inclined to agree.

However, translating these views into votes is less certain.“May we extrapolate this to vote choice? I’m not sure, but I think so, because the results are modest.” Jackson concluded in one study.Statistics from Super Tuesday showed that 56 percent of voters under the age 29 voted for Obama.

While there is no proven direct link between this result and celebrity endorsements, entertainers geared toward the younger generation — John Legend, Scarlett Johansson and Win Butler from the Arcade Fire — have sided with the Obama camp.

This trend was demonstrated when will.i.am released a music video — with the kind of organization previously seen only in “We Are the World”-like collaborations — that included an ensemble of famous entertainers, including Nick Cannon, Herbie Hancock and Adam Rodriguez of “CSI Miami,” among others, supporting Obama. The video, set to the senator’s “Yes We Can” New Hampshire speech, grabbed the attention of pundits, and it quickly spread to YouTube where it has garnered more than 4 million views since the week of Super Tuesday.

On the other side of the Democratic campaign, CNN polls from Super Tuesday showed that 59 percent of white women voted for Clinton, who was largely endorsed by veteran entertainers geared toward an older, whiter audience — Madonna, Jon Bon Jovi and Barbara Streisand.

Whether celebrities directly prompt voters to join in supporting their respective candidates, endorsement by artists in certain genres and age groups at least attracts the attention of various communities.Support from prominent celebrities in more obscure genres allows candidates to gain name recognition in niche communities through non-traditional, less political means.

Take lyricists Common and Talib Kweli, who released tracks in 2007 rapping about Obama that aim to capture the attention of the neo-soul, hip-hop community.“My raps ignite people like Obama,” Common raps in “The People,” the first single from his 2007 album Finding Forever, while a shot of an Obama bumper-sticker juxtaposes the lyrics in the music video.

Much of endorsement is about gaining popularity, and celebrity endorsement goes both ways: everybody wins. For some entertainers, passionate endorsement actually ignited their popularity — like Obama Girl and Taryn Southern from the “Hott 4 Hill” video on YouTube. (Although Obama Girl’s crush apparently didn’t exactly bring her dancing into the polls on Tuesday. Turns out she didn’t vote.)

For other celebrities, endorsing a candidate helped promote their own popularity as well. For instance, Sacha Baron Cohen, playing his role as Borat Sagdiyev, spoke to Reuters last November in his characteristic broken English about the ’08 race: “I cannot believe that it possible a woman can become Premier of U.S. and A . . . I personal would like the basketball player, Barack Obamas, to be Premier.”

While it is questionable whether celebrity endorsements are in fact effective, the 2008 primary’s popularity contest shows that a candidate can’t afford to be without them. Maybe if Gov. Mitt Romney gained more star power and had more than Pat Boone and Donny and Marie Osmond on his side, he would have made it past Super Tuesday.

 

— David Marek and Michelle Ye Hee Lee of the Emory Wheel also contributed to this report.

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Op-Ed: The Night Dr. King’s Dream Came True

 

 

I Have a Dream Today
“I Have a Dream Today”

“NOW IS THE TIME TO MAKE REAL THE PROMISES OF DEMOCRACY”

Dr. Martin Luther King, from his immortal “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963.

Barack Obama Victory Speech, Des moines, Iowa, January 3, 2008

“THEY SAID THIS DAY WOULD NEVER COME”

- Barack Obama, Victory Speech in Iowa, January 3, 2008

Last night, America changed forever — and for the better.

Last night, Democratic voters in Iowa shocked the world — and the political establishment.

Last night, 12 days before his birthday and in the 40th year since his assassination, the people of Iowa made Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream come true. They judged a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

Last night, Iowa Democrats honored the highest ideals that President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy stood and fought for — the ideals that Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and so many other lesser-known but equally brave Americans gave their lives for. They handed Senator Barack Obama a clear and decisive victory in the first caucus of the 2008 presidential race.

Last night, history was made, a massive milestone reached in what JFK once called the long twilight struggle. The struggle is far from over; we cannot for one moment forget the sacrifices it took to get us where we are — right now, right here in America.

Few under the age of 30 who were fortunate enough to grow up in a largely colorblind and desegregated society can imagine a time when their black brothers and sisters could not even sit beside them at a public lunch counter. Not so long ago in this country, a black American simply seeking to attend a state-run university had to be escorted in by federal troops after riots erupted in the streets. The very act of casting a vote was enough to put one’s safety in danger. In 1961 — the year Barack Obama was born — merely asserting a citizen’s right to travel subjected the Freedom Riders to brutal beatings, assault with firehoses, and the teeth of Bull Connor’s unforgiving, bloodthirsty police dogs.

Few of us over the age of 30 could have imagined the reality of an African-American man being a serious contender for President of the United States in our lifetimes. Few could honestly believe that in the American heartland, in a state whose population is nearly 95% white, Iowans would choose a black man as the candidate best qualified to lead our country.

But they did. And it’s wonderful. Somewhere, MLK is smiling. 

“WE ARE ONE PEOPLE. AND OUR TIME FOR CHANGE HAS COME.” – OBAMA

While Barack Obama is not the first black candidate to win a presidential primary (that honor goes to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who won five primaries in 1984 and 11 contests in 1988), he has upped the stakes considerably. Jackson’s wins made history, but his long history as a civil rights activist unfortunately caused him to be labeled as a radical. Many said Jackson was too liberal, too polarizing a figure to be the party nominee, and gave him little hope of winning a general election. By contrast, Obama appeals to mainstream American voters of both parties, giving him a far better chance to compete in November.

Jackson, a former King aide, was standing beside him on the balcony of the Hotel Lorraine in Memphis when MLK was murdered. His presidential bids in `84 and `88 revived the spirit of Dr. King and this helped propel Jackson’s candidacy to victory in several primaries. Jackson carried mostly left-leaning states with large black populations (Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi in 1984, adding Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Michigan, Delaware and Vermont four years later), and was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination early in 1988.

Can it happen again? Can Obama do even better? Many believe that he can. What made his surprise win in Iowa so remarkable was not just the fact that he pulled it off in a a key early primary state which is almost all white, but the David-and-Goliath aspect of this race made his victory even more interesting. His opponent was a former first lady and the projected winner in nearly every pre-caucus poll. Jesse Jackson did not have to campaign against a former president (stumping for his wife) of his own party — and an incredibly powerful, well-financed political machine.

But perhaps the most critical difference of all is that Obama seems to be bringing the right message for the times in which we live. A message of hope, of change, of unity — and that this message is clearly striking a deep chord with America’s youth, who will be our future.

In his victory speech last night, Senator Obama spoke of hope winning over fear. “We are choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

“We are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States!” 

It doesn’t matter if Barack Obama is your candidate or not. At present, he is not my candidate. He is not Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidate. What matters is the seismic change in American society and culture Obama’s victory last night represents. And that will reverberate forever.

See this story for more coverage of the Iowa Caucus results, and all candidates in the race.

Copyright RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.

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