The ongoing bit of news that came out over the week, but I didn’t blog about, was a big mistake made by the Clinton campaign. I didn’t write about it because I wanted to wait until the fallout started. That’s when this issue was going to get interesting. And it didn’t take long for the impact to start a reaction or three.
It’s recognised by anyone watching the Democratic primary race that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a brokerer, a deal-maker, a really powerful Democrat, and one of the top 3 superdelegates to get an endorsement from. Should Obama get her endorsement, the race would be officially over. I guarentee you that. So why would you do something that pushes her towards endorsing Obama if you’re Clinton? Because that’s what happened last week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it would be damaging to the Democratic party for its leaders to buck the will of national convention delegates picked in primaries and caucuses.
“If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what’s happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic party.”
Which saw me boldly proclaim that Obama became the Democratic candidate then and there. I maintain that position because that’s my belief in what the superdelegates should do, and that’s the most fair outcome. The same sort of thoughts (that saying something like that made Obama the candidate, not that that’s how the superdelegates should vote) must have set off some alarms in the Clinton campaign, because that letter was drafted.
For the people that didn’t read the letter, it’s basically a shakedown and threat to Pelosi – either rescind those comments and say that the superdelegates should vote for the candidate they think is best, or we won’t donate to the Democratic party again. It’s blackmail, it’s a threat, it’s ugly politics. It’s a way for these donors to get a puppet of theirs into the White House. We know that Obama doesn’t take the ‘big’ money like Clinton, so they are better off if Clinton gets into the White House.
Like I said, a really stupid move by the Clinton campaign (do you really think that these 20 donors thought it up themselves?) in that it’s reaching for a gun against the most armed Democrat out there. Not a smart idea to threaten the woman who has the most sway over the superdelegates – the people you need to win the race!
The Obama campaign was the first to react. Spokesperson Bill Burton had this to say right after the letter was made public:
This letter is inappropriate and we hope the Clinton campaign will reject the insinuation contained in it. Regardless of the outcome of the nomination fight, Senator Obama will continue to urge his supporters to assist Speaker Pelosi in her efforts to maintain and build a working majority in the House of Representatives.
Straight away, that response does two things. The first is that it ties the letter to the Clinton campaign, when originally it wasn’t necessarily assoicated with Clinton herself. It was a bunch of donors who could have gone rouge. Unlikely, but could have. Now, everyone will be thinking Clinton was responsible if she doesn’t denounce. She didn’t denounce, and, thus, she might as well have penned it herself.
The second thing the Burton response did was side up further to Pelosi. It said ‘Well, we’ve got your back, we still like you, we’re going to be good for you and for the party. Yep, no headaches from the Obama team. Now, how about an endorsement?’ He played up the importance and the role of Pelosi and her job while the other side was happy to cut her down to a mere spokeswoman. It was good politicking by the Obama campaign.
The next to react, and as you would expect with the speed of news spreading on the Internet, was the website MoveOn.org. It’s a pro-Democratic website that resoundingly endorsed Obama back on February 4, just prior to Super Tuesday. Obviously a move like this by the Clinton campaign would get a few people annoyed. But the reaction by MoveOn.org was really great. In a show of strength, instead of just e-kicking and e-screaming about it (which effectively boils down to crying about the letter in forums), the website and its subscribers started a movement.
The website has a petition up for people to sign saying that they will donate money to the Democratic party, and that Pelosi shouldn’t be afraid to confront those who wrote the letter. MoveOn.org is getting people out in force to say to Pelosi ‘Look, you don’t need those 20 people’s money – you have millions of people who have your back right now. Don’t cave in!’ The organisers had this to say about the whole issue:
It’s the worst kind of insider politics – billionaires bullying our elected leaders into ignoring the will of the voters. But when we all pool our resources, together we’re stronger than the fat cats. So let’s tell Nancy Pelosi that if she keeps standing up for regular Americans, thousands of us will have her back. And we can more than match whatever the CEOs and billionaires refuse to contribute.
It’s a fantastic, democratic, grass-roots move by the website. Very admirable, I think. This movement provoked the Clinton campaign to actually come out and claim some responsibility for the letter:
We got a heads up that a letter was being sent, but we didn’t know what was in it and that was it. Our supporters let us know that they were sending something over.
Maybe it’s my naivity on all this, but here’s the metaphor I think of it as. You get into a fight at school. There’s a process that needs to be followed for both you and the other person in the fight, whether it be suspension or whatever. Then you get a call from one of your friends saying that they are going to the principal to talk to him. That’s my take on the whole letter. Now, if your friend calls you and tells you this, aren’t you instantly going to ask ‘What are you going to say?’ For the Clinton campaign to say they knew nothing about the content of the letter is another slap in the face for the people of America. Never have they been treated with so much disdain by a candidate in a primary election.
Of course, the comments by the Clinton campaign didn’t denounce the letter either:
I think that the letter speaks for itself. There’s clearly a broad feeling among many Democrats, many people who are active in the party, that the role of superdelegates is to exercise independent judgment, to make their decision based on what is best for the party, what is best for the country.
Like hell it does! It’s 20 rich people who don’t want their puppet strings cut. It’s not a braod feeling, it’s not anything else than what I just said!
But none of these were the reactions I was waiting for. I wante dto see how Pelosi reacted. Why? Because there were three options for her. One was to bow to the donor’s wishes. Another was to come out all guns blazing, ripping heads off (which she is entitled to do at the moment). And then there was the option were she could walk back out, cool, calm, and collected as if the letter was nothing, and continue to suggest that Barack Obama is the candidate. First, Brendan Daly, a Pelosi spokesperson, came out and said:
The speaker believes it would do great harm to the Democratic Party if superdelegates are perceived to overturn the will of the voters. This has been her position throughout this primary season, regardless of who was ahead at any particular point in delegates or votes.
Speaker Pelosi is confident that superdelegates will choose between Senators Clinton or Obama — our two strong candidates — before the convention in August. That choice will be based on many considerations, including respecting the decisions of millions of Americans who have voted in primaries and participated in caucuses.
So Pelosi was standing by her remarks that she made that triggered the letter. Fantastic. But what was better were the unnamed reactions, and the ‘off the record’ remarks. First, a senior aide to a congress-person who actually supports Clinton said:
[There are] grumblings that pressuring Pelosi was a stupid thing to do [because it looks like they were] bullying the speaker.
Another aide, working for a senator yet to endorse either candidate said:
If the misguided effort hasn’t already blown up in their face, mark my words it will. For the life of me how they think they can win this argument with the Speaker is beyond me.
A neutral congressperson had this to say. Before I get to it, I’ll say something. The donors who were threatening to not give money to the party were threatening to not give the Democratic institution called the DCCC money. It’s like the ‘bank’ of the Democratic party. Anyway, here’s what was said:
Members of Congress – who are superdelegates – make up the DCCC. Threatening the DCCC is essentially threatening the very superdelegates Hillary Clinton is trying to court. The Clinton donor letter will just push undeclared superdelegates in Congress leaning toward Obama to endorse him sooner. It also reinforces the notion that the Clintons will destroy the party to win the White House. I just don’t get it.
And those three things are exactly why I was excited about the letter. Clinton has destoryed her race, her chances of winning, and is progressively destroying her party. I was waiting to see if anyone would say that the move was stupid (check), if the move would backfire (check), and someone to ask what the frig she was thinking (check).
But a spokesperson is only a mouth. When was the big gun herself going to come out? Well, over the weekend, it happened. Pelosi had this to say:
Here’s what you and I can’t let happen. We can’t allow the tension and pressures of a spirited presidential contest to spill over and harm hard-working Democratic candidates running to strengthen our Democratic majority in the House. I will do whatever it takes to protect our candidates and make sure their campaigns to drive change forward don’t skip a beat. I need you to do the same.
Demure? Soft? Hollow? Maybe. But consider this for a moment. She didn’t cave to the donors. First, she said that she still supported her statements about superdelegates endorsing the candidate with the most pledged delegates. In fact, she said it twice. Then she said what she said in that email. Given her role in the DCCC:
Always a part of the DCCC’s end of quarter fundraising program and, like previous her e-mails, has called for Party unity to elect a Democratic President and to strengthen our majority Congress,
her email, as I read it, was a message that she wasn’t about to be strong-armed and pushed around, not even threatened by either campaign. And after that, she’s not about to let some squabbling and pathetic campaign jeopardise the Democrats’ chances of getting the White House back. As I read her statements, she’s fed up with the childish politics, and I fully expect some big words, endorsements, and politicking to happen in the next week or so. She wants this race over, the rest of the party wants this race over, the majority of people want this race over, and the candidate who will run in the November election, Obama, wants this race over so he can get on with his real job.