There are some strange things about Barack Obama who emerged from nowhere in 2004, indeed. But noone even seems to care. As someone who took part in the Berlin parliamentary election in 2006 as a candidate I will try to focus on 2 items: the background and the strategic aspect regarding the candidacy of Barack Obama against Hillary Clinton.
The Paul Simon Legend
The day Barack Obama entered the stage of Washington politics was when he got elected as United States Senator from Illinois in 2004. Before that he had served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004 with an unsuccessful Democratic primary run (1) for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in 2000.
But the foundation of his election as a senator in 2004 - and, in fact, also for his success in Iowa a few days ago - was a legend: the Paul Simon Legend.
Paul Simon, one of the most respected US politicians in recent decades, died on December 9, 2003, a few days after the former military agent had endorsed Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid in a telephone conference call he conducted from his hospital bed, despite being hospitalized and awaiting surgery (2). That was seen as "a subtle slap toward at least two other Democratic presidential hopefuls" (5) - John Kerry and John Edwards, for example. Later on TV, WBBM (CBS 2 Chicago) reported his death as a "massive gastric blow-out". (2)
Howard Dean then lost his run for presidency in the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses on January 19. Mainly because he wasn´t there.
When asked in an interview why he would leave Iowa so close to the caucuses, Dean said he could not turn down an invitation with from a former president he admires - Jimmy Carter. But when someone thanked Carter for inviting Dean, he explained: "He called me on the phone and said he'd like to worship with me. I did not invite him." (3)
There were some who saw this as a move by the Democratic Party establishment to prevent Howard Deans election. He probably had won the 2004 run against George W.Bush and ended the Iraq War 2 years after the invasion.
Paul Simon is said to "have made" a television commercial that later aired in downstate Illinois after his death. This was used effectively and was considered a major reason for Obama's surprise victory in the Democratic primary (2). Later in Senate, Barack Obama has praised late senator Paul Simon as a "dear friend".
But Obama's candidacy in 2004 was boosted by an advertising campaign featuring images of the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and the dead Paul Simon (1). It was especially the endorsement of his daughter who made that possible and it was Sheila Simon herself who made this "very effective television ad for Obama". (4)
Obama stayed the course. "DC’s brightest star", who came "from out of nowhere", adopted a "constituent breakfast" (a tradition of bagels, coffee, and policy talk) on Capitol Hill that Senator Paul Simon once had created in 1985 (6).
A key role in the Obama campaigns since 2004, from start to New Hampshire, has the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondal founded by Paul Simon in 1997. Named director, effective October 1, 2004, one year after Simon´s death: Mike Lawrence.
Before he took office at the Paul Simon Institute Lawrence was chief of the Chicago Sun-Times (which supported Obamas 2004 campaign, 1) and of the state capital bureaus for Lee Enterprises. (13)
Lee Enterprises is based in Davenport, Iowa, and publishes 56 daily newspapers in 23 states, and more than 300 weekly, classified, and specialty publications. It`s currently the fourth largest newspaper group in the United States of America. (17)
Lawrence also was press secretary and senior policy adviser to Governor Jim Edgar (a Republican) - for nearly a decade (13).
Besides the question if Paul Simon always expressed bipartisan desire - actually it was Jim Edgar who made it possible that Barack Obama became a Senator of Illinois.
2004: There can be only one
In spring 2003 U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R) - citing problems dealing with the state party leadership - retired from the Senate at the end of his term (14). The seat was offered to former Governor Jim Edgar. Due to his overwhelming popularity that still exists today, Edgar was seen as a very formidable Senate candidate. Edgar seemed likely to enter the race - but then he suddenly announced he would not seek the seat, saying instead that he was giving his wife an "early Mother's Day gift".(15)
Suddenly there were no Republican opponent for the Illinois Democrats in a Senate seat election.
Then it went on to the other side.
In 2003 the run began for the U.S. Senate open seat vacated by Peter Fitzgerald. In early media polls leading up to the March 16, 2004 Democratic primary election, billionaire Blair Hull enjoyed a substantial lead and widespread name recognition resulting from a well-financed advertisement effort. He contributed over $28 million of his personal wealth for the campaign. Then, a month before the primary elections, a news story broke out regarding his divorce from his ex-wife. She had sought a restraining order against him during their divorce in 1998. Hull tried to keep the divorce records sealed, but pressure from journalists and his opposing candidates forced him to release them.
The papers claimed that his ex-wife alleged that during a physical fight between them he had threatened to kill her, this led to his arrest for battery, however no charges were ever filed. (16)
Obama won the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile Republicans had chosen Jack Ryan as their candidate on March 16, 2004. He got married to actress Jeri Ryan in 1991. When Jack and Jeri Ryan got divorced in 1999 the records of their divorce were sealed at their mutual request. Five years later, when Ryan's Senate campaign began, the "Chicago Tribune" newspaper (who endorsed Barack Obama, 1) and "WLS-TV", the local ABC affiliate, sought to have the records released. Both Ryan and his wife agreed to make their divorce records public, but not make the custody records public, claiming that the custody records could be harmful to their son if released.
On June 22, 2004, the California judge in the case agreed to release the custody files. They contained sexual intimacies of the then-married couple. Jack Ryan had to resign.(18)
Suddenly there were no Republican opponent for the Illinois Democrats in a Senate seat election. Again.
GOP Illinois party leaders controversially chose Alan Keyes as Ryan's replacement in the race - 86 days before the election.
Obama became senator.
Barack Obama received political endorsements by the "Chicago Tribune" and "Chicago Sun-Times" during his whole 2004 campaign (1). The "Chicago Tribune" ist one of the ten largest daily newspapers in the USA that is owned by the "Tribune Company", as the "L.A. Times".(17)
Little Things In History
Before the Iowa caucus the Obama team hit a home run that might decided that day, again by the Paul Simon Legend.
Gordon Fischer, 42-year-old lawyer and chair of the Iowa Democratic Party from 2002 to 2004, joined the Obama campaign and brought a lot of contacts and inside views to the table. Before that the Obama camp organised a phonecall from Sen. Paul Simon's son-in-law (7), Perry Knop.
"One of my political heroes was Paul Simon," Gordon said. In fact, they must have knows this very well. "When Obama staffers learned that the late Illinois senator Paul Simon was a hero of Fischer’s, they asked Simon’s son-in-law, Perry Knop, to call Fischer and make the case for Obama", the "New Yorker" wrote (8). Maybe from a close friend of Gordon, a young lawyer and Obama fan named Lola Velasquez, who got recruited by his camp to snare Fischer (7).
Obama himself even invites Fischer onto his campaign bus. He tells him that Fischer has to stay aboard until he agrees to an endorsement. When Fischer insists that he has to make the decision with his wife, Monica, Obama demands Monica Fischer’s cell-phone number and calls her at once.
The Fischers were sufficiently impressed to endorse him, two weeks later. “I think the Iowa campaign has been run better than the national campaign,” Fischer said in November.(8)
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards himself phoned Fischer five or six times. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut requested an interview, and Gordon went to several of his events as he did with Clinton. But it was too late. "Ultimately, I liked Barack the best," he later said. "I could have supported any of the six candidates without reservation. They are all good, but I felt drawn to Sen. Obama."
Politics is brutal," Fischer remarked, "you win or you lose. But I really believe Obama can win." (7)
Three days ago Barack Obama ended his speech during the New Hamshire campaign in crowded high school auditorium with strains from the songwriter Paul Simon ("these are the days of miracles and wonder") while Mrs. Clinton ended her speech in an airport hangar with the song "Taking Care of Business." (9)
It´s the little things that makes a history. And a wonder, too.
The New Karl Rove
The strategist running Obama's campaign, David Axelrod, was the one who took on Obama's 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate and obviously brought in the Paul Simon Legend. In 1984, Axelrod was 29 years old, he jumped from the "Chicago Tribune" to become spokesman for the Senate campaign of Simon. After "a staff shake-up" he wound up managing that campaign.
Some already call Obamas strategist the new Karl Rove. "I'm a 'genius' now, but I was an idiot two months ago" when Obama trailed Clinton by a mile, Axelrod says (10).
"I'd say 80 percent of what he did on that platform on Saturday was in that initial draft," which Obama had e-mailed to Axelrod at about 4 a.m. Thursday, Axelrod said about a speech of his client in December.
All those "Let us" sentences in the middle, as in, "Let us be the generation . . . " -- "That's Axelrod," political strategist Donna Brazile remarked to this.
David Wilhelm, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee:"I know that I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change!" -- "That seemed very classic Axelrod," Wilhelm said about that "clever rhetorical judo of Obama's oft-quoted line", the Washington Post reported. (11)
Even during Hillary Clinton's 2000 New York Senate race David Axelrod "made issue ads" (11), whatever that´s supposed to mean. Then in 2004 Axelrod worked for John Edwards presidential race, that man Paul Simon gave a "slap" months before by endorsing Howard Dean.(11) But at the same time - in 2004 - he took over the Obama camp and brought the Paul Simon Legend to the table there.
Obama and Edwards: Mr. and Mr. Vice
In Saturday debate in Manchester, N.H., "Barack Obama and John Edwards went after Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as never before in a televised debate", the New York Times wrote (12). It became clear that the two men were partners, not competitors. It almost seemed like Mr. and Mr Vice.
Advisers to Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama later declared both had not formally agreed to attack Mrs. Clinton. They said it was a natural coincidence since both men are running as "agents of change"
Change what? Their career? And who is running those agents? Who is behind all those coincidences, events, speeches and promotion that makes the difference whose finger is on the button?
"Back in August, I said we should work with the Pakistani government, first of all to encourage democracy in Pakistan... and secondly that we have to press them to do more to take on Al Qaeda in their territory", Obama said on Sunday debate. He supported pursuing Al Qaeda militants in the troubled country even without Islamabad's permission if the US had "actionable intelligence".(19)
Pursuing from were? Afghanistan got occupied by US and NATO forces 6 years ago. And now there are still "Taliban" who enter Pakistan from Afghanistan instead of the other way round what has been told to us all the time before? And why do they still call fools who betrayed or got betrayed about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq "intelligence"? What about a little more public intelligence?
However, Clinton did strike a word of caution saying any actionable intelligence that would lead to a strike inside Pakistan's territory must be given the "most careful consideration".
Wow. Better think before attacking an atomic power. I´m impressed.
See, there are more than 3000 German soldiers in Afghanistan, God damn it. Who do you think the US President should be? I tell you, the world is watching.
More Mr. Nice Guys
Well, Hillary Clinton made some strange decisions in her life. But it is highly unclear why in end of 2006 she chose Mike Henry of all people as deputy campaign manager. He was the manager of Blair Hull in Illinois 2004, when Hull got forced by "journalists and his opposing candidates" to release that divorce records and then lost against Barack Obama. (20)
And without questioning this extraordinary talent: Mike Henry had the ingenious idea to leave out Iowa.
He wrote a memorandum advising Hillary Clinton not to participate in the Iowa caucuses, arguing that she probably could not win them and that she would be better off spending her time and campaign money in places more hospitable to her campaign.
And when did this enlightenment come to Mike Henry´s mind? In May 2007 (21). Imagine this guy wouldn´t give up that early.
Also in May 2007 reports in the, well, "conservative" media came up about serious arguments inside her camp:
"Her New York crew is fighting like hell with her D.C. folks, and it's worse than the normal stuff, real serious tensions," a Democratic Party source said to the "NYPost". "The New York folks are the ones who got her elected to begin with. They've done it and know what to do. The D.C. folks are the 'geniuses' who do 'national elections' and think everyone here is a rube." (22)
In context to Henry´s memo this is more than comprehensible.
And then - on Sunday - Mr. Mark Penn himself.."Where is the bounce?" (28). I guess he didn´t even feel the pain. To be a chief strategist of a presidential candidate and then got cited in Washington Post as creator of "an utterly foolish and unnecessary argument", well, that´s worth something. Does he go for White House, too? Chief of staff, maybe? Remember that guy seen in "Fahrenheit 9/11", holding up that banner when George Bush took office in 2000 :"Lord help us!".?
Peace, Homes, Constitution: Where Is the Answer?
Though Hillary according to "Congressional Quarterly" (CQ) studies only voted 46 percent of her time (23) in US Senate for President Bush’s position (Omaba did so 53 percent) she didn´t give the people what they essentially want from politics. On the campaign trail in New Hampshire in August she proposed a $1 billion fund to supplement state programs that help homeowners catch up on mortgage payments, renegotiate loan terms or provide financial counseling (24). Where did this disappear?
Citing unnamed military officials in Washington, CNN, NBC and other news outlets reported today that Saturday night one Iranian ship came within 200 yards of a group of three U.S. naval vessels which allegedly were in international waters within the Strait of Hormuz. (25)
(Update: yes, indeed: one iranian vessel. But the L.A.Times, owned by the Tribune Company as described above, changed their article. Look by yourself. Original: Citing unnamed military officials in Washington, CNN, NBC and other
news outlets reported today that one of five Iranian ships came within 200 yards of a group of three U.S. naval vessels Saturday night in international waters within the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage through which much of the gulf’s oil reaches the world.
And that´s why we call that corporate media)
In recent years the Exekutive Branch has systematically undermined civil liberties, freedom and the protection of the American People guaranteed by the Constitution. This is not an issue that only affects the United States. All over the Europe, even worldwide, a reconstitution of old feudalistic systems is seen as a shadow slowly falling over the planet, with little resistance by civil societies.
Bloomberg In The Race
Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, has triggered a major shift in this primary. He has announced his will to run for president, by bipartisan endorsement (26). Obviously this was planned months ago and is about catching independent votes. There is not much room left for this bipartisan emo talk like "there are no liberals, there are no conservatives, we are all Americans, sing the anthem, vote for me, get outta here".
The Democratic Strategy To Loose
Imagine you would have been in the advantageous position of the US government in 2003 and been able to think about staying in power. Not only in 2004 - but also in 2008. Emphazise with a war presidency whose alternative to victory could only be the loss of all.
Who would have been your first enemy in this struggle for power if you had been a neokonservative republican at that time? There is only, only one answer: Hillary Clinton.
And what would have been the ultimate condition for succeeding against this old enemy who saved her husband´s career and presidency between the two Iraq Wars more than once? Well, quite simple: to prevent her candidacy.
But that could only work by using the biggest weakness of the Democratic Party: the Democratic Party.
The Democrats are bound to loose. That is their very, their only purpose in US politics. No winners without loosers. Even when Democrats are winning elections - by accident or the fathomless will of higher power (like the People of America for example) - they are going to ruin everything people voted them for and why. That is the unspoken law of western politics, not only in the United States of America but also everywhere in western democracies and republics: the liberals, the left-, progressive-, social-minded have to be on the loosing side. Weak. Defenceless. Mournful and ridiculous. Victims.
Nothing must change. Nothing. It´s the illusion that counts, and then make people bow again to the "inevitable".
Hillary Clinton´s biggest problem is that deep, deep desire of Democratic voters for loosing that very election of the President of the United States before it even began. It´s that Strategy to Loose by the Democrats and apparently by her own strategists she´s fighting.
Now she is doing television commercials criticizing Obamas positions on health care and, possibly, Iraq in a point-by-point style. Now.
And allegedly she chose not to do that in New Hampshire (advisers said) because there were "only five days between her arrival from Iowa and the primary" - not enough time, they say. (27)
Well, there always should be some moment of relaxing in every campaign, just to fire someone for example.
The Fighting Spirit
Hillary Clinton plans to leave New Hampshire "with a fighting spirit" (27).
I´m sure that there is still one with her.