Saturday 16 February 2008

Is Barack Obama the new Al Gore?

CNN reported yesterday that the Clinton campaign is trying to get the Michigan and Florida primary votes included in the national results. Both states were stripped of their delegates after changing the dates of their primaries to earlier in the year. According to several media reports (see list of sources below), Hillary Clinton stood by that decision, but now is reversing her agreement due to her current position in the Democratic polls.

Before commenting on this, I confirm that I have found no official statement on either the Clinton campaign website or the DNC website this morning (Saturday, 16 February), and thus cannot confirm whether this is an official campaign demand or not.

If the reports of this demand are true, there can be no clearer reminder that political principles are often sacrificed to self-interest in extremis. To put it in the election vernacular, it would be another sign of flip-flopping and hypocrisy, and a reminder of why Hillary Clinton is unfit to be President of the United States.

It is inconceivable to me, an American living overseas, how the country that inspired the world by putting a man on the moon has accepted an election system which is so obviously inefficient, time-consuming, expensive and misleading. One would have thought that after the 2000 Florida recount and the 2004 cases of voter disbarment, the Democratic Party would have provided leadership and initiative to design a fair, transparent and representative system, at least for their own party.

Instead, we are left with superdelegates, demands for a partial recount in two states, campaigning in violation of party agreement and shifting expectations. This situation is either the result of supreme incompetence and cynicism, or of more sinister implications.

In a previous entry, I asked “Is Barack Obama the new Al Gore?” If the current trends last, Obama wins the popular vote and state count, but loses the delegates because of the reinstatement of Florida and Michigan, then he really will be the new Al Gore, a victim of the same practise that led to the judicial election of our current President.

In this case, Hillary will be the new George W Bush.

I’m providing sources for these reports below. In each case, I’m using on-the-record state or national media as far as possible (no blogs or politically-affiliated sources). In each case, only the first few paragraphs are provided: you can follow this up using the links and references. All content quoted here is copyright of the respective authors and sources mentioned.

1. CNN=Politics Daily
February 15, 2008

And bigger battles continue to loom ahead as top Democrats face off over the role of Michigan and Florida. Both states were stripped of their delegates after moving up their primaries in violation of DNC rules. Now, the campaign of Hillary Clinton – who came up the winner in both states – is calling for them to be seated at the party’s summer convention after all.

2. Obama camp cries foul over Clinton stance in Florida
Miami Herald, 14 February 2008

After eight losses in a row and no victories in sight this month, Hillary Clinton's campaign renewed calls Wednesday for the votes in Florida and Michigan to count toward delegates that would help her catch Barack Obama.

Obama's camp said her demand was a blatant attempt to ignore the ground rules set when the national party stripped both states of their delegates for breaking early-primary rules. Last summer, all of the major candidates agreed to boycott the two renegade states.

''Now, when they believe it serves their political interests, they're trying to rewrite the rules,'' Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, told reporters in a telephone call. ``Now, at the 11th hour, the Clinton campaign is trying to rewrite rules that were firmly established, and I don't think there's a lot of appetite for that in the country or a lot of appetite for that at the DNC.''

In fact, when the national party inflicted its punishment on Florida in August, Clinton's campaign did not protest. And on Sept. 1, Clinton went along with the boycott urged by four smaller states authorized by the DNC to hold the earliest contests.

3. Clinton: Give States Their Delegates
Associated Press, 25 January 2008

Hillary Rodham Clinton is angling for Florida's delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer, even though they have been stripped by the national party.

The presidential candidate said Friday — just four days before Florida's primary — that she wants the convention delegates from Florida and Michigan reinstated. The national party eliminated all the delegates from those states — more than 350 in all — because they broke party rules against holding their primaries before Feb. 5. All the major Democratic candidates also made pledges not to campaign in those states before their primaries.

"I hear all the time from people in Florida and Michigan that they want their voices heard in selecting the Democratic nominee," Clinton said in a statement issued by her campaign. "I believe our nominee will need the enthusiastic support of Democrats in these states to win the general election, and so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan," she said.

Clinton, a New York senator, called on the other candidates to join her. Requests for comment were left Friday afternoon with the campaigns of her Democratic rivals, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

4. Hillary: FL and MI should be heard
MSNBC / NBC / NBC/NJ: 9 February 2008

Clinton seemed to dismiss the idea that Florida and Michigan -- two states whose primaries she won but weren't contested and didn't award delegates -- should hold caucuses so that their delegates could be seated at the Denver convention.
In a 12-minute media avail here Saturday, the senator also said superdelegates had historically been independent for a reason, added Wisconsin to the mix of states she was feeling good about, and sought to paint Obama as "increasingly" the establishment candidate.

"I think that the people of Michigan and Florida spoke in a very convincing way, that they want their voices and their votes to be heard. The turnout in both places was record-breaking and I think that that should be respected," she told reporters. However, Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot in Michigan, as a significant number of people there voted "Uncommitted." And it's worth noting that Clinton never spoke this way about Florida and Michigan until right before the South Carolina primary, a contest she lost decisively.

Clinton was asked whether superdelegates -- the party bigwigs and elected officials who aren't bound by the results in their states -- should in fact vote according to the choice voters in their state made, as Barack Obama suggested earlier this week. "Superdelegates are, by design, supposed to exercise independent judgment. That is the way the system works. But, of course, if Sen. Obama and his campaign continue to push this position, which is really contrary to what the definition of a superdelegate has historically been, I will look forward to receiving the support of Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Kerry," she said. Both senators are from Massachusetts, a state Clinton won on Super Tuesday.

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