Saturday, March 22, 2008

Richardson Endorses Obama

Leaving the “unelectables,” Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, aside, Bill Richardson was my second choice for the Democratic nomination -- way behind John Edwards and a tad ahead of Chris Dodd. He was, after all, the only electable candidate who promised to end the Iraq War for real. On the other hand, Richardson has worrisome ties to the Clintons. Nevertheless, yesterday (March 21) in Portland, he endorsed Barack Obama.

The Clinton campaign’s immediate response was that Richardson is now irrelevant. Presumably, they mean that his endorsement might have helped Obama before the Texas primary, but that it won’t do him any good in Pennsylvania where the Latino vote is, they might as well have said, “small potatoes.” The Clintons seem to be pursuing a three-part strategy: build up John McCain (while suggesting that only Hillary stands a chance against that Mighty Fly Weight), impugn Obama’s “patriotism” (Bill Clinton did it again yesterday in North Carolina and then denied that was what he meant – he for whom it matters what “is” is), and exacerbate racial and ethnic differences (recalling, incidentally, the Clinton strategy for the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the Cheney/Bush strategy for the dismemberment of Iraq).

Richardson’s endorsement announcement was remarkably candid. He pointed out what is indisputably true: that Hillary Clinton will not end the electoral contest with the majority of either votes or pledged delegates, and therefore that she can only win the nomination by convincing “super delegates” to contravene the popular vote. Without quite saying so directly, he also pointed out that, even running against John McCain, a doddering hot head, the Clintons’ throw “the kitchen sink” at Obama antics could wreck the Democrats’ chances in November. The conclusion is obvious: the Clintons should go away. To this, I would add: the farther away they go, the better.

Part of me wishes otherwise because I harbor two unrealistic fantasies: that the Democrats will settle accounts with their Clintonite past, and that they will select a progressive alternative to Obama as a candidate of party unity. But, of course, neither will happen.

The Democrats won’t even impeach Cheney and Bush, let alone bring them to justice. There’s not a chance in the world, then, that Bill Clinton will be called to account, though his actionable crimes are morally, if not politically, comparable to Cheney’s and Bush’s -- killing more than a million people in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia and Afghanistan through sanctions and wanton bombing, waging a patently illegal war in Yugoslavia,and so on. A humiliating defeat for his better half’s candidacy would provide a semblance of cosmic justice -- but only a semblance; hardly enough to make it worth increasing Bush Three’s prospects. Anyway, Obama is too shrewd and perhaps also too nice to humiliate the Clintons and their hapless supporters.

I used to think it would at least be entertaining to watch Obama and Clinton tear each other down. But the Clintons play too dirty; the past several weeks haven’t been entertaining at all. I also once imagined that maybe, just maybe, Obama and Clinton would fight each other to exhaustion and that the party would then turn as one to John Edwards – or even, yuck, the born-again Al Gore -- for unity’s sake. But that’s out of the question too: Obama has too many enthusiastic youthful supporters and the aging harpies backing Hillary wouldn’t hear of it either.

So, Yes, Richardson is right: to maximize the chances of electing a lesser evil in November, the wretched Clinton family should go away. They’ve already done more than enough harm. What the Democrats need now is a good last look at the backs of them.