Monthly Archives: January 2008

Our interview with the winner: Obama speaking to our editorial board

All week, I wanted to stop and edit some of the video I shot during our editorial board interview with Barack Obama Monday morning, but, well… it’s been a busy week.

I finally tried to start putting together a post on it this afternoon, but my internet connection at home crashed. So, now that it’s all over for South Carolina, I’m sitting here on the air at ETV using their Web connection, and putting up some rough unedited clips. Better late than never, right? No? Whatever. I thought you still might like to hear the man who won so hugely here talking at some greater length than what you get on the Boob Tube usually.

As regular viewers will know, my little camera only shoots three-minute clips at a time, which means they can stop and restart in odd places. But I’ve put together four sequential clips here, with only one or two seconds of real time between them, from the opening moments of the meeting.

What you’ll see here in these four clips is Sen. Obama responding to our standard opening question we use in all candidate endorsement interviews for all offices. It’s simple: We ask him to state why he’s running, and why he should be the one to get the nomination — and in this case, presumably, the presidency. Sometimes we couch in terms of a 10-minute version of the candidate’s stump speech.

This serves two purposes. First, we editors don’t get out on the trail the way reporters do, so it’s good to hear the overview of how this candidate chooses to present himself. Second, it helps us cut through the sound-bite, 24/7 news headline of the moment and step back and take a broader view of who this candidate is and what his campaign is about.

Also, it gives us a sort of base line for the rest of our conversation, as we dig further into what the candidate is really about.

The four clips include Obama’s full answer to that question, minus the second or so intervals it takes for my camera to start rolling again after it shuts off at the end of a three-minute clip. A little way through the fourth one, the senator starts answering our second inevitable question that we ask specifically of presidential candidates, which always takes roughly this form: What is America’s proper role in the world, and how should it go about playing that role?

The first segment is at the top of this post. The other three follow:

Part II:

Part III:

Part IV:

Perhaps when things slow down, I can put up some further parts of the interview, for posterity. Anyway, what you see above is the candidate who made such a tremendous impression on our editorial board — and obviously, on South Carolina voters.

This is so over: Hillary’s concession statement

Here, even before you hear it on the Tube (I think), is Hillary Clinton’s concession statement:

                        January 26, 2008

Statement from Hillary Clinton
    “I have called Senator Obama to congratulate him and wish him well.
    “Thank you to the people of South Carolina who voted today and welcomed me into their homes over the last year. Your stories will stay with me well beyond this campaign and I am grateful for the support so many of you gave to me.
    “We now turn our attention to the millions of Americans who will make their voices heard in Florida and the twenty-two states as well as American Samoa who will vote on February 5th.
    “In the days ahead, I’ll work to give voice to those who are working harder than ever to be heard.  For those who have lost their job or their home or their health care, I will focus on the solutions needed to move this country forward.  That’s what this election is about.  It’s about our country, our hopes and dreams. Our families and our future.”

Did you go to the Obama rally? I couldn’t get in


So I did just barely manage to stay up long enough to head over to the Obama rally, and I got one of my daughters — the USC student — to go with me. But the fire marshall wouldn’t let us in. The Koger Center was overflowing.

Did you go? How was it?

Above, you see the winding queue in which we stood when there was some hope of getting in. This was just past 10:45, the original starting time for the rally.

I spent a few minutes chatting with a Swedish journalist who was also trying to get in (she had missed the cutoff time for the media area; I tend to avoid media areas like the plague when I can). Then a young kid who works for Obama (the sort who looks like he could just as easily have been working for Bobby Kennedy in ’68 — sport coat, open-necked oxford button-down shirt, campaign button on the lapel, collegiate Beatle haircut) came and told us they were trying to work out something with the fire marshal, as the  place was packed.

A few minutes later, the queue started to collapse, and we all drifted toward the door. Rumors rippled through the crowd — "it’s bad news; the line’s giving up" or "all right! they’re letting us in!" — and we paused at the doors while another kid told us (in a voice too soft for more than a few to hear, and a visage and accent that suggested the subcontinent) that it wasn’t their fault; it was the fire marshal.

Eventually, we all realized there was no point. But there was one woman, in a long white coat, who didn’t care, and moved through us leading the chant, "Fired up! Ready to go!" I turned to my daughter, and said "ready to go?," only realizing what I’d said after I’d said it. Ah, the power of suggestion…

My daughter and I began the cold walk back, two-and-a-half blocks, to my truck, parked along the median in the middle of Assembly. Ahead of us for the first block walked the woman in the white coat with a friend. She was completely undaunted, chanting all by herself for the world to hear: "Fired Up! Ready to go?" Below, you can hear her, and the kid making the announcement before joining her cry, on this poor-quality (on account of the light) video:

When party is set aside, things get done

Back on this post, Mike Cakora said there were things we could do to get the economy back on track, but there was a catch:

…it could be that one party develops a comprehensive approach to taxes,
healthcare, energy, and the other stuff that ails us. I know you won’t
like this, but it’s going to take a party
to do so because any
comprehensive fix will involve leadership, discipline, and limited
horse-trading to deal with the special-interest harpies.

Actually, Mike, it doesn’t take a party to act in time of crisis. It takes the opposite; it takes willingness to cast partisan considerations aside. Conveniently, there’s an object lesson of this atop today’s front page in The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON — On Jan. 17, Washington’s mad dash to finalize an economic-stimulus plan ran into a wall.

On an afternoon conference call, the two top Democrats
in Congress warned President Bush against going public with his own
plan. "People will have to come out and criticize it if you put out a
plan," Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said, according to
people familiar with the matter. "It will look like you’re trying to
jam us on this." Mr. Bush said he’d think it over.

Democrats left the call fuming. Some discussed rushing
out their own plan to avoid being upstaged. The effort by both sides to
keep their partisan instincts under wraps was coming unraveled. Ten
minutes later, the president averted a clash by instructing his
Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, to call Capitol Hill leaders and say
the White House would keep mum on the details of its plan.

A week later, congressional leaders and the White House announced their
boldest attempt yet to address the economic uncertainty that some fear
could lead to the deepest U.S. downturn in decades.

Mind you, I’m not saying this stimulus plan is necessarily the right action. But having slept through Ben Stein’s class, I can’t say I know what the right action is. Considering I have to trust other folks to be smart for me on this, I am WAY more likely to trust a bipartisan consensus action than a partisan one. Yes, that could mean a plan too watered down to do any good even if it moves in the right direction. Right now, I prefer the conservative (and no, folks, I don’t mean politically conservative in the popular sense; I’m using the word in a plain English manner) approach. I guess for the time being I’m trusting Brooks’ ecology to set the balance right.

Of course, when we get to the bread lines, I might be calling for a New Deal.

But in the meantime, we need Dems and Repubs to act like grownups and think about the good of the nation for a change, instead of scoring points on each other in the nauseating game that they usually play. And Sen. Reid, your people would not "have to come out and criticize," nor would the president’s people "have to" do likewise, no matter how compelling your visceral compulsion may seem.

To the contrary, you all have an obligation to the country not to go into knee-jerk partisan fulmination mode, particularly in a time of crisis. Thank you, Sen. Reid and President Bush, for realizing that and managing to overcome that impulse and act appropriately, even if you did it only out of electoral fear of those of us who are sick and tired of your default modes, and even if it’s only for this one brief moment.

Everybody take cover — Hillary’s in Martyr Mode

This news is hardly surprising — Hillary Clinton’s kicking into martyr mode again, just as she did on the eve of New Hampshire:

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she must respond in kind to attacks from rival Barack Obama even though she’d rather keep the race for the Democratic presidential nomination focused on their differences on public policy issues.

"I try not to attack first, but I have to defend myself — I do have to counterpunch," Clinton told NBC’s "Today Show."

"I took a lot of incoming fire for many, many months and I was happy to absorb it because obviously, you know, I felt that was part of my responsibility. But toward the end of a campaign you have to set the record straight," the New York senator said.

Let’s review that statement again:

"I took a lot of incoming fire for many, many months and I was happy to
absorb it because obviously, you know, I felt that was part of my

In case you are not among the Elect, lemme ‘splain that to you: That’s your cue to go "Aw-w-w, that poor woman!" and "How Hillary has bled for me!"

The message in this statement is the same as the one in the famous "tears in New Hampshire" incident. No, I don’t mean the "Canuck letter," the thing that destroyed Ed Muskie. I mean when Hillary wept with her sorrow for the nation at the very thought that it might be deprived of her divinely ordained leadership.

Being only a man, I get all confused and look around for an exit when a woman starts to weep, so I sort of needed Maureen Dowd to ‘splain it to me:

    … There was a poignancy about the moment, seeing Hillary crack with exhaustion from decades of yearning to be the principal rather than the plus-one. But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing.

And when Hillary Clinton foresees the prospect of losing, she gets her Martyr Face on. And when Hillary gets her Martyr Face on, we’d all best duck — especially Barack Obama.

Let’s go ahead and have the poll that counts

Zogby said this morning that Obama’s lead over Clinton is shrinking:

UTICA, NY – Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s lead over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton narrowed yet a little more in South Carolina with just two days to go before the primary, the latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby tracking poll shows.
    Obama lost a point from the day before and sits at 38% support in the telephone poll, which was conducted Jan. 22-24 and included 811 likely Democratic voters. It carries a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.
    Clinton won 25% support, up one point from the day before but now just four points ahead of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who continued to increase support and now sits at 21%….

These guys say it’s more:

South Carolina Poll

Barack Obama 44
Hillary Clinton 24
John Edwards 19

Which one’s right? I’m guessing the result will lie somewhere between the two, as long as nobody cries or throws a tantrum or kicks a dog or anything on TV tonight. In any event, we’ll find out by this time tomorrow.

2008: The good news, the bad news

David Brooks leads his latest column this way:

There is roughly a 100 percent chance that we’re going to spend much of this year talking about the subprime mortgage crisis, the financial markets and the worsening economy. The only question is which narrative is going to prevail, the Greed Narrative or the Ecology Narrative.

And this got me to thinking: 2008 has the potential to be a very good year politically. I might, for the first time in my adult life, have a choice in November between two presidential candidates I actually feel good about. Sure, a lot of obstacles have to be overcome. Obama might not get enough bounce from South Carolina to roll over Hillary Clinton on super-duper-pooper day. John McCain could still slip in Florida on account of the very quality that makes him viable in the fall. (Party orthodoxy types, from Don Fowler to Jim DeMint, can’t stand the thought of nominating anybody that swing voters might actually want to vote for in a general election.)

But still, there’s a very good chance that this could be the best year ever for the UnParty.

But then comes David Brooks raining on my parade. And I don’t mean the Greed Narrative vs. Ecology Narrative. Both are are excruciatingly boring. No, the bad news is that when he says "there is roughly a 100 percent chance that we’re going to spend much of
this year talking about the subprime mortgage crisis, the financial
markets and the worsening economy," I’m afraid he’s right. And this fills me with horror. It would mean a year of reading columns like this one. I normally enjoy Brooks columns, but this one was mind-numbingly boring, and stupid. Really, tell me — what the hell is the difference between the "Greed Narrative" and the "Ecology Narrative?" Doesn’t the ecology one assume greed? ("Everyone seeks wealth while minimizing risk.")

What if I get two candidates I can get excited about — not just one, which would in itself be an embarrassment of riches going by recent years, but two, a no-lose proposition — but they spend all their time talking about … what did he say? Oh, yeah: "complex financial instruments, like globally securitized subprime mortgages."

I get mad just thinking about it. Wall Street is a con game, folks. Take the equities markets (you see? they’ve already got me saying stuff like "equities"! and I probably used it wrong!) — analysts con people into overvaluing dot-coms, or undervaluing newspapers, with little regard for reality. And other people have to live and die by the foolish investments made or unmade as a result.

And then there are the folks at the big brokerage houses that invent "products," from which they make billions, when they never produced a damn’ thing. They’ve added value to nothing.

I’m not crazy about having a mortgage to begin with, but if I do make a deal like that with somebody, IGoofy_beard_005
want to deal with that same somebody for the full 30 years (or 15, if you refinanced a while back the way I did). It should be like the nearest financial thing to a sacrament. What kind of sense does it make for mortgages to be gathered up like soybeans and bought and sold in bulk… Can you believe I said "in bulk?" A mortgage has no bulk! It’s an abstract concept! Like money! When your mortgage gets sold, you have to think, it’s not bad enough that I’ve indentured myself to this institution that made me the loan for the rest of my useful life, but now I’m being sold down the river!

If they’re gonna talk about this stuff, I’m liable to haul off and start talking like John Edwards, and that would not be pretty! So back off with the money talk!

Can’t we talk about war, or health care, or something I care about? Please. If I had wanted to talk about markets and such, I would have voted for Steve Forbes. Or Pierre "Pete" DuPont. Or Mitt Romney. Or Ben Stein. Same diff.

Anyone? Anyone?

See you at the Obama rally, if I’m up that late

Just got a call from Inez Tenenbaum, because I had called her, and then I had to think why, and then I realized it was because some guys (chaps? blokes?) from the BBC were leaving my office after interviewing me, and they asked where the Obama people would be gathering tomorrow night, and I said I’d call somebody who would know. But she hadn’t answered.

That’s because she was at an Obama rally up at Clemson, which was over when she called back at 5:23, so I asked how it had gone. Great, she said — really cold, but a good turnout and plenty of charged-up people. "Oh, there goes a lady with an Obama T-shirt and two little babies!" I’m guessing you had to be there.

Anyway, she and Obama and everybody else were going to Florence next, to have another "Stand for Change" rally, before leaving there and coming to Columbia for the final rally of the night, around 10:45. I told her I’d like to catch it, but the last couple of weeks had taken their toll on my 54-year-old self, and I just don’t think I can do a rally that late.

Oh, but you have to! she insisted. She says it’s fantastic, that in all her years of politics she’s never seen anything like it. As she put it, you just say you’re having a rally, and 4,000 people show up. Then you say you’re having another just like it somewhere across the state, and it happens all over again.

Obviously, the Obama camp is pretty pumped up on Primary Eve. I’ll see if I can make it. If you do the same, maybe I’ll see you. This one will be at the Koger Center. I asked Inez if she thought it would start on time, and she expressed confidence that it would — got to make the 11 o’clock TV news, you know.

Oh, yeah, I found out where they’re gathering Saturday night — at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in the Vista.

Will the Obama strategy work, now and in the future?

A couple of days back, our own Valerie Bauerlein and her associates with the WSJ had a piece that described rather well what was different about Barack Obama’s campaign in South Carolina. And no, I don’t mean that he’s been more inspiring or any of that stuff you’re tired of hearing me say.

I refer to his tactics — or perhaps, given the scale of what’s at stake, I should say his strategy. An excerpt:

    In early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, campaigns use rallies and personal appearances to get votes. Now, the nominating races have moved to bigger states, including much of the South. Candidates here rely on endorsements from powerful politicians and preachers. It is a tradition that has evolved since the 1960s to garner support among poor blacks who look to their preachers for both spiritual and political guidance. And it is the way Mrs. Clinton, like countless Democratic politicians before her, is running her campaign in South Carolina.
    Mr. Obama, in contrast, is trying something many observers say has never been done here: He is circumventing entrenched local leadership and building a political machine from scratch. His staff consists largely of community organizers — many from out of state or with no political experience — who are assembling an army of volunteers. It is a strategy often used by labor organizations and in neighborhood and town politics…
    "If he pulls this off — and I think he will — Barack Obama’s organization will be studied and replicated in this state for many years to come," says Inez Tenenbaum, a former South Carolina superintendent of education who has run four statewide races in the past decade. She is one of the few prominent state Democrats backing Mr. Obama.

When I originally read that story (I actually referred to it back here), the strategy part didn’t strike me, possibly because it seemed self-evident. But after a colleague called my attention to it again, I realized it was probably worth sharing.

There’s little question Sen. Clinton has taken the traditional approach, lining up (and listening to advice from) such longtime party stalwarts as, well, as Don Fowler, and getting the Darrell Jacksons of the world on the payroll.

Meanwhile, Obama has built this huge, very young, staff — as I’ve noted, the children of people I’ve known in Democratic circles for decades, rather than the parents — that has gone straight to the people, rather than the usual gate-keepers.

Could this be the model for a new kind of politics in South Carolina? Maybe — if Obama gets the nomination. If he doesn’t, it will likely be discarded as the innovation that didn’t work — even though, in South Carolina, it has worked thus far.

Actually, she’s back

Earlier this week, everyone picked up on the fact that Hillary Clinton was bailing out of South Carolina, leaving it to Bill to represent her here, and generally building herself a workable cover story for how she didn’t really try here, so that she could shrug off losing, yadda-yadda.

Everyone bought into that narrative to such an extent that I still hear it or see it mentioned. But that ignores a fact: She’s back. At least, according to her official schedule she’s back. I noted that she was coming back yesterday for a speech at Furman. After that, I think she had a second event in the state — I know I saw it on a schedule somewhere, but I’m having trouble laying my hands on it right now (was it in Anderson?). Anyway, here’s her schedule today:

Friday, January 24
Columbia à Rock Hill

9:00 a.m. EST
Hillary Hosts “Solution for America: Expanding Access to College” Town Hall in Columbia
Benedict College
1600 Harden St.
Columbia, SC 29204
DOORS OPEN 8:30 a.m.
Additional Details TBA

1:30 p.m. EST
Hillary Attends “Solutions for America” Rally in Anderson
The Freedom Center
215 E. Main St.
Rock Hill, SC 29730
DOORS OPEN 1:00 p.m.   
Additional Details TBA

9:30 p.m. EST
Hillary Attends Charleston Rally with President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
North Charleston Convention Center
Ballroom A
5050 International Blvd
Charleston, SC
DOORS OPEN 9:00 p.m.
Additional Details TBA

So it kind of looks like she’s back, which means one of two things: Either she thinks she’s in striking distance of winning — see Zogby’s narrowing Obama lead — or she’s setting up the second potential spin narrative for a loss.

After what happened in New Hampshire, we should never discount the possibility of a Clinton win here, not until all the votes are counted tomorrow night. As for that second scenario, the "alternative narrative:"

As I suggested in my column today, that would go like this: "Well, I did my best in South Carolina, but it’s just too heavily black, and so it was just going to go for Obama anyway." This sets up the ghetto-ization of Obama as the "black-only" candidate, the new Jesse Jackson. And folks, I’ve met Jesse Jackson a number of times, and Barack Obama is not Jesse Jackson.

Somewhere, I think I hear the sound of Sister Souljah singing…

Living down our history

MY GRANDMOTHER used to tell a story about when she was a very little girl living in the Washington area.
    Her family was from South Carolina. Her father was an attorney working for the federal government. One of their neighbors was a U.S. senator from South Carolina. When her parents learned that she had visited the senator in his garden, sitting on his lap and begging for a peek under his eye patch, they were shocked and appalled.
    The senator was “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, the state’s former governor, and a vehement advocate of lynching who had participated in the murders of black South Carolinians as a “Red Shirt” vigilante.
    Grandma’s people were of a very different political persuasion, as were of the founders of this newspaper, which was established for the express purpose of fighting the Tillman machine. That’s a second personal connection for me, and one of which I’m proud: We still fight the things that race-baiter stood for.
    Ben Tillman launched his rise to power with a fiery speech in Bennettsville, the town where I was born. But we’ve come a long way since then. Two very different politicians have spoken in Bennettsville in recent days.
    In November, Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke there, outlining her plan “to cut the dropout rate among minority students in half and help a new generation of Americans pursue their dreams.”
    John Edwards was there Wednesday. Tillman was a populist; John Edwards is a populist. But there the resemblance ends. Former Sen. Edwards’ advocacy for the poor helped endear him to black voters in South Carolina in 2004, propelling him to victory in that year’s primary here. His appearance in B’ville was in connection with his attempt to repeat that achievement.
    So my hometown and my home state have come a long way in the past century or so, at least with regard to the intersection of race and politics.
    Not far enough, of course. I don’t just say that because a statue honoring Tillman still stands on the State House grounds, a few yards from where the Confederate flag still flies.
    On the day that this newspaper endorsed Barack Obama, our publisher’s assistant passed on a phone message from a reader who was livid because we are “supporting a black man for president of the United States.” He continued: “I am ashamed that we’ve got a newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, one of the best cities in America, and yet we’ve got a black operation supporting black candidates…. I am disappointed and upset that we’ve got a black newspaper right here in the city of Columbia.”
    How many white South Carolinians still think that way? Too many, if there’s only one of them. But such people stand out and are worth mentioning because we have come so far, and increasingly, people who think the way that caller does are the exception, not the rule.
    And truth be told, South Carolina is not the only part of these United States where you can still find folks whose minds are all twisted up over race.
    As I noted, Mr. Edwards did very well among black voters in 2004, but not this time. Several months ago, Sen. Clinton seemed to be the heir to that support. The wife of the “first black president” had lined up a lot of African-American community leaders, which was a big part of why she commanded an overwhelming lead in S.C. polls.
    But in the last few weeks, something happened. Sen. Obama won in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white state, and black South Carolinians began to believe he had a chance, and that a vote for Obama would not be “wasted.” This week, according to pollster John Zogby, he’s had the backing of between 56 and 65 percent of black voters, while Sen. Clinton can only claim at most 18 percent of that demographic.
    And as the days wear down to what is an almost-certain Obama victory in South Carolina, Sen. Clinton has gone on to spend most of her time campaigning elsewhere, leaving her husband behind to bloody Obama as much as he can.
    So it is that I would expect the Clinton campaign to say, after Saturday, that she didn’t really try to win here. But there’s another narrative that could emerge: Sure, he won South Carolina, but so did Jesse Jackson — just because of the huge black vote there. To win in November, Democrats need a candidate with wider appeal, right?
    Maybe that won’t happen. It would be outrageous if it did. But those with an outrageous way of looking at politics see it as a possibility. Dick Morris — the former Clinton ally (but now a relentless critic), the master of triangulation — wrote in The New York Post this week: “Obama’s South Carolina victory will be hailed as proof that he won the African-American vote. Such block voting will trigger the white backlash Sen. Clinton needs to win.”
    As a South Carolinian who’s proud of how far my state has come, I want to say right now, well ahead of time: As Joe Biden got himself in trouble for saying, and as Iowa voters confirmed, Barack Obama is no Jesse Jackson. Nor is he Bill Clinton, or John Edwards, or anybody else. He’s just Barack Obama, and Barack Obama is the best-qualified Democrat seeking the presidency of the United States.
    And no one should dismiss South Carolinians for being wise enough to see that.

Audio: Caller mad at us for ‘supporting a black man’

Folks, here’s audio of the caller I mentioned in my column who was mad about the Obama endorsement purely because we’re "supporting a black man." Here’s a transcript:

"…I need to talk with someone to discuss the fact that y’all are supporting a black man for president of the United States. I am ASHAMED that we’ve got a newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, one of the best cities in America, and yet we’ve got a black operation supporting black candidates, that doesn’t have any more sense of being president of the United States than I do. He may be educated with a college degree, but let me tell you one thing: He has no common sense whatsoever, or you don’t either. And if you feel like calling me, go to it, girl [the message was left on our publisher’s assistant’s line]. I am disappointed and upset that we’ve got a black newspaper right here in the city of Columbia."

If you have trouble loading the audio, let me know. I guess I could shrink the file, but we would lose sound quality — I think.

Anyway, welcome to my world. Fortunately, this caller reflects a minority view. But it’s a minority that we hear from too often.

This explains SO much: Fowler says he told Hillary not to seek endorsement

When I got this morning’s e-mail from Don Fowler about our Obama endorsement, I immediately answered it as follows:

I guess you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree yet again, Don.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, though. It’s helpful to me in understanding the way things stand.

If you don’t mind my asking, were you involved at all in discussions within the Clinton campaign about our repeated invitations to an editorial board meeting? And if you were, was this the advice you gave?

That may have seemed a question out of the blue, but it arose from an intuition I had last week when I was trying to imagine why Sen. Clinton didn’t schedule an interview, despite all our invitations. It didn’t make sense to me, and the answer I was getting — pleading the busy schedule — was weirdly inadequate. Barack Obama had a busy schedule. So did Dick Gephardt, Carol Moseley-Brown, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Howard Dean and John Kerry in 2004, but they all managed to find the time.

I felt like something else was going on, and Don’s message this morning seemed to support the hunch that he had something to do with it. So as long as I was writing to him, I asked him.

He called me on the phone a little later and left a message, saying in part:

    As concerns the matter of the, being involved in conversations about whether Hillary should… come and spend two hours with your folks, I categorically recommended that she not spend her time there, it would be totally wasted time. No chance in the world that you and your crowd would ever endorse a Clinton for anything. I learned that a long time ago. Be glad to talk with you.

Now, I have no idea that Hillary Clinton or her schedulers would make their decision based on this — I certainly wouldn’t. But at least it gives me an explanation from somebody.

I called him back, missed him, and he called me back, and we had one of the most frustrating conversations I’ve had since — well, since this morning, when I chatted with a reader who said he didn’t believe newspapers had a right to endorse candidates at all, so we shouldn’t do it.

But I’d never had such a frustrating conversation with someone as well educated and experienced as Don, his party’s former national chairman. He kept clinging to this notion that we would never endorse anyone with the name Clinton — which made no sense to me — what’s in a name; are we Montagues and Capulets here? I mean, if he knows that, he knows something I don’t know. He said he based his absolute conclusion on a visit he made to the editorial board on Bill Clinton’s behalf in 1996. Not remembering the specifics of that meeting, I didn’t get into it, but I pointed out that of the five current members of the board, I’m the only one who was on the board then. No matter. He suggested that the fix was in, that we would endorse the Republican no matter what, and that it must hold just as true today as then.

Well, you know, this paper has endorsed Republicans — for president — every election for as far back as I am aware, something which I attribute to the fact that the national Democratic Party (which he once chaired) keeps giving us nominees the board won’t go for. But we didn’t even get into that. I pointed out the fact that of all the endorsements we’ve done in all general elections — federal, state, local — since I joined the board in 1994 (and that includes those presidential ones), we have endorsed more Democrats than Republicans. I offered to take him into our smelly, musty archives and show him all those endorsements. He didn’t take me up on it.

He repeated his charge that we endorsed Sanford twice. I told him he was wrong, and asked him if he knew whom we endorsed in 2006 for governor. He said he didn’t know. I told him it was Democrat Tommy Moore.

He kept saying he didn’t have to read what we wrote; he knew all he needed to know about us. So it was no use telling him that while I had liked Barack Obama from early on and hoped we would see fit to endorse him, I believed that Sen. Clinton had a case to make that could persuade us otherwise, and I wanted her to have the chance to make it. As I wrote in the paper, Mike Fitts expressed his sincere disappointment that she didn’t do so. I think, after having had the interview with Obama, he would still have persuaded us. But I can’t know for sure.

But Don Fowler, he knows.

It was a remarkable conversation. I share it with you because it bears — or at least seems to bear — on a subject I’ve tried to keep y’all in the loop on.

It’s officially a trend: Rock Hill backs Obama, too

The Sage of Wichita, Jerry Ratts, once said, “That’s twice. Once more and it’s a trend, and we can send it to Lifestyles.” (You probably have to have worked long, thankless years at a newspaper to fully grok the wisdom of Ratts, but I assure you it’s there.)

By that definition, we officially have us a trend: The Rock Hill Herald has also endorsed Barack Obama, to wit:

    Barack Obama, at 46, could have waited four or even eight years to run for the presidency, but decided that this year’s campaign was his moment.
    We think he was right; his candidacy is ideally suited for this point in the nation’s history. Obama, more than any other candidate in either party, has based his campaign on the promise of positive change in Washington and an effort to heal the caustic partisan rift that divides not only the nation’s capital but also much of the nation.
    The promise of change is nothing unique in the rhetoric of the stump. But we think Obama brings both a unique biography and an impressive set of skills to this campaign.

So I guess this means Editorial can officially drop this subject, and let the Features folks take over…

She got one! MB goes for Hillary

Just to show that the MSM are not one big, fat conspiracy, the Myrtle Beach Sun News has endorsed Hillary Clinton, as this release from Zac proudly announces:

Myrtle Beach Sun News Endorses Hillary for President

COLUMBIA, SCThe Myrtle Beach Sun News, a major daily newspaper serving the Pee Dee and Grand Strand in South Carolina, today endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, calling her "sharp, savvy, highly skilled" and citing her experience and ability to solve problems.
     According to the endorsement editorial, the newspaper found that Hillary Clinton “certainly has the brains, toughness and skill-set required to chart her own course.”
     The full endorsement follows.

Of course, the Sun News is terribly misguided, but I’m happy for Zac, since he’s from my old stomping grounds in West Tennessee, and I think he’s a good guy.

Mama! Greenville’s copying us! Make ’em stop!

The Greenville News has also endorsed Barack Obama. Here’s an excerpt:

    Obama brings characteristics to this primary that lift up many
people and elevate their sense of hope. He is not a hardened ideologue.
While he does not minimize his Democratic Party roots, he talks openly
and encouragingly of wanting to get "Democrats, Republicans and
independents to work constructively on problems instead of (trying) to
score political points."

    He could help Washington move past its
stubborn and destructive partisan politics. As he said in an editorial
board meeting at this newspaper, "The politics we have seen and grown
accustomed to over the past 20 years have not been productive." That’s
so true…

So as you see, they’ve chosen to endorse our candidate, using our reasoning, and making like it’s their own. Well, I suppose I can live with all that. After all, they’re right.

But then they went and copied us on releasing the endorsement early online. They’ve stolen our shtick! EPE Beth Padgett freely admits that they’ve never done this before, whereas everybody knows that we do it all the time — which is to say, we’ve now done it twice.

Oh, and by the way, the paper over in Atlanta went for Obama, too. That’s two. Once more, and it will officially be a trend. In other words, it’s not just about us at The State being the moral equivalent of Lucifer. But I’m not denying the "philosopher kings" part, because that sounds pretty cool.

Obama ‘Truth Squad’ claims a victory

Citing an online Washington Post report that the Clinton campaign has, "under fire," pulled the ads that lamely claimed Barack Obama was a closet Reagan devotee, the Obama "Truth Squad" is claiming responsibility:

January 24, 2008

Clinton Campaign Forced to Pull Dishonest Radio Ad Attacking Obama
COLUMBIA – Former Clinton administration official and South Carolina Truth Squad member David Agnew of Charleston today issued a statement after learning that the Clinton campaign has pulled its now-infamous ad that had been playing on South Carolina radio stations distorting Obama’s view of the Republican Party and President Reagan.  Yesterday, fellow Truth Squad members Gov. Jim Hodges and State Rep. Todd Rutherford held a news conference to denounce the misleading ad — saying that it only served to distract attention from the issues most important to families in South Carolina.
     “This is a victory for the truth, and a victory for all South Carolinians who want to turn the page on the divisive politics of the past,” Agnew said.  “Obviously the deceptions go beyond this one radio ad.  It’s time for the distortions of Senator Obama’s record to stop.  And it’s time for Hillary Clinton to start running an honest campaign focused on the issues that really matter to the people of South Carolina.”

The release then called attention to the piece on the WashPost site, which you can read here. An excerpt:

Clinton Pulls Negative S.C. Ad
By Anne E. Kornblut
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Under fire for airing misleading attacks on Sen. Barack Obama, the Clinton campaign has pulled a radio ad that quoted the Illinois senator calling Republicans "the party of ideas" and suggesting he thought those ideas superior to Democratic ones. But the Obama campaign has already counter-punched, launching a new radio spot saying Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will "say anything" to get elected…

What the Obama campaign learned about The State

After he saw the message from Don Fowler, Kevin Griffis of the Barack Obama campaign send me an e-mail, which I reproduce here in full:

    We did very thorough research of The State‘s editorial board’s positions over the last few years, and in addition to endorsing Democrats Jim Clyburn, John Spratt, Robert Barber and Jim Rex in the last cycle, this is what we found that the board has advocated for, among other positions:

  • Improved government transparency
  • Energy independence
  • Alleviating inequalities in educational opportunities
  • Strenthening consumer safety measures
  • Reforming No Child Left Behind
  • Adequately funding public colleges

I assume their campaign supports the aforementioned candidates and policy positions despite the fact the paper has endorsed Republicans. It makes you wonder where they draw the line for the legitimacy of your advocacy.

I didn’t realize we were being studied up on to that extent, but I see now that we were. Ordinarily, you’d expect that Don would have just known all this stuff about us, seeing as how he’s a Columbian. But he is blinded by his partisan view of the world — for him, if you ever endorsed or agreed with a Republican, you apparently are beyond the pale.

Don Fowler likens us to Lucifer

Well, it took him a day and a half, but Columbian and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler managed to draft a response to our endorsement of Barack Obama (I received it at 10:46 a.m. today):

Don Fowler’s comments on editorial endorsements by The State
Having The State newspaper render judgments about Democrats is like Lucifer rendering judgments about angels. The crack set of philosopher kings at The State have twice endorsed George Bush and twice endorsed Mark Sanford.  No further comment required. 

Don Fowler

No, that’s not an excerpt. That’s the whole message, except for his phone number and e-mail address at the end.

Apparently, we didn’t endorse Don’s preferred candidate. For those of you who don’t know Don, you should. At least you should know that his wife, Carol, is the present state party chair. But in his day, Dr. Fowler has operated on a much grander stage.

Over the years, Don and I have disagreed strongly over one thing: He thinks the political parties are a wonderful, essential part of our political system (hence all the time he’s spent serving one of them). I see the Republican and Democratic parties as anathema, the ruination of the country, destructive forces that foster intellectual dishonesty and prevent the deliberative process from functioning as the nation’s Founders intended. Don is a Democrat, through and through. I am the founder and most ardent proponent of the UnParty.

Given that divide between us, it was pretty much inevitable — looking at it now in retrospect — that we would endorse Barack Obama, the one candidate seeking the Democratic nomination with the goal of leading the nation beyond the nauseating polarization that has characterized the Bush-Clinton years. And it was just as inevitable that Don would disagree most vehemently, and in the hyperpartisan terms that he chose.

Don doesn’t even see the truth, which is that this newspaper has endorsed slightly more Democrats than Republicans in the years I’ve been on this editorial board. We haven’t done that on purpose; party is not a consideration in our deliberations. I wasn’t aware of it until I took the time in 2004 to do a study of the past decade’s endorsements. It just worked out that way. (In fact, in 2006 we endorsed 12 Democrats and 5 Republicans — again, not intentionally. And while that skewed our running average toward Democrats, we sometimes go just as strongly for Republicans, depending on the candidates that year.)

But Don’s apparently not a guy who can understand, or forgive, anyone who has backed a Republican ever. And the partisan filter through which he perceives the world is what divides us.