Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Backlash Continues--and Extends to Gender

The backlash against the Billary distortions of Barack Obama's statements and record continue--even as those distortions continue, with a Clinton ad in South Carolina that repeats what various commentators are calling simply a lie: that Obama praised the good ideas of Reaganistic Republicans. Latest to weigh in is the non-partisan, which also details this Clintonian distortion.

But a little noticed distortion by the Clinton campaign that apparently was effective in turning women voters away from Obama in New Hampshire is now being exposed--and causing its own backlash. The Clintons got what the Washington Post describes as "two dozen" prominent women to sign an open letter faulting Obama for being "soft on abortion rights." Now three of those same women have issued another letter proclaiming that Obama is "strongly pro choice," and one of the signers--Katie Wheeler, a former state senator--has called out the Clinton campaign for misleading her and issuing this lie:

"It should never have gotten to the point where anyone thought Obama was not pro-choice," said Wheeler, a founder of the New Hampshire chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "I don't think the Clinton campaign should have done that. It was divisive and unnecessary...I think it was a mistake and I've spoken to the national [Clinton campaign] and told them it caused problems in New Hampshire, and am hoping they won't do it again."

On the heels of this comes a video now on YouTube made by Lorna Brett Howard, former President of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization of Women, where she also worked with Planned Parenthouse, and she is currently on the board and the political action committee of a large pro-choice organization in New York. She has personal knowledge of Obama's strong pro-choice record in Illinois, and says that later when the call went out to U.S. Senators to help fight against the South Dakota legislation to criminalize abortions, only one Senator answered the call and helped: not HC of New York, but Barack Obama.

What makes this statement powerful at this moment is that she was a Hillary supporter, who says she witnessed Hillary falsely telling women in Iowa that Obama was weak on choice as a state senator, when Howard knew for a fact he wasn't from having worked with him at the time, and then she was shown a direct mail piece from the Clinton campaign making the same charges in New Hampshire. At that point she switched her support from Hillary to Obama. "This line of attack on an issue I care about so deeply is not acceptable to me," Howard said. She ends her video statements with the words: "Barack Obama, 100% pro-choice, 100% honest."

The apparent basis for the Clinton claims has to do with votes in the Illinois state legislature when Obama voted "present" on bills concerning choice. But this claim has long been known to be specious--I saw it debunked at least three months ago-- and was fact-checked once again today.

In South Carolina, Dick Harpootlian, a former Democratic party chairman in that state and friend of Billary, said recent distortions by the Clintons are "reprehensible." Asked to respond, Bill Clinton blamed the media and the Obama campaign. Bill is alone in the state at the moment, as Hill campaigns elsewhere. He is already spinning the outcome as being about race.

Meanwhile, the Political Wire suggests it knows what Hillary and Edwards talked about at their post-debate meet: Hillary told him she has more dirt on Obama.

Among the GOPers, the Wire reports that not just the Huckabee campaign but the two-primary winner John McCain's campaign is having money problems, while the cash-strapped Rudy may be in free fall in Florida. That leaves Romney as the man with the moolah to sustain a campaign. A couple of polls have Romney and McCain fighting for the lead in Florida. So John Edwards annointing McCain as the GOPer nominee may be as accurate as his assessment of who the Dem nominee will be. (But one poll suggests Edwards is climbing in South Carolina, and may be in striking distance of finishing second.)

Gov. Ed Rendell of PA endorsed Hillary, while two other South Carolina newspapers and the New York Observer endorsed Obama:

New Yorkers might ask why they should not pull a lever for our junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. While Mrs. Clinton is an extraordinary United States senator for New York, we believe that Mr. Obama can be a great president for the United States of America. ...

It is difficult to remember the last national candidate who has charged and jazzed the democratic system as Mr. Obama has. Partly as a result of his candidacy, college campuses have remembered why they are proud of the United States, kids are going door to door, runners are handing out leaflets on weekends, racial lines have been culturally melted and the electoral approach to presidential campaigning has been reborn.

And, as more than one commentator has said, America is being reintroduced to the world. Because of who he is and what he stands for, a former constitutional law teacher with few ties to the Washington establishment yet a sophisticated respect for it, Mr. Obama stands the best chance of restoring the essential relationship between power and the American people. He is not flanked and blocked by an existing, entrenched power structure; his words are not muddied by layers of handlers; he still says what he means.

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