First, there were so many Democrats on the stage it took on the sobriquet of Hillary and the Seven Dwarves. Elderly Alaskan, MikeGravel, embraced YouTube by throwing a rock in a pond and calling it a whimsical campaign commercial. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden had the best send up of their natural forms from Saturday Night Live canonizing their run as twin costumed SpongeBob SquarePants for Halloween. Meanwhile, Dennis Kucinich perfected the best political rhetoric bar none on health care while sending people into 360 head whirls with his discussions of his personal UFO sighting. Son of a mill worker guy, John Edwards, had two Americas resident in his own life being a millionaire lawyer who had the world's most discussed $400 haircut and a house that includes an inside basketball court while his campaign had to go on the public financing dole. The Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, is a master international negotiator who went so far as to threaten to import the Great Lakes water to the drought stricken southwest. Starting out with the most painful uh, uh, uh problem on a national stage came Barack Obama, turning up some of the most sage and soaring rhetoric heard from an American politician.
Debates 22 of them in all were a microcosm of political journalism that mainly sucked. The final debate with ABC news albatross anchor Charlie Gibson and toadying George Stephanopolous caused 22,000 people in less than 24 hours to emphatically state the horrendous degree of their suckitude because of their focus on issues pertinent to about a dozen millionaire "journalists" without a clue. Hark back to Lois Romano's Washington Post wasted space article dedicating column inches to Hillary Rodham Clinton's cleavage and later the passions of the pantsuit. In premature rhetorical spasms of needing relevance, press punditry scraped the bottom of the Velveeta vats declaring they found melting journalistic gold in gotcha questions and gross distortions as they pandered to the press operations of various campaigns rather than befouling themselves with being truthful and objective. CNN's YouTube debate had interesting questions from snowmen about the perils of global warming, singing questions and regular citizens that were more insightful.
Enter the constant vigilance courtiers, some extremely powerful surrogates and regular people ants from the cracked sidewalks of life. Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, had basked in Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison's characterization as the First black president. He got his status stripped from him unceremoniously for comments equating Barack Obama's tidal wave win in South Carolina as equivalent to Jesse Jackson, notorious civil rights leader with an outsized me me me complex equal to Bill's. Grand entrance from Chelsea Clinton after her Mom's stunning third place loss in Iowa when everybody on the stage behind her who had gray hair remembered Sputnik or Eisenhower as adults. There were surrogates that said monster, others insinuated madrassa educations and drug issues and being black was an advantage, while Bill Clinton resorted to fairy tales. It got U-G-L-Y.
Then the crowds showed up in numbers never seen before for primaries. They also turned out in massive numbers to vote. In one case, students at Prairie View A & M marched for seven miles as the registrar decided an early voting booth would no longer be on campus. Students organized and walked the seven miles in a hot Texas sun shutting down the highway as they then stood in line for hours to exercise their American right to vote under circumstances reminiscent of the 1960's. (Photos Courtesy of Ken Basart)
Most powerful woman on the planet with a communications empire, Oprah Winfrey, risked a fair bit by endorsing and stumping for the junior senator from Illinois. Michelle Obama got the ball rolling in Iowa wearing a navy blue headband, no makeup and declaring fear should not be a motivating factor. Notable in all this hoopla is Al Gore's silence, except to castigate them all equally for not bringing climate change to the forefront of the debate.
Then, the children started speaking to their parents from every socio-economic stripe. Many gave the gift of books, especially the Audacity of Hope to persuade them. One private mom and another public mom did something for Barack Obama after insistent consistent hectoring from their children. Missouri senator, Claire McCaskill, was on her couch with tears streaming down her face after a speech by Barack in the coldness of New Hampshire and was told by her teenage daughter to do something - now is the time. Decades passed participating in politics as another private mom was thunderstruck by her kids being steadfast in their support of Barack Obama. She decided to write a powerful piece in support of him for the New York Times. Her name is Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. On Hillary's behalf, legions of feminists of a certain age came out in full throated support, Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong and Maya Angelou.
The battles raged from primaries to caucuses with Super Tuesday being a Clinton line in the sand. Campaign strategic planning would decide the way forward. Hillary's camp doubled down on going negative with Mark Penn in the Patton PR role leading a media air war. Barack's camp focused on delegates and ground troops going from state to state. Hillary would have won with this campaign in 2004. Barack took the lesson of 2004 and rattled off a dozen straight wins while collecting wheelbarrows of cash. Hillary went broke and busted open her personal piggy bank for millions of dollars while demanding to hang in there until the bitter end. Part of her millions went for a 3 am ad that said she was ready to answer the red phone and Barack was not.
The word bitter resonated as Barack explained why elections turned on wedge issues. His twenty year association with black liberation theology within Trinity United Church of Christ came to an end amidst Jeremiah Wright being seen by more Americans on an endless loop without context from the mendacious media. At first, Barack withstood pressure by predominantly white media to disassociate himself from his church and its controversial pastor.
Obama delivered a complex speech on race from a multitude of perspectives to build a more perfect union. This was right before the Pennsylvania Primary that heavily favored Hillary with her advantages of having the patronage machine behind her efforts. Barack fed a baby cow, went bowling for a couple gutterballs and asked for orange juice rather than coffee, which outraged elitist pundit, Chris Matthews. Rev. Jeremiah Wright went on a resurrection/destruction tour starting with Bill Moyers broadcast on a Friday evening , on to preach in Dallas flying the same day to Detroit for a NAACP dinner and BAM - on Monday went over the edge and into hubris and hostility towards the press for a Q & A filled with rowdy and provocative answers from him.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile repeatedly told a great story of a corkscrew landing under sniper fire in Bosnia where she rushed off in her helmet. Except, she was met at the airport by a little girl with a poem and her traveling companions were Sinbad, Sheryl Crowe and her teenage daughter. Oops and the lie kept mushrooming. Hillary got into a spat saying she was telling the truth - Sinbad said their biggest decision on that trip was when to stop to eat. Bill tried to rescue her by stating she was 60 and forgot a few things undercutting her red phone 3 am ad.
The eventual delegate, popular vote winner, Barack Obama had his head immortalized in butter, been to church to meet folks with the most amazing architectural milliner offerings, and kissed a multitude of burping, smiling and sleeping baby cherubs. There is a wonderful pick of Sasha and Dad are mowing down Malia and Michelle on bumper cars at the Iowa State Fair in August of 2007.
Some of the most amazing images of Barack from the campaign are of him with children, including his own.
On Saturday, 31 May, Hillary's forces staged a hissy fit as they demanded that Barack not get credit in the Michigan primaries as he took his name off the ballot. Hillary's forces wanted to say she was the winner of a popular vote that had 0 meaning in a primary. The guy who had voted to sanction Florida & Michigan, Harold Ickes, became a contortionist and an extortionist reserving the right to challenge the results in Denver at the convention in late August.
And On Tuesday, June 3, 2008 Barack Obama became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party and the first man of color to ever do so in the industrialized western world. Hillary's wilting finance campaign chairman announced her as the next president of the United States in a bunker room two levels below street in New York City. Barack & his wife come out with a dap that confounded the older watching public - because it was hip and cool.
Saturday, Hillary graciously came out and put her historic exclamation point on the obvious. Congratulations to all who participated in this race of historic and yes, epic battles worthy of a Homeric treatment. Fabulous reading ahead. Gail Sheehy chronicled Hillary from behind the scenes and will fill in several gaps in her upcoming writing.
Obama's story is still being crafted. Woe betide any author that cannot live up to Barack's gifts with a pen or keyboard. It is our time and we have as MLK put it - the fierce urgency of now. May the sun shine on Barack & family's faces and the wind be at his back as he is elected the 44th president of the United States of America.