Denouncing and Renouncing

I've never ben a big fan of Stnaly Fish (from back when he was quite the controverisal Duke English professor while I was there), but I really loved his comments in the Times today.  Speaking on the subject of Wright and Obama, Fish writes:

In politics, and in much of the rest of life, being held responsible
for your own words comes with the territory. Once you?ve opened your
big mouth, others have a perfect right to ask, ?Do you really mean
that?? or ?What did you mean by that?? or ?If you say that, would you
also say??? (a question that usually has you frantically disassociating
yourself from Hitler). But why should you be held responsible for words
spoken by someone else, even if that someone else is a person you work
with or share a bed with? I frequently say things that make my wife
cringe, but whatever blame attaches to my utterances certainly should
not be extended to her, and it would be entirely inappropriate to ask
her to denounce me or to fault her if she didn?t.

I must admit, that above line really grabbed me when I read this.  If Kim felt she had to be accountable for my many questionable utterances, she would have left me long ago.  Fish continues…

Yet this is the position we routinely place our public figures in.
The demand that Barack Obama denounce and renounce his pastor, who
delivered himself of sentiments a million miles from anything Obama has
ever said, is only the latest and most publicized example…

This denouncing and renouncing game is simply not serious. It is a
media-staged theater, produced not in response to genuine concerns ? no
one thinks that Obama is unpatriotic or that Clinton is a racist or
that McCain is a right-wing bigot ? but in response to the needs of a
news cycle. First you do the outrage (did you see what X said?), then
you put the question to the candidate (do you hereby denounce and
renounce?), then you have a debate on the answer (Did he go far enough?
Has she shut her husband up?), and then you do endless polls that
quickly become the basis of a new round.

Meanwhile, the things the candidates themselves are saying about
really important matters ? war, the economy, health care, the
environment ? are put on the back-burner until the side show is over,
though the odds are that a new one will start up immediately.

Amen.

The Richardson endorsement

It's such an unusual thing for me to actually get a request to blog on a topic, thus, I've got to say a few words about Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama.  Obviously, there's not many voters out there who are going to say, “oohhh, now I'll vote for Obama,” but still I do think this endorsement is of important symbolic importance.  Among other things, it's been well-reported that Obama does not fare well among Hispanics, and Richardson is far-and-away the most prominent Hispanic politican. 

More importantly, it is saying somethig that Richardson is willing to stand up to the Clinton establishment.  Here's a little tidbit from Jason Zengerly I came across over at TNR discussing Clintonite (and former DNC chair) Terry McAuliffe:

All that said, the most interesting thing
about Richardson's endorsement, to me at least, is thinking about just
how much it must piss off Terry McAuliffe. Here's one of my favorite
bits of campaign reportage this year, from a piece Crowley wrote way back when about the mood on the Clinton campaign plane right after her defeat in Iowa:

The preternaturally jolly McAuliffe is a good
man to have spinning for you in a pinch. But his good cheer dimmed when
I asked him about Bill Richardson, who appears to have made an
11th-hour deal to throw his supporters to Obama. ?How many times did
[Clinton] appoint him?? McAuliffe marveled. ?Two? U.N. Ambassador and
Energy Secretary?? He looked at me, half-glaring, awaiting
confirmation. ?I don?t know,? I joked, ?but who?s counting?? ?I am,?
McAuliffe said firmly.

Imagine what McAuliffe's thinking now.

One thing that has always troubled me about Hillary's campaign is wondering how many of her staff and supporters generally wanted her to be president versus how many thought they could not turn their back on Bill (especially after reading this excellent Josh Green profile of Hillary some time ago).  Reading McAuliffe's comments you really have to wonder just how widespread this is.  Richardson has the stature where he can buck the Clintons, but many politicians are surely (and quite legitimately) fearful.  Anyway, I am pleased that my original choice for the nomination has backed my current choice.





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