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Michael Russnow Headshot

Obama and Clinton Forces: Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

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With all that's going on in the Democratic race, I'm sure the Republican Dirty Tricks Forces are rubbing their hands in glee. So, my question, as I expound a bit on this and that regarding the presidential contest, is to repeat the oft-posted Rodney King admonition, "Why can't we all just get along?"

We Democrats are dangerously close to helping the Republicans score a renewal of the White House lease and in many ways it is because the two Democratic front runners are so close in their political philosophies. It would be much easier if one of them were running against, say, Joe Lieberman instead of the other. We would then be able to choose between major candidates based on clear-cut issues instead of the personality squabbles and petty bickering that have grown increasingly ugly.

For starters, race and religion should not be a factor in an American political campaign, and although it might be Pollyannish of me to even express that point of view it has to be stated and stated again. If only it were not on people's minds then we would not have a photo of Obama in African costume along with persistent questions to Hillary Clinton as to whether her campaign planted the photo and/or whether she believed him when he said he wasn't a Muslim.

He isn't a Muslim, but even if he were it shouldn't matter, and in a better world there wouldn't be frenetic Media attempts to boost ratings and sell journals parsing Hillary's response as to whether she was flirting with current prejudices regarding this religion. Anyone who knows the Clintons is well aware that they have both embraced and been supported by folks in minority groups and those who practice a variety of religious beliefs. And anyone who has followed Barack Obama's career knows full well that his rise in politics has certainly been aided by an even-tempered and cosmopolitan societal acceptance for and by all aspects of our American family, whether as an Ivy League student or working with community activists on the South Side of Chicago.

That said, it probably would have been smarter for Hillary to just say, "I'm not going to discuss religion in that context, because religion has no place at the table in American political discussion unless it intrudes on our collective well-being."

To the point, there are wonderful human beings here and around the world who are Muslim, Christian and Jewish, and there are also those who lurk on the extreme perimeters of those religions making hurtful comments and sometimes inflicting physical harm on those who don't subscribe to the very narrow doctrinaire ways in which they conduct their lives.

Why should the majority of any religion be tainted with the sins and idiotic statements of those few among them who seek to divide us? Intolerant people who castigate those who conduct their lives in a fruitful and amicable manner. Small minded bigots who condemn, threaten and sometimes harm those with personal lifestyles and choices performed by consenting adults that pose no real detriment to the community simply because such actions or viewpoints are not considered to be the majority's preferred cup of tea blend?

And why are the Obama forces trying to make us wonder about Hillary's tax records when she said she would reveal them by April 15, a full week ahead of the upcoming Pennsylvania primary? If there's anything damning, believe me the Media are fast readers and have, no doubt, employed oodles of CPAs and tax experts so that they can, perhaps eagerly, report to the world that Hillary and her husband have been acting fishy.

Why are both of these candidates not honing in on the specific differences regarding how each would conduct our government? As someone who thought the Iraq intrusion was foolhardy before our entry, which would presumably put me more on the Obama side, why do I see little difference between Hillary and Barack at the present moment? He can't just keep repeating a speech he gave when he was a state senator in the Illinois legislature. His comments at that time may well have been sincere, but a clearer match-up in this particular debate and follow-up would pit Hillary against John Edwards and Joe Biden, my earlier preferred presidential candidates, as well as Christopher Dodd, all of whom were in the U.S. Senate in the fall of 2002. They, like Hillary, voted, in my view, erroneously for the war authorization and during the earlier part of the campaign season had different takes on how and when we should have a troop pullback.

But to contrast Hillary with Barack on this particular senate action is like apples and oranges, because we don't know if Hillary would have felt the same if she had no specific responsibility as a member of the Senate and was instead, perhaps, teaching law or government service at a prestigious university. Nor do we know for sure whether Obama would have dissented if he'd been in the Senate then. We do know that Obama and Clinton have voted similarly regarding war funding and the general Iraq mission since they have both been colleagues on Capitol Hill.

They both give reasons as to why we can't just cut and run, even though, to my mind, with the increasing deaths and maiming on both the Iraqi and U.S. sides we should do just that. If we are no longer there, in spite of the McCain/Bush rhetoric, it will have much less impact on our national security, as there would be no fodder for terrorist attacks. Certainly not against our country. As many have said since our 2003 invasion, up to that time we had so much goodwill around the world by those who were so sympathetic because of the events in New York City, Washington, D.C and the Pennsylvania field in the fall of 2001. And we blew it all with this reckless, tragic and extremely costly misadventure.

So, we should instead be discussing Clinton and Obama's different national health policy initiatives and their specific ways to stop our economic failures at home and abroad, amidst the mortgage crisis and the slide in the dollar. We should look at them personally only in how confident we feel about their knowledge of domestic and world events, and not simply count their years in office and/or public service but where they were spent and how relevant they may be to convince the national electorate that he or she has the right stuff to lead our country.

Instead it's become a tit for tat gossip clash, and while Obama appears less confrontational in his replies to Clinton's sometimes strident remarks against his candidacy, he is equally to blame when outrageous charges and comments about Hillary are leveled by his top supporters. In particular, those who have taken a key part in his campaign and whose utterances must have been vetted by him, if not immediately, then certainly shortly thereafter. Especially as negative unkind remarks are continually put forth albeit in different formats and venues. And that goes for Clinton's campaign forces as well when campaign stunts are directed Obama's way.

Folks, we are handing the White House to John McCain, so long as he doesn't make a major mistake. If he appears pleasant, if not very creative or forward seeking, it will give the majority of our nation's voters a greater sense of comfort as they perhaps reluctantly direct George W. Bush to hand the keys of the Executive Mansion to McCain. Voters are funny that way, and even with all the problems of the past seven years, if they see the principal candidates on the other side squabbling hysterically as in the current mess, they will shrug their shoulders and perhaps hold their nose but vote for McCain as someone who doesn't completely embarrass them.

That's why I am issuing this plea for the candidates and their key supporters to ratchet down the rhetoric and remember who they are really running against and what they hope to achieve for our nation. They are both so close in the delegate and popular vote, and with the Michigan and Florida primaries possibly going to be redone it may well be closer than ever by the time we get to the convention in Denver.

If it is, and since it is part of the process, we have to entrust the super delegates to perform a necessary service based upon their experience and view of the political scenario as it unfolds in the late summer. To indicate, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi did the other day, that it's all up to who is ahead in delegates, even if it's so, so very close and neither has a majority, is to in effect nullify the necessity of the super delegates themselves. The nomination process is not a plurality contest as it would be for candidates running for senator or governor in most states. In those situations, assuming there are three or four candidates, someone could win office with thirty or forty percent -- or even less.

However, we have instituted a process wherein the leaders of our political party can take a hard view of what's going on and, given the proximity of national support for both candidates, give their votes to either candidate to put him or her over the top. It's not as if they were poised to award the nomination to a candidate such as Kucinich, Dodd, Biden or even Edwards. Nonetheless, their selection process must be predicated on who has the best chance of winning, considering the even nature of the current contest.

To do less and to simply vote for the candidate who is ahead in votes -- no matter the slight difference -- makes them irrelevant and unnecessary, which I do not for a minute believe would sit well with the egos of every member of Congress, our nation's governors, former presidents and other leading political figures.

Whatever the case, whoever is chosen should not be hamstrung with so much disappointment by the supporters of the other side that the most important goal -- that of recapturing the White House that was stolen in the election of 2000 -- is not realized because of the collateral damage done to the fabric of either candidate's persona and political being. We must not, under any circumstance, allow this to happen, and to do that we have to debate reasonably among ourselves and above all we must pledge to get along.