Hillary Clinton's Director of Online Everything, Peter Daou, sent a tantalizing email today inviting a handful of political bloggers to a conference call with a mystery endorsement of the campaign. I called him and didn't press very hard as he preemptively and craftily said "of course I can't say yet who it is, but I can tell you it is someone bloggers will appreciate."
I was hooked.
So at 1:30 pm, I jumped out of an event where I was speaking about America's backward visa policies in the House of Representatives, and Peter introduced the mystery endorser: Ambassador Joe Wilson.
This is actually very significant -- even though Stuart Rothenberg writes disparagingly about these sorts of endorsements in a piece he wrote today in Roll Call titled "Do Endorsements Matter in Today's Presidential Races?"
Rothenberg mentions former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt endorsing Hillary Clinton. And then Edwards scoring "the support of several prominent Ohio leaders," various "prominent Latinos," and a bunch of "African American leaders." Rothenberg also mentioned Biden scooping up "three Iowa state Representatives" into his camp.
But the clincher from Rothenberg is this:
So let the candiates roll out their list of state legislators, city council officials, dogcatchers and "activists" who support them. Just remember that only those few people who have a campaign treasury under their control or real fundraising clout, a near-unique ability to motivate and mobilize real people, or unusual influence in Iowa are truly important supporters.
Well, back to Ambassador Wilson. He does have a unique ability to motivate and mobilize real people as the encounter he and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, have had with the Bush administration over the President's war in Iraq has been the single most important event exposing serious crimes and duplicity committed by Bush administration officials.
Wilson and Plame are favorites among the leftish "net-roots." They are a favorite among many bloggers for taking them seriously and for working with them to understand the nooks and crannies of what was real and not in their David and Goliath battle with the White House. Wilson gave young political activists hope that they could get traction in their battles against an occasionally vulnerable Bush/Cheney machine.
But now Joe Wilson has endorsed someone that many in the blogosphere have been slow to love: Hillary Rodham Clinton. This will have impact and will shock some. Some lefty bloggers will not abandon Obama and not forgive Clinton for being complicit in the decisions that empowered the Bush White House to wage the Iraq War. But others will now rethink their positions.
During the conference call, Joe Wilson said that he had been friends with Hillary for the last ten years. He stated that he believed that Hillary had emerged as a well-established, serious critic of the Bush administration and felt that she believed that "the Iraq War needed to be ended soon, that troops needed to be removed from harm's way, and that a political process had to be started, a process that would end the war and preserve some shred of our strategic position in the Middle East."
Wilson argued that the President had show no leadership in affecting the real political process in Iraq -- and that this had to happen and was something Clinton understood. Wilson mentioned that he was involved in helping to get the political circumstances right in the Middle East during the first Gulf War and had later worked with key players before and during the Dayton Accord process. In 1998, Hillary Clinton was pivotal in convincing her husband to travel to Africa -- a trip that Wilson was in charge of.
And since the point at which the Bush administration decided to punish Wilson for his efforts to hold the Bush White House accountable for its statements in the lead up to Iraq War II by outing the covert status of his CIA-employed wife, Valerie Plame -- Hillary Clinton had reached out repeatedly to the Wilsons. She helped advise, counsel, and compare the experiences Joe and Valerie Wilson were having in the Republican meat-grinder with her own experiences in the same situation.
His endorsement was compelling -- and made a lot of sense -- but still will be a interesting move for net-roots bloggers to consider.
I asked him whether given Wilson's support of a "grand bargain" approach to Iran and broad Middle East negotiations that solve many of the interlinking realities in the region whether he felt there was much distance in his own views from Hillary Clinton's.
Wilson replied that he believed that "the more diplomacy the better -- though we ought always be prepared to defend our national security interests." He subscribes to views on Iran that are shared by "Zbigniew" and others that he and I have mutual acquaintance with. And Wilson stated that he felt that "there is no sunlight between my own views on Iran and Hillary's."
Very interesting development that will no doubt make the papers tomorrow -- and of course, the blogs today.
-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note.