Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hillary Endorsed by Former Representative Dick Gephardt

At 1:00 easterntime today, former U.S. Representative Richard Gephardt endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in a conference call to journalists and bloggers. Gephardt explained that he is endorsing her because “our country is in as much trouble as it has ever been in” and if ever we needed a president who would dive right in from day one and grapple with the problems we face, he is confident that Hillary Clinton is that person, and he believes she would be a great president. He bases this belief on her experience, strength, and intelligence. “I will do anything I am asked to help her win the nomination.” He stated unequivocally.

After the initial statement, the lines were opened up for a few questions from journalists. First up was Lynne Sweet from the Chicago Sun Times. She asked for Mr. Gephardt's take on Barrack Obama’s statement that the way the system is gamed, and expectations set high, the only person qualified to be president is a former president.

Hillary played a unique roll as spouse to President Clinton, she knows what it means to be a President, and knows the challenges first hand. She is not a former President but as close as you can be to that. We face the most difficult challenges that this country has ever faced, in both the domestic and foreign policy realms, and she is the best suited to face those challenges. "We need someone who can, from the first moment they take the oath of office, dive right in."

Brian McNulty of Gannett was up next, and asked how Mr. Gephardt’s stance on trade issues differed from Hillary, as he had been a vocal opponent of President Clinton’s trade policies.

The Democratic Party has come together on the trade issue, and Senator Clinton has been integral to that coming together.

Christina Vallentini(sp?) with the Washington Times asked how he thought he could help the Senator in Iowa based on his experience there.

She doesn’t really need any help. She is running a very good campaign. Iowans make decisions late in the process nobody tells them who to be for. He is heartened by her showing thus far.

Some chucklehead on the radio in St. Louis – Devin somebody, I believe - dredged up the “cookies” remark from February 1992. How can she expect to get the women she insulted to vote for her, after she attacked such a “great institution”? (I heard the smirk from the other side of the state.)

After initially stifling a chuckle, Mr Gephardt pointed out that she has come a long way since 1992, and her experience and ability to lead is what people see, not the primary candidates wife from 15 years ago.

Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Post Dispatch had a more substantive question, about the votes both Gephardt and Clinton cast for the AUMF. She inquired about his assessment of whether her evolving position on Iraq would help or hurt her?

She has defined a position that most Americans agree with, she has been fighting in the Senate to equipment to the troops in the field and care when they get home. She opposed the escalation, and she has come forward with plans for a phased withdrawal. “I think her position is right in line with where it should be and where the American people are.”

A television reporter in St. Louis (sorry I did not catch her name) asked the final question, and she asked what Mr. Gephardt could offer with his endorsement, and could he bring other people to her side?

“I’m a has-been politician, I don’t know that I can do more than cast my own vote.” Maybe I can get my family and friends to vote for her. I will advocate her candidacy to anyone who will listen.

I have also signed on to be an economic advisor to her campaign. But I have “no illusions about being any big factor in this election, I just want a good president in 2009, and I think [Hillary is the right person for the job]”

Personally, I seized on the economic adviser info-drop at the end of the call. I read into that, that Hillary needs a counter to John Edwards muscular pro-union stance, and given Gephardt’s long pro-labor history, she hopes he can be that counter.

With Missouri shaping up to resume her rightful spot as the quintessential battleground state (it was the Missouri Compromise you learned about in 6th grade, remember) in 2008, a Gephardt endorsement could hold some sway with primary voters. Especially in the urban centers of St. Louis and Kansas City, where Unions aren't dead yet. Missouri entered the Union fussing and feuding; and before too long we were fighting with our neighbors to the west in the Border War that predated the Civil War by a decade; and in the Civil War, we fought amongst ourselves.)

Missouri has long served as a microcosm of larger, national struggles, and I think the case can be made once more, when our economic situation is assessed and compared to the nation as a whole. We are facing the same problems as the nation, just more focused and sharply felt.