Friday, March 21, 2008

An Endorsement for the All the Right Reasons

I have been a parent for twenty years. Every day for those 20 years I feel that my actions, my words, and my choices have important implications for myself and my family. How I conduct myself in the community, how I communicate with my spouse and my children, my decisions to take positions that may or may not be popular (but that I believe are right), how I deal with conflict - are opportunities to teach. For twenty years, my children have watched and learned from me, and as a result I have an awesome responsibility to try to do it right.

I can't help but compare this Democratic primary election to a family. The family is the American people, the parents - our candidates and their surrogates. So when public figures act in ways that are antithetical to basic human values - behaviors that we as parents would never demonstrate and certainly wouldn't accept in our children - it only makes me stand in disbelief. On the other hand, when these individuals stand up and act the way parents should, it make me proud, it warms me and offers hope.

This morning, Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, stood up and did the right thing. Despite his long standing friendship with the Clintons, he endorsed Barack Obama. In his own words,

''I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America's moral leadership in the world,'' Richardson said in a statement obtained by the AP. ''As a presidential candidate, I know full well Sen. Obama's unique moral ability to inspire the American people to confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad in a spirit of bipartisanship and reconciliation.'

Govenor Richardson has not let the game of politics blur what he believes in his heart is the right thing to do. He could have easily endorsed Hillary - it was the safe decision. But he did what was right and not necessarily what was easy. This is the standard that Barack Obama is setting for our country. The Governor knows that Senator Obama will lead us with a moral compass. The value and importance of this quality is the beginning of a new kind of Presidency.

Governor Richardson understands his responsibility to the American people and I hope that other Democratic leaders will break their silence. I respect leaders who are thoughtful in their decision-making, however, a leader is not a leader if he or she cannot take a position. This family needs its leaders to act like strong, confident parents who the children depend on to make decisions that will be best for the family. Al Gore, John Edwards, and Howard Dean - stand up, be brave and help put an end to this calamity. This family needs to stop fighting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


These ARE the words I have been waiting for….Today, Barack Obama seized an opportunity to talk to America honestly about race. His words, yes his words, will touch the souls of every race and creed in this country who choose to listen to them. He did not compromise his beliefs by merely explaining away an old friend with whom it would have been politically expedient to cast aside but used that friendship as a springboard for a discourse on race in America. He epitomizes the qualities that we as a nation must have in our President: integrity in his beliefs, sincerity in his thoughts, and hopefulness in his actions. He has the ability to challenge us to be better than who we are and to help us realize that it is the existence of our precious melting pot that implores us to rise above our differences - if we are to make any progress at all.
This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.
I have never been more proud to be an Obama supporter today.

I Have Been Waiting for these Words

I have been struggling with my feelings regarding the relationship between Barack Obama and his pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Oddly, my struggle is not that I am having trouble reconciling this relationship; rather it is that I am not.

I have had to ask myself why the absolutely offensive words that the Reverend Wright spewed has not lead me to the same question that many seem to be asking: How come Senator Obama has remained in that Congregation, allowing this minister to officiate at his wedding and to baptize his children, knowing that these views are so discordant and antithetical to his own beliefs?

I have been a member of the same congregation for 10 years. There have been sermons that various Rabbis have given over the years that I have not agreed with. I know that others have found some sermons extremely offensive. Do we leave our congregation because we disagree with the words of our Rabbi? No. We are a community, which is our extended family. What do my friends, who are pro-choice and in favor of gay marriage do when their priest espouses the beliefs of the Catholic Church during a Sunday mass? Do they leave their congregation? No, it is their community, their family. We all gain strength from belonging to a spiritual home and take pride in the good work it does in our communities. We value the relationships we share with our spiritual leaders. I am sure that the congregants of the Trinity United Church of Christ feel exactly the same way. I am sorry that this congregation, that these people, this family, has had to bear the brunt of our own fears – our scrutiny.

First, I do believe that I, as a white, Jewish American, have a lot to learn about the African American experience. I have no clue about what it’s like growing up with black skin in this country. In a few weeks I will be seated at my dinner table, retelling the Passover story as if I were a slave in Egypt – but I can’t begin to relate to the notion of having a great grandparent who was actually enslaved in America. I was young during the Civil Rights movement – I grew up in a white suburb in New England, attended an all white elementary school and sang freedom songs with my family on car trips. I can be empathetic and sympathetic but I refuse to be a hypocrite. I have no right to place judgment on this congregation or this minister.

To have asked Barack Obama to denounce Reverend Wright, which in a way meant turning his back on his congregation makes me cringe. How dare we ask this of him because his pastor spoke words that made us uncomfortable. How dare we judge his congregation without judging ourselves. How dare we disparage Senator Obama’s relationship with his pastor. It’s none of our business. Senator Obama’s actions - his record, has certainly proven that he does not espouse or agree with these particular sound bytes. Reverend Wright is not running for President and he has a 1st Amendment right to speak, even if his words are offensive. Even if what he says makes us angry. Even if we vehemently disagree. We don’t have to listen if we don’t want to. But perhaps we should.

Reverend Wright’s words are a wakeup call to white America – and they are harsh words to hear. There are serious racial tensions in this country. And there is anger. Barack Obama may be the single most important person who has the ability to transcend this racial divide and for the first time in a long history be an effective instrument for positive change. He can begin the dialogue and give voice to both sides of the divide. He is the best hope that can I possibly imagine to finally begin to bring this country together and to move us forward. I don’t mean the Democratic and Republican, Independents and Green parties, I mean the people who make up these parties – the rainbow of colors that is this country.

Senator Obama is speaking this morning at 10:30. That he has chosen Philadelphia as his venue cannot be an accident. This is a speech that I was hoping he would make, that he must make to the people of this country – black and white, women and men, rich and poor, young and old. I know he has the courage to seize this opportunity - to confront and not shrink away from this challenge. This is a time when words do matter. They mattered when our forefathers gathered in Philadelphia to draft the Declaration of Independence and they mattered when Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. These words are words that must be spoken and we should all find it within ourselves to listen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama Denounces Controversial Remarks

For supporters and doubters alike....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"That Way Madness Lies"

If you have ten minutes to spare, spend it listening to Keith Olbermann's commentary last night. Finally, somebody from the media has the guts to stand up and speak honestly and thoughtfully. Mr. Olbermann expresses my frustration more clearly and articulately than I ever could. Give yourself a treat and watch this. I assure you, you will see things more clearly when it is finished.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hillary's Response to a "Crisis"

Hillary Clinton’s campaign was pretty desperate 4 weeks ago. You might even venture to characterize it as being in crisis mode. She had lost 11 State Primaries in a row, her top staffers were resigning, super delegates were jumping ship for Obama, and her campaign infighting was becoming notorious. How has she responded to this crisis?

It is common knowledge now that Senator Clinton’s top advisors do not get along. Her intent to form an unorthodox team should be applauded and her vision commended. However, from an ordinary voter’s perspective, the result might be compared to a dysfunctional family. According to a recent Washington Post article:

She assembled her own team of advisers knowing their mutual enmity in the belief that good ideas come from vigorous discussion.

And further on in the article: But while many campaigns are beset by backbiting and power struggles, dozens of interviews indicate that the internal problem endured by the Clinton team have been especially corrosive.

Hillary Clinton is at the helm of her campaign. She is the commander and she alone is responsible for the manner and tone with which her staffers conduct themselves. Although her intent is impressive, her failure to pull it off is more resounding. She has shown an inability to manage all this power and garner the energy into a positive, collaborative team. Instead, nastiness permeates her upper echelon and this is endemic of the true picture. Her campaign serves as an honest lens into which it behooves voters to peer into because it is very likely a microcosm of the future management of her Administration. We are fortunate to be experiencing, first hand, her leadership style in the midst of a crisis, so why not judge it?

Consider her message to voters at the height of her campaign crisis. Although first claiming that voters shouldn’t vote for her just because she is a woman, she pulled the gender card as a last resort. At the conclusion to the Ohio primary, in a desperate attempt to woo women voters on February 26, she said:

I am thrilled to be running, to be the first woman president, which I think would be a sea change in our country and around the world…

Later on in the week, CNN’s Judy Woodruff followed up on these remarks with Senator Clinton. She asked her, "What would be different about having a female president?"Her response:
I don’t think we can adequately imagine the difference it would make. It would be the shattering of the highest and hardest glass ceiling and it would send such a message of hope and opportunity to every little girl, to every young woman. That’s probably the most common thing that people say to me out on the campaign trail. There’s two things, actually, one people say I’m here because of my daughter, or my little girl just learned that we never had a woman president and I want her the know that she can do anything. It would be a very deep change in how people see themselves and who is able to fulfill this position…

So what exactly are these characteristics that demonstrate that “sea change” she would bring to the presidency? Examine her message of hope that she is promising to the mothers of these “little girls and to young women”. Her responses so far to the crisis in her campaign: Negative attack ads and fear mongering (the red phone ad), innuendo (as far as I know he (Obama) is not a Muslim), punitive finger-shaking (Shame on you, Barack Obama), caddiness towards her opponent (do you need a pillow, Barack ? or her famous Xerox flub). There is nothing new in her actions that could be characterized as a “sea change”. This is just the same old game of dirty politics yet she has had perfect opportunities to demonstrate something different - to show those mothers (and fathers) that she will do it differently. And this isn’t hope, this is desperation and if this is how she responds in a crisis, no thank-you.

This is Hillary Clinton. This is how she handles crisis. This is how she leads people. This is who she is and there is no denying it no matter how it is spun.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It Does Us No Good

Dear Hillary,
I understand and respect your desire to be President of the United States…. and particularly to be the first woman President of the United States. I know you sincerely want change in this country. The Democrats must win in November. About this we both agree. But please don’t let your personal ambition cloud the opportunity that we as Democrats have to make this a better, a much better America. We need a united Democratic party in order to win. Please don’t divide us.

First of all, you are not being very nice. This is not becoming of anyone, especially a candidate for President of the United States. To me, character is the most important quality in a Presidential candidate. Your negative campaigning and sniveling swipes shows weakness and bad sportsmanship, and quite frankly it makes me question the respect for you that I do have. This is exactly the old politics that we are all fed up with. Please give it a rest. If this is the only way you know how to fight when you are down, then perhaps you should rethink your run for the Presidency. It does us no good.

Why do you have to pretend that you are doing fine when we all know that are disappointed about the direction your campaign is heading. We know that you are human and not immune from feelings of disappointment. You may think that such an admission shows weakness, but I view it as a strength of soul, a genuineness that I would want, no I would need my President to have.

Instead you seem to brush off your losses as if they mean nothing. Why can’t you be gracious and congratulate your opponent, and why for heaven’s sake can’t you, at the very least acknowledge the efforts of your volunteers who work so hard for you, despite your losses? And how about your voters? They believe in you. If I were giving a speech after a primary, it would be the first words out of my mouth. It is common decency to thank people who have helped you whether it got you closer to your goal or not. A mother teaches her children this basic value, a teacher to her students and friends expect it of friends. A mention of thanks anywhere else but at the very beginning of your speech degrades their efforts. If ignoring those who proved useless to you and not finding it within your heart to acknowledge other’s successes even when you are down is the best you can muster, then perhaps you should rethink your run for the Presidency. It does us no good.

And, if I may, can to ask you to take a serious look at the momentum of the voters? It’s been a slow drumbeat since Iowa, but if you are a good listener then you can’t deny the steady march toward your opponent’s camp. A successful president listens to the people. I guess it’s an awful lot to ask you to hand him the baton but for the sake of our country might you at least consider it? You can’t deny the numbers: Barack Obama is slowly and very successfully chipping away at your voter base. You can’t deny it and you haven’t been able to stop it.

You are struggling up a hill that is morphing into a mountain. Catching up is becoming a greater challenge. Rather than putting all of your relentless energy into the battle for the nomination, for the sake or our country, please consider putting your ego aside and jumping on the bandwagon. And bring your voters with you. Just think of the power we can have together. So, you would not be remembered in history as being the first woman President, but you would surely be remembered as a hero. You would be my hero. Perhaps you should rethink your run for the Presidency.