Today there were three performances of interesting and important political theater. First, this morning John Edwards withdrew from the Democratic race. He did this in New Orleans. John Edwards has a wonderful consistency in sticking to his message and giving that short, sweet speech in that still devastated city. He made his point about the two Americas. He made it in a place where that divide is apparent to all of us. And now he has the chips to change the outcome of the primary. That’s how close the race is on the Democratic side.
The second bit of theater was the endorsement of John McCain by Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Rudy Gullianni standing by as the sweating court jester. This act took place in a factory in California. If I recall correctly, this company makes solar collectors of some kind. But the locale was distinctly industrial. Very clean industry, and I’m happy to know that all our manufacturing hasn’t been outsourced to countries with cheaper labor and no regulation or restriction. But those three men seemed completely out of place. Dressed in their suits. They all spoke but said nothing memorable. What was memorable to me was the complete absence of eloquence or clarity of thought. It was all so mundane, so pedestrian, so uninspired.
But the third act was brilliant. It was the first Democratic debate with just Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. To me, a life-long Democrat, it was enormously satisfying to know that whichever of the two wins the nomination, we have profoundly attractive and intelligent candidates to choose between. And, clearly, either one of the two would be infinitely better for us as a nation, for us as actors on the world stage, than anyone the Republicans have to offer—which now looks like McCain or Romney. So, now is the time to really pay attention to what the players on this grand stage are saying.
Who gave the best performance? In my opinion Barack goes home with the award. And in my case that’s my vote Tuesday. What did he say that reenforced my inclination to support him? Nothing new really. It was what Hillary said that sent me further into the Obama camp. It was her attempt to justify and explain her initial vote on the Iraq War. She was wrong to vote for that folly, and there is no way to justify it, no way to explain it. I remember the day she voted to give George W. Bush the authorization to embark on a war of aggression against another country for no good reason—all rationale manufactured, all evidence trumped up and amplified and repeated. If she had taken the time to read the classified intelligence reports that were available and were read by colleagues of hers who voted against the resolution based on that information, she might have voted differently. But I remember the moment I knew we would be invading Iraq and what it would mean to us as a country, and it made me cry. It was the moment Hillary Clinton voted to allow George W. Bush to go to war. She has to apologize for that failure. It is her Achilles heel. She cannot get away with claiming not to know the consequences of her vote. I knew it the moment she voted.