Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert

Over the past, oh, year (and longer than that really) there is probably nothing I have done more then watch MSNBC. The primaries, the election news, every debate, every primary night. And there was Tim Russert. We lost Tim Russert today, and I say "we" not because I knew Tim, but because the collective "we" as a country lost an irreplaceable voice today.

I don't remember a death of somebody famous touching me so much as Tim's death. Partly because it was so stunning in its suddenness and unexpectedness, but partly because it had become second nature watching him, all the time, as I have the past year. Meet The Press, Morning Joe, NBC Nightly News, The Tim Russert Show, the weekly MSNBC primary nights where Tim was a dominant and invaluable presence. I have become so invested in this election and this Democratic primary, and watching Tim was an almost daily ritual.

A lot of people may have watched Tim Russert, but I don't think anyone truly new how large of an impact he had on this country. It is not an exaggeration or hyperbole to say that if you were a politician, and you could not pass the Russert Test, if you could not make it through a one-hour grilling on Meet The Press, you had little future in national politics, much less any chance of being President. There has been a lot of controversy about the "vetters" Barack Obama has tapped to lead his search for a Vice President. Tim Russert was America's vetter. And there was nobody better at holding those in power accountable, and there was nobody better at asking the tough, but always fair, question.

It seems too cruel that now that the Democratic Primary is over, and one of the most important Presidential elections in a generation is about to take place, Tim Russert won't be here to see it, to vet it for us, to comment on it.

Tim was a lawyer, a journalist, a former political operative. A man who loved his hometown of Buffalo and his love of city matched by his love of the Buffalo Bills. And, of course, the love of his family, both his wife and son, and his extended NBC News family. America has lost one of its most important voices today, and only in the weeks and months ahead, when we look to Meet the Press to vet the next generation of political leaders, will we truly understand just what a loss to the country this is.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hockeytown, Again

It's so gratifying to see your hometown team win a championship. Obviously, as a fan, you haven't gone through the hardships and pain and the long season the players do, but you feel like you have, and you celebrate the championship all the same. In my lifetime, the Detroit Tigers have won a World Series, the Detroit Pistons have won three NBA Titles, the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans have won NCAA Basketball titles, the Wolverines captured a football national title, and of course, the Detroit Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups, the most recent tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There are so many people to feel happy for tonight, Chris Osgood an Dallas Drake at the top of the list. Osgood was never good enough for the fans of Detroit, even after he helped this generation win their first Cup in 1997 and led the team to their second in 1998. Osgood left Detroit, but General Manager Kenny Holland brought him back, and Osgood was awesome this playoff run, finally getting the respect he has deserved for a long, long time. And then there's Dallas Drake, who started his career with the Wings, but who in 16 seasons never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Knowing his team needed more grit and toughness, Holland brought Drake back to Detroit this season, and Drake was an integral part of the Wings' fourth cup.

There is no sports town in America like Detroit. We are so lucky here (even with the Lions) to have such great teams and see so many championships. And each is unique and special and seeing Nick Lidstrom lift the Cup tonight, it was a great feeling for all Detroiters. There's no city in America, sports wise, like Detroit, and tonight was as good of an example of that as ever.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

McAuliffe on Today: No Convention Fight

Very interesting morning already. While yesterday the Clinton campaign seemed ready to fight on, even if Barack Obama claimed victory tonight, the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign, Terry McAuliffe, on the Today Show this morning, was striking a much different, and much more conciliatory tone.

He said that Hillary Clinton would likely not be going to the convention to fight over "four" delegates, and talked much more about coming together then continuing the fight, and he even acknowledged that if Obama reached the "magic" number (though he did not say what he considered that number to be) that Hillary would declare him the nominee and drop out of the race.

We may get an ending to this campaign which unifies the party after all.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Fighting Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom says the fight for the Democratic nomination for President is over. Barack Obama is under 40 delegate votes away from the "magic" number of 2,118, and with him guaranteed to gain at least 15 tomorrow (and likely closer to 17), 34 House members set to endorse him by Wednesday, and at least 15 Senators ready to endorse as well, the nomination battle is over. We have our winner, and our winner be Obama.

So, as conventional wisdom goes, Senator Clinton is wrapping up her campaign. Inviting donors to her speech in, where else, her home state of New York (while Obama's speech tomorrow is in the general election battleground and home of the Republican Convention, St. Paul, Minnesota). Telling her staff to go home, but to get their receipts in before they leave. After all, Senator Clinton is a "realist" they say, and she's always pledged to leave the race as soon as that magic number is reached and the Democrats have a nominee.

So why do I feel so nervous about tomorrow? And it's not nervousness about whether Senator Obama will have enough Super Delegates endorse him during the day so he can claim the nomination after the polls close in Montana tomorrow. It's worry over what Hillary will do, because despite the conventional wisdom, I don't think she's going anywhere.

Even after the national networks declare Obama the victor, and even after the flood of Super Delegates which will surely come by Wednesday afternoon, I can see Senator Clinton fighting. Saying that she won the popular vote (even though to do so she has to count Puerto Rico, but not count the Virgin Island, Guam, and American Samoa, and count Michigan, but not give Obama any votes from Michigan, and not count a group of caucus states which went overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, like Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, and Washington. As I've been saying, if you have to explain HOW you are leading in the popular vote, that's probably a pretty good hint you aren't leading in the popular vote). She'll say Super Delegates can always change their mind, and that she needs to fight for the people of Michigan (who, by the way, are just fine thank you with the compromise the state itself asked for, and received, on Saturday). And at that point, there is no end point. Why would she ever get out before the convention? If the argument is, and Hillary herself made it yesterday, Super Delegates are always free to change their mind, then she has no reason to get out before the Convention, even if she falls behind by an overwhelming margin.

So where does that leave us? The Democratic Leadership (Reid, Pelosi, Dean, Gore) will likely give Clinton a few days to decide, but if she keeps fighting, I'd look for those four to start campaigning with Obama. But, until Hillary Clinton drops out, endorses Obama, and starts campaigning herself for Obama, the Democratic party will never come together. She has to not just endorse Obama and campaign for him, she has to do so soon because her supporters are very angry right now, and if she waits until the Convention, claims a fictional popular vote lead all summer, and loses (as she undoubtedly would) at the Convention in late August, her supporters won't have enough grieving time (for lack of a better word) to come around to unite the party. Instead, they will be even more resolute then they are today, and the Democrats are finished in November.

I hope for the sake of the Democratic Party, and for our country (which would be much better served by a President Obama than a President McCain, despite the latter's status as a genuine American hero) that I am wrong and conventional wisdom is right. But if we have learned anything over this long, long primary campaign, it's that conventional wisdom is rarely, if ever, correct.

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