BEHIND THE SCENES OF OBAMA’S HISTORIC 2008 CAMPAIGN

AN INTERVIEW WITH

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON

Author of “OBAMA’S ODYSSEY: The 2008 Race for the Whitehouse”

QUESTION – What do you think accounts for the degree of anger in the electorate? It seems to me and my husband (who was also a 40-year on the air professional reporter) that the “anger” is way out of proportion to anything going on in this country.

ANSWER –  A lot of it comes from the collective reside of the unwise wars in which we’ve become involved and the near-collapse of our economy in 2007-2008. That’s covered very well by the movie “The Big Short” (adapted from the book). If you haven’t seen it, absolutely do. Take notes.

Connie Corcoran Wilson

Connie Corcoran Wilson

We bailed out the big banks, but who on Wall Street paid for their near-lethal greed? No one. It’s intrinsically unfair — as Bernie Sanders keeps pointing out.

People are pretty P.O.-ed at Wall Street banks. Those voters should think carefully about the mess Obama inherited from his Republican predecessor; how he literally had to “save” our nation. Fortunately, he was a smart, highly educated guy who knew what needed to be done to rescue the economy from the brink. Find and kill Bin Laden. Pass the Affordable Care act. He’s been trying hard to get rid of Guantanamo, but has been stymied by the GOP. He also tried to get Republicans to meet in good faith with his nominee for the Supreme Court, but you know how well that’s going. It’s disgraceful to treat a sitting President with so little respect.

Wall Street’s greedy dishonesty plays to Bernie Sanders’ appeal to young voters, especially when he calls for free college and universal health care. My 28-year-0ld daughter has a far less bright future than I had on graduating college.

Bernie’s eventual fortunes, (should he become the Democratic nominee), are murky. Republicans have taken it easy on Bernie so far, preferring to focus on Hillary who they see as the logical nominee. If Bernie is nominated, he’ll be crucified. The opposition will have him branded a Commie in no time, even though it’s Donald Trump whose in-laws are actual card-carrying Communists.

I’m not sure Sanders has the international expertise Hillary Rodham Clinton possesses from years as Secretary of State. Nonetheless, I find it encouraging that young people are getting involved in the election and supporting a 74-year-old candidate with such enthusiasm.

Voters are sick of the stagnation in Washington. When a Republican like Mitch McConnell openly announces as his main goal to prevent President Obama from achieving any of his programs, designed to help Americans (that is, you and me), I think we could perceive it as racism, partisan politics (at the expense of the country), or just plain stubbornness. The Grand Old Party in days of yore believed in compromise. In getting things done. Sadly, there are no more Bob Doles or Tip O’Neill’s in Congress.

QUESTION – How much of the “anger” is really thinly disguised racism (in YOUR opinion … I’m not looking for evidence, just opinion)?

ANSWER – Your words, not mine, Marilyn; I cannot disagree with you. As Bernie Sanders said on Seth Meyer’s show on April 7, 2016: “The Republican obstructionism towards Obama over the past 7 and ½ years is unprecedented in American history.” Is there a way to explain this deplorable behavior beyond merely Obama’s policies?

You’ve suggested one. Because, as Bernie said, Obama tried to negotiate with the Republicans at first but their mindset was obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. I’m ashamed at how our President has been treated by Congress.

As of the last CNN Poll I read, Bernie would beat Trump by 20 points, [says Bernie], which ignores the fact that the Republicans will do everything in their power to deny Trump the Arrogant the nomination (successfully, I feel). “The truth is there is nothing radical about our agenda,” said Bernie on the April 8th Seth Meyers program.

Bernie also added graciously, “On Hillary Clinton’s worst day she’d be 100 times better than any of the Republicans.”

QUESTION – I still see a lot of that residual “not liking” of Hillary. I’ve met Hillary a couple of times (back in the 90s when Bill was Prez) and I liked her. She’s not warm or cuddly, but she’s smart, and professional. How much of the “not liking Hillary” is because she’s a tough woman and how much because she isn’t “one of the gang”? Again, I’m looking for what you think, not statistics or evidence.

ANSWER – In 2008, I reported what voters told me about their feelings and impressions of Hillary Clinton, especially in Iowa. Not necessarily my views. I was trying to be an impartial reporter — until McCain selected Sarah Palin. After which all bets were off.

Iowans didn’t like Hillary’s laugh, her screechy voice, or her vote for the Iraq war. Some felt she exuded a sense of entitlement. Others — especially Hispanic voters — thought she was great. It was interesting that those who should have been her biggest supporters (that is, mature white women) were her biggest detractors.

I think she is one of the most qualified candidates to come down the pike in years and it’s time we elected a woman as President. Despite one person’s claim (a Canadian) that I am, somehow, trying to “derail” Hillary’s campaign, nothing could be further from the truth.

I followed the presidential campaigns of ’04, ’08 and ’12, but there’s no way I could follow the campaigns of Trump and Cruz, let alone vote for either one. I think Kasich is the most reasonable of the GOP lot, but he vetoed funds for Planned Parenthood in Ohio– while campaigning. He may be reasonable onstage, but offstage Kasich mentions wanting to take Christianity to the Muslim world. Which smacks of the medieval Crusades — not something I can support.

It’s a sad commentary on politics in America today and the status of the G.O.P. in general ( not to mention a terrible example to set for the rest of the world) when Trump talks about using nuclear weapons in Europe. His hateful, bigoted remarks are being used as a recruitment video for ISIS. His rallies are egotistical, non-events for people who would vote for a Kardashian because they’ve seen them on television.

QUESTION – Give me four things you want people to know about Obama’s Odyssey?

ANSWER – That these books lay out the behind-the-scenes adventures, complete with entertaining, often funny stories.

Another thing. It’s very unusual for someone my age who’s just a “regular citizen” to be granted access to the future president of the US. To rub shoulders with the power brokers at the caucuses and conventions of 2008. I also covered 2004 and 2012, but not inside the Big Show of the conventions.

Everyone should recognize — acknowledge — the power of the word on the Internet, if that word is widely distributed. I’ve written about the campaign on my little WeeklyWilson.com blog. My “Associated Content” writing let me be inside in Denver, St. Paul, and elsewhere. Which was not on my “to do” list when I began.

I did my best to make my book lighthearted. If you can’t have fun while doing something, what’s the point? I wanted to get at the truth in 2008, have fun, and be part of what I consider one of the most historical election cycles of this century and my lifetime. If you’re looking for an expert? Look elsewhere.

If you’re looking for a person with Iowa roots who could follow the campaigns in Iowa? I’m your girl! I live across the I-74 bridge from Davenport, Iowa (the Quad Cities). My Sylvan Learning Center #3301 is in Bettendorf, Iowa. I grew up in Independence, Iowa. I graduated from the University of Iowa. Like most Americans, I’ve become skeptical about getting the truth when we watch Fox News or, for that matter, MSNBC. I wanted to find out for myself. I had no idea my articles on would become so popular and well-read. That I’d get so many hits and so many comments. That I’d be invited to Denver and St. Paul. It just happened. It wasn’t my goal or my assignment.

I’m tired of “the tail wagging the dog” with election results announced prematurely which then influence the outcome of the actual election. I still believe Al Gore won in Florida. I think The Donald has repeatedly referenced the dirty trick played on Ben Carson in Iowa by the Cruz campaign in which Cruz’ people announced Carson had suspended his Iowa race — just before voters went to the polls to caucus — and it was not true. You learn this stuff in far greater detail if you’re actually there.

Off I went, Nikon in hand, navigating the Iowa caucuses all over the state and writing about it for “Associated Content” blog. I interviewed real voters and tramped around in bitterly cold weather.

I learned how to get to 3 rallies in separate locations on the same night (Hillary, Edwards and Obama). I was on a first-name basis with the Bidens. They sent me e-mails telling me where to be and when. I include amusing articles such as “Alternative Titles for the Sarah Palin Documentary”and recount some of the better “jabs” on late-night television shows.

The books contain 88 new, never-published photos. The information in the books should be preserved for future historians. It’s the only way anyone will get a true taste of what 2008 was like.

I was there and I work hard to make sure that you, my readers, are part of it too.

OBAMA’S ODYSSEY: THE 2008 RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House – Connie Corcoran Wilson


It wasn’t what I expected and after I started reading it, I had to revise my approach to the book. I had been expecting the author’s journey, starting in Iowa and ending with the 2008 general election. Instead, it’s a compilation of blog posts written by the author over that same time span. It covers the same time period and material … but not as expected.

Obamas Odyssey book

Rather than a continuous, sequential narrative, the book comprises series of snapshots. Interviews and events with candidates, wannabes, politicians, volunteers, voters, support staff, and political operatives. Connie Corcoran Wilson’s posts are witty, amusing, perceptive, and enlightening, especially when she focuses on the realities of life as a working journalist covering a presidential campaign.

I could very easily relate the long hours, the short sleep, the rapid changes of venue. The mental agility required to keep up that grueling pace for all those months. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, being a working reporter is far from glamorous.

Ms. Wilson captures the character of the people with whom she interacts with charm, humor, and grace. But there is, nonetheless, a choppy quality that is the inevitable result of a compilation of posts rather than a story. There is also a bit more repetition of subjects that is, again, the inevitable result of compiling blog entries rather than writing the story as a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Connie Wilson is a fine writer and she excels at her medium … blogging. I’m a blogger too. I “get” it. But blogging is not authoring. It’s the same church, but a different pew. Blog posts are free-standing, short subjects. You can collect them and put them in a binding to form a book-length volume of material, but it will still lack a continuous story. This lack becomes more increasingly problematic as the book progresses. The jumps between posts are sometimes a bit jarring.

The result? Despite excellent writing, the book doesn’t feel like a book. It feels like what it is: a huge collection of political blog posts. The posts are good, many excellent. A lot of perceptivity and sensitivity raises her writing well above the so-called news writing you find on the Internet … or for that matter, in much of what you’ll find in print or on television. I would have appreciated more “connective tissue” to give the book an easier-to-follow timeline and structure.

The good news? The insider views of the campaign are priceless. The people. The voters. The volunteers. The politicians and their operatives. The process itself with all its quirks. The information is timely and might help you put the current political frenzy in context.

The material and author’s insights make Obama’s Odyssey a worthwhile investment of time. It’s a good, albeit flawed, book that covers the extraordinary 2008 campaign with a rare intimacy.

WHY TERM LIMITS ARE A TERRIBLE IDEA — AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN

Too many people believe we will get better government by making sure no one in congress gets to stay there for a long time. I don’t know why inexperience would mean better government. In what other field do we prefer raw recruits to veterans? Would you want an inexperienced surgeon? A lawyer fresh out of law school?

Why do you want amateurs making your laws?

Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits. Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded The Constitution) showed them that good people are not interested in temp jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. Those elected to office walked away from their positions — or never took them up in the first place. There was no future in it.

When the Constitution was drawn, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest to government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs and parvenus. The business of governing a nation has a learning curve. It takes years to get the hang of how things work, how a law gets written. How to reach across the aisle and get the opposition to participate.

The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. They failed. Miserably. Do we need to learn the same lesson again?

The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.

A little more history

Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future and their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs, much less support families.

Term limits were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They were right. The Constitution’s aims to get professionals into government.

Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government. It becomes a very hard temp job with no future.

Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid

Maybe they are paid more than you and me, but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, they are paid poorly. What you cry? How can that be?

Most members of congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year. A third year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.

Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send the kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of congress have other income streams.

Curiously, our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. And they would be less susceptible to bribery. On the whole, they were right. What they didn’t foresee was how many kinds of corruption would be available. Bribery is the least of our problems.

Skill and experience count

Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by the courts and other members of congress takes years. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.

We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old-time pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of old guard, the folks who understand how to work with the opposition to make the process work. It’s the newly elected morons who are stopping progress. Sadly, our experienced old-timers got old and retired. Or died. They have been replaced by imbeciles.

Above and beyond the skill it take to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and peer respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and accomplish miracles. Newly elected congresspeople hope to build a career in politics. With luck, one or two of them will become a great legislator, a Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob DoleTed Kennedy or another of the giants. Anyone you name connected to important legislation was a multi (many) term representative or senator.

Term limits eliminate all chance of having great legislators

Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around congress. As soon as they figure out where the toilets are and get reasonably good at their jobs, they’ll be gone. Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better.

If you don’t elect them, they won’t be in congress

We have term limits. These are called elections. Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were an awful idea in 1788 and they haven’t improved with time. Among the biggest concerns Democrats had about Barack Obama in 2008 was he didn’t have enough experience, hadn’t been in the senate long enough. With term limits, no one would ever have enough experience. Where would we get candidates suitable to be President?

We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates. We need men and women willing to learn the craft, who have ideas and can work with others to get America’s business done. Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on 435 congressmen and 100 senators.

The President doesn’t run the country

Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people to make laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault

The 535 members of congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like one, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure that a lot of people vote for that candidate. You may not like him, but other people do. That’s what elections are about. It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve the problems. Make the job more — not less — attractive so better people will want to go into government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one will want.

It’s close to that already. Mention going into politics to an ambitious young person. Watch him or her recoil in horror.

Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation … and we need to agree what that means, at least in broad strokes. Term limits won’t fix the problem, because that’s not what’s broken.

ONE NATION PRESUMABLY INDIVISIBLE

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Whatever happened to that? If you want to get a good look at the way we are, check out just this single page on Pinterest. If this doesn’t give you the willies, nothing will.

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. – Franklin D. Rooseveltradio address, Oct. 26, 1939, 32nd president of US

A liberal is a man who is willing to spend somebody else’s money.
Carter Glass

Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
Ambrose Bierce

I’m a social liberal. I believe it’s the obligation of government to take care of its citizens. It has a special moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves, the most vulnerable amongst us. If government doesn’t do that, what’s it good for, really? Believing that doesn’t mean no one but me has a good idea. I learn stuff by listening, not by proving I have a louder voice.

The trend in this country toward demonizing anyone whose opinion differs from ones own has been eating the heart out America for a long time. The growth of cable and the Internet has sped the process until it seems there are no limits to which people will go to make their point. Civility, good manners and common sense no longer apply. We rant, shout, call names, and insult each other and apparently, it’s considered okay. I don’t think so. I believe almost everyone wants the same things: a good country, a better world. A place for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren to live in safety with reasonable prosperity and peace. We aren’t going to get it by denigrating anyone with whom we don’t agree. We are all Americans and we are constitutionally entitled to disagree.

No one gains by raising the level of hostility. Our world is not improved by rage. We can argue without name calling and accusations. People with whom we do not agree do sometimes have ideas worth listening to. Instead of treating each other as enemies, why not show respect to everyone on principle? Because being nice, being polite, being civil doesn’t cost anything and improves the quality of life for everyone.

Argue if you choose. Use facts, not invective and insults. If we don’t work together, we will lose everything important. Empires fall. Once-great nations lose influence and become historical footnotes. Most of us have watched it happen, so don’t believe we are exempt.

It can happen to us. We are well on our way to losing our position as a leader among nations. We have already lost much of the respect we enjoyed. Who could argue we don’t deserve it? We’ve done it to ourselves and refuse to rethink the road we’re on.

Election Day 2012

On a personal note, I don’t always live up to my best self, especially if I’m angry. But I do sometimes succeed — and these days, more often than not. That makes the effort worthwhile. Doing nothing is always the easiest path. It’s not better, though.

We won’t solve problems by hating each other. Meanness is contagious. So is kindness. Give kindness a chance. I’ll continue to believe (almost) everyone means well and deserves respect. Even people I don’t like. I promise to do my best to respect you. Remind me if I forget.

 

Republicans and Democrats can be friends? OMG!!

When I read this comment, it was posted in regard to the YouTube video of President Barack Obama’s dedication speech at yesterday’s MLK Memorial. I was horrified :

“… the Republicans and Democrats hold hands behind your backs. It’s like pro wrestling, they act like they’re enemies in front of you but are good friends behind you. Why do you think they always agree on the key issues and have been seen many times spending time together, attending functions together, and even eating together. It is all a hoax to control the people. Research Obama’s evil policies he has instilled without the public knowledge. He will end life as you know, impeach this traitor!”

Is anyone really that naïve? It’s not his politics that appall me, though they are appalling. It’s his belief that people who disagree can’t be friends.

Of course they are friends. They work together, eat together and know each others’ wives and kids. They are human beings, not only politicians. Just as the district attorney, the defense attorneys and the judges are friends.

75-ElectionNK-2A

Does anyone really think otherwise? Why would they not be friends? They are not on opposing teams. Quite the opposite: everyone in Congress is on the same team. American. The good of the nation is what they are supposed to stand for, not their party and its politics. They represent us, but ultimately, they represent the country.

Does this person also think baseball or football players on opposing teams don’t socialize off the field? That our professional lives so dominate us we don’t also have personal lives?

To know there are so many people who hate so much they have lost touch with reality scares me more than anything else going on in this country.

Regardless, it’s a fine speech, no matter what your political persuasion may be. I have posted it so if you missed it, you can catch up.

We are all people first. We aren’t what we do or even what we believe. We aren’t Republicans, Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives. We are men and women, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Sisters and brothers. Friends. Above all else, human. There are — and ought to be — allegiances which supersede political labels. Too many people are too busy hating to remember tolerance, reconciliation and love.

Intolerance is the evil we must forever fight. It’s the cause of war, murder, genocide and cruelty. It has saturated all of history with blood. It’s the thing that is fundamentally wrong with the world.

Inauguration Day 2013

While I was deep into the A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time), the final volume of Robert Jordan, now Brandon Sanderson‘s epic story of good versus evil, Garry was watching the Inauguration. I had forgotten today was Inauguration day but he had not. My bad.

When you aren’t working or going to school, it’s easy to not know what day of the week it is, much less if it’s a holiday. I often don’t know what day of the week it is, though because I blog and pay bills, I’m pretty aware of the day of month.

Inauguration on Capitol Hill

Inauguration

As much as Garry dislikes political mud-slinging, he loves the ceremonies that mark America‘s traditions. For him, an inauguration is not the inauguration of a Democrat or a Republican … it’s the inauguration of an American President and he enjoys it, even if it isn’t a candidate for whom he voted. It’s American, not political.

He wrote something about it on Facebook and at least one person went into a political tirade about how he voted for Obama but wished he’d had another choice. Garry pointed out this wasn’t political. It was a celebration, the peaceful affirmation of our power that is far more American than apple pie.

Granted that other countries now have peaceful transfers of power, but only the U.S. from its birth made this a symbol of what we are as a nation … that no matter how hard-fought the campaign, when the votes are counted, the winner takes his place in the White House without violence or bloodshed. The ballot box is where we settle our differences, not the streets and not with weapons.

My take on this is simple: there are far too many people who have forgotten how to be Americans. They are so wedded to party politics, to a set of “positions,” that they are incapable, even for a single day, of just being Americans.

It seems that these folks are constantly gloating (“my guy is IN and your guy is OUT nyah nyah nyah!”) or whining (“We wuz cheated!”). Whether you fall on the side of the gloaters or whiners, if you want to make any claim to being an American or any kind of patriot, you need to be an American first and foremost, with your political affiliation secondary.

If you cannot do that, you really have no idea what this country is about.

We live in a nation of laws … even when it’s not easy or convenient.

Today I read a rant on Facebook by someone who still can’t accept the cruel reality that the election ended and his candidate lost. He declares that President Barack Obama is not his president, will never be his president. As if he gets to pick his own personal President, separate from the inconvenience of a legal election.

Flag

I feel obliged to point out that if you are an American citizen, the legally elected President of the United States is your President, whether you like him, voted for him — or not. If you are unhappy with the results of the election and you are a citizen of this nation, you have only two choices.

  1. Obey the laws of this country including accepting the duly elected President as your President and as your Commander-in-Chief.
  2. Abandon your identity as an American, renounce your citizenship, and move to another country if you can find one that will have you.

There is no other choice until 2016 and there’s no guarantee that you’ll like the results of that election any better than you liked this one. Until then, Barack Obama is your president, my president, and the President of every other citizen of this country. You do not have a choice. This is a nation of laws which we follow even when it’s not convenient or easy. That is the price you pay for living in a democracy.

You cannot claim to be a patriot while simultaneously rejecting our system of government. I have lived through presidencies of men I thoroughly disliked, for whom I didn’t vote, and who I thought were harming our nation and myself, but I never had the temerity– or disrespect — to declare that the President wasn’t my President.

I believe in our system of government, laws, and justice system. It’s not perfect, but it’s way better than most. I don’t make a big deal about it. I don’t wrap myself in the flag. I just follow the laws, try to work within the system to effect change. I vote. I don’t trust people who make a big fuss about how patriotic they are. The more noise they make, the more I wonder what they are hiding.

I’m fed up with self-declared patriots who are not merely unpatriotic, but actually treasonous. If you don’t like our system of government, go somewhere you like better, but don’t tell me you’re a patriot. You’re not.