TOM PUTNAM: Good afternoon. I’m Tom Putnam, the Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and on behalf of John Shattuck, CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation, and all of my Library colleagues, I thank you all for coming to this special Presidents’ Day forum. I’m pleased to acknowledge the underwriters of the Kennedy Library Forums, including lead sponsor, Bank of America, along with Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Corcoran Jennison Companies and the Boston Foundation. Our media sponsors are The Boston Globe, WBUR and NECN.
We gather in the shadow of a historic presidential campaign, including a protracted fight in the Democratic primaries, leading to the possibility of a brokered convention, charges of experience versus idealism, questions of race and religion, special appeals to ethnic voting blocs like Latinos and college students, and an overarching foreign policy question of which candidate will be the toughest in dealing with our global adversaries. I’m referring, of course, to the 1960 campaign. [laughter]
Let’s pause for a moment and watch some film clips from our archives about that historic campaign.
[begin video clip]
__: From coast to coast, Kennedy and his Republican opponent, Vice President Nixon, traveled to small towns and big cities. Mr. Nixon speaks of his program, of the progress of the eight years, and the need for experienced leadership in the White House.
PRESIDENT NIXON: So I say to you, it is a bit easy to say that there’s an easy way out in dealing with the Communists. Give them a little here, draw a line here, do this, do that, the other thing. But, my friends, the only way to handle dictators is to be firm with them. I don’t think our prestige is so high if we can’t do better. I don’t think the Communists are about to collapse. I believe that we have to build strength, we have to stand for freedom, we have to demonstrate some vigor in our foreign policy.
The people of this country resent, and properly resent, the unconscionable attacks by my opponent on the leadership of one of the greatest presidents we ever had, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the President of this country. That never happens in the vice president ... (inaudible). Everything is in perfect order all the time. They don’t get the vote until it’s well-organized.
SINGER: Everyone is voting for Jack, because he’s got what all the rest lack/Everyone wants to ... (inaudible) Jack, because Jack is on the right track/Because he’s got high hopes--
__: We are aiming our whole campaign toward the unregistered vote, to try to get those citizens who are not registered to vote, who are not even eligible to vote in this election, to get them on the books so they can vote in November. This is a crucial area as far as Senator Kennedy is concerned.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY: I think this country needs the Democratic Party, because the Democratic Party intends to use the full legal and moral authority of the federal government, including, in particular, the presidency itself, to put an end to racial and religious discrimination in this country of ours.
__: What this means is, then, that you have here what I would call a modern-day medicine man. He says, “Give me your money and I’ll solve all your problems”--
SINGER: ... (inaudible) Richard Nixon to be our president/And Cabot Lodge, you’ll make a great VP/So, vote for Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge/And we’ll have peace and sound prosperity.
__: ... (inaudible) in Columbia, South Carolina. Vice President Nixon today makes his final appeal for a Southern vote, and becomes the first presidential candidate of either party to appear in all Southern states.
__: We pray that thy Holy Spirit will help us at this hour of our history to make a decision that will be pleasing to Almighty God, thank you.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY: To show how desperate and despicable this campaign has become, they’re handing outside the fence a poster which says, “Jack Kennedy is after your job.” I’m after Mr. Eisenhower’s job.
__: I say to you today you have a test, a test and a choice, between men who have been ... (inaudible) decision, men who have had the experience of these last seven years, and then you have the choice on the other side of a man who has been rash, who has been impulsive.
SENATOR KENNEDY: In 1954 called Truman a traitor, in 1960 called me a liar, in 1960 called Lyndon an ignoramus. Lyndon says he called me one. No, I say he called Lyndon one. He called me rash, imprudent, reckless, naive and uninformed, but he called Lyndon an ignoramus.
ROBERT PIERPOINT: This is Robert Pierpoint at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, where Senator Kennedy has just arrived after an all-night flight from Philadelphia.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY: As young voters who have the longest stake in the great republic, who are the most concerned with search for truth, who have the least ties with the present and the most ties to the future, you have to decide which party, which candidate, most really approximates your judgment of our country, its ... (inaudible) and its future.
__: All over the country, say the Democratic officials aboard this train, the tide is running strongly in Kennedy’s favor. They’re especially happy with the results of the first three television debates.
__: We’re sure that the election is going to be a close one. I think that the tide is running our way, and I think we’re going to win. But I think that he peaked a little too early.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY: The next president of the United States, on his shoulders will rest burdens heavier than they’ve rested on the shoulders of any president since the time of Lincoln. War and peace, the progress of this country, the security of our people, the education of our children, jobs for men and women who want to work, the development of our resources, the symbolic feeling of a nation, the image the nation presents to the world -- its power, prestige and direction -- all ultimately will come to rest upon the next president of the United States.
I ask you to join us if we are successful. I ask you to join us in all of tomorrows yet to come in building America, moving America, picking this country of ours up and sending it into the ‘60s.
[end video clip]
TOM PUTNAM: Is it true that the more our presidential campaigns change, the more they stay the same? Does the emergence of the first African-American and first female nominee alter the election playbook? Have the Republicans this year changed their own model by preparing to nominate a non-establishment candidate, a man who, in fact, received the Profile in Courage award from this institution for his work on campaign finance reform? To discuss these questions, the current political campaign and its historic precedence, we are honored today to have with us a distinguished group of panelists.
Madeleine Kunin served as the governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991 and is the author of Pearls, Politics and Power: How Women Can Lead and Win. She opens her new book describing how she walked into the executive office the morning after being elected and looked up at the row of portraits of somber male governors with names like Ezra, Iratus and Ebenezer staring down at her as if to say, “What are you doing here?” The answer came a few years later from a nine-year-old Vermont school girl who, surveying the same gallery, came upon Madeleine Kunin’s portrait and exclaimed, “Finally, a woman! It’s about time!” In addition to being governor of Vermont for three terms, Madeleine Kunin has also served as a member of Bill Clinton’s presidential transition team, Deputy Secretary of Education and US ambassador to Switzerland. She’s currently a teacher, writer and global activist, though she confesses in her book that after leaving public office some habits have been hard to change, including learning how to stand in one place at a cocktail party and to suppress the urge to work the room. I should note that Governor Kunin has a family connection to the Kennedy Library. Her brother, Edgar May, served as Sargent Shriver’s top lieutenant in founding the Peace Corps, waging the War on Poverty and establishing the Special Olympics.
Since 1972, the Iowa caucus has been the first test for aspiring presidential candidates and has recently taken on such importance that candidates now spend millions to win votes, and some have moved themselves and their families to live in the state for extended periods of time. Presidential candidates and their staffs joke that if their campaign is to be successful, they need not only to introduce themselves to Iowa voters, but also to get to know David Yepsen, Chief Political Writer and Columnist for the Des Moines Register and currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. David explains that his understanding of the Iowa electorate stems from having grown up in the small town of Jefferson where his brother still lives and serves as a school principal. David’s brother recounts a childhood story of David’s emerging instincts as an investigative journalist. While David was a member of the Young Democrats, he tried to get his brother to join the Teenage Republicans to serve as an informant so that David could have insight into what the other side was doing. David denies the allegation.
If David Yepsen can provide special insight into the Iowa caucuses, our moderator, Tom Oliphant, is a walking encyclopedia on key moments in past New Hampshire primaries and subsequent general election campaigns, which he has covered for the past 40 years as a correspondent for the Boston Globe, and later as the Globe’s political columnist. He was also one of three editors on special assignment who managed the Globe’s coverage of Boston school desegregation struggles, reporting that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Whenever we expect a forum to be particularly lively and full of Boston color, we call on Tom to moderate, knowing that he is fully in his element refereeing such debates.
In reading Madeleine Kunin’s book, I was touched by her personal story, especially her trajectory as a young girl who fled her native Switzerland with her widowed mother and brother due to the threat of the Holocaust. Throughout her life, her mother reminded her children that anything is possible. Yet, writes Governor Kunin, even her mother could not have foreseen that years later her daughter would return as the United States Ambassador to their native land.
One of the central elements of this year’s election will be whether the country will elect its first female or first African-American as president. We’re thrilled to have you all here on President’s Day to interact with today’s illustrious panel as we discuss how we elect our presidents, and what insights history and contemporary analysis might provide for understanding this year’s extraordinary presidential campaign.
Please join me in welcoming Madeleine Kunin, David Yepsen and Tom Oliphant to the Kennedy Library. [applause]
TOM OLIPHANT: Thank you, Putnam. Today must be a holiday, right? Yepsen and I were talking on the way in here, as people who have spent most of our lives in the newspaper racket, holidays like this mean absolutely nothing to us because all we’ve ever done all our lives is work on them. So we feel at home. Governor, I hope maybe we’ll get you double-time or something for this. But a couple of housekeeping things first. As you know, we meet here on the eve of the 33rd and 34th contest in this year’s nomination sequence. The Republican nomination, the question appears to have been answered, but the political situation doesn’t seem to have been settled - as witness John McCain’s effort to get George Bush’s dad to endorse him this morning.
On the Democratic side, we have something that all observers of the Democratic Party have come to understand and recognize: chaos. Which we all love. It will probably not be resolved by what happens tomorrow, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the results surprised you. Now, we’re going to talk about the race -- both parties, by the way. We’re going to start with the Republicans, because it’s a more settled situation, and then get into the Democrats for a while. And those of you who are wearing watches, at about 3 o’clock, feel free to line up behind -- I see two microphones; I guess that’s how many there are -- and for the last half-hour of this program you will become the driving forces in our dialogue. So please think of provocative questions to ask in about 45 minutes and we’ll be happy to take them.
David -- by the way, Putnam was very helpful introducing this great man -- but one of the things Yepsen has to go through is the campaign when everything is possible, when people are just starting, when they’re trying to make the initial case, when the voters are willing to suspend belief, if not suspend judgment. And so, the memory, the institutional memory that David brings to a campaign at this stage is actually a little hint of the kind of memory that people will bring to this campaign when it’s all over this November.
And where the Republicans are concerned, David, I was wondering, one of the questions after a two-term presidency that I guess everybody has is what’s the natural follow-on to the two-term presidency? And I think many of us started looking to Iowa a year ago at this time to wonder who the consensus would form around in terms of the conservative to carry on after the two terms that George Bush has served. And tell us a little bit about Iowa’s effort to grapple with this question that now appears to have been answered?
DAVID YEPSEN: It was difficult, I think, for Iowa Republicans, Tom, because unlike the Democrats, Republicans were not excited about any of their choices. Republicans were having a hard time deciding who to support, because they really didn’t like any of these candidates, whereas Democrats were having a hard time deciding because they liked all their choices. And you could see that in the size of the crowds -- which is a phenomenon that has continued since Iowa -- Democratic crowds are much larger, much more enthusiastic than Republican ones.
And Republicans struggled with that. Every one of their candidates had assets and liabilities and flaws. Everyone thought Fred Thompson was going to be the great conservative hope, and he came to the Iowa State Fair with Gucci loafers on. I don’t know how many of you have ever been to an Iowa State Fair, but you don’t wear Gucci loafers. So they settled on Mike Huckabee. The social conservatives liked Mike Huckabee, and the rest of the field was divided.
TOM OLIPHANT: Do you think that’s because conservatism is divided? Did you see some issue around which the Republicans had trouble agreeing over the past year?
DAVID YEPSEN: Yeah, everyone of the candidates had trouble dealing with all the elements in their party. Rudy Guiliani was adored because of his work on 9/11, but he didn’t put any effort into the state. And then when he tried to, his personal life and his position on social issues weren’t acceptable to a lot of the party’s social conservatives. Mike Huckabee’s humor, his wit, his down-earth style, was very appealing. He comes from Hope, Arkansas. There is something in the water in Hope, Arkansas, because I noticed his effect on a Republican crowd is very similar to Bill Clinton’s effect on a Democratic crowd. He’d have them in the palm of their hands -- witty, sliding between religious metaphors and his role as a Baptist preacher and into politics. And he effectively, I thought, captured the social conservatives and the evangelical networks inside that party. And that has continued all the way through. And the social conservatives are not happy with John McCain for reasons I suppose a lot of us know, a lot of people here know, but so I think that is one thing that happened: We saw the rise of Mike Huckabee.
I think we also see John McCain’s weakness. He finished in fourth place there. He put his effort into New Hampshire. There’s still a problem that he has inside the Republican Party, and one of the challenges that he faces -- aside from the fact he’s trying to come after a two-term Republican President who is very unpopular -- is the challenge of rallying these social conservatives while, at the same time, holding his appeal with independent voters who keep him so competitive in head-to-head matchups with Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. So, going forward, Tom, I think the challenge for Senator McCain is to strike that balance. I’m not sure he can.
TOM OLIPHANT: Now, Governor, in your illustrious career, you have from time to time had to deal with Republicans, I’m told. And, in fact, my study of the law tells me it’s even legal to be one in Vermont.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Just barely, just barely.
TOM OLIPHANT: And, what’s more, that it’s apparently legal to elect one governor, which has happened. But you’ve been watching this animal for a long, long time, and I was wondering, from a distance, whether you saw anything important at stake in this tussle for the Republican nomination, and whether you thought it was just a personality contest, post-Bush?
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, I think what surprised everybody was the resurrection of John McCain. I mean, he was declared dead on arrival just last summer. And I think that is an interesting story in and of itself. And I think it’s his substance -- for lack of a better word -- that sort of comes through, that he does have kind of a sense of being a genuine human being, and his heroic war experience.
The question, as David just said, is whether he can hold onto that, because the pressure from the extreme right is going to really weigh him down. And I think for us in the Northeast something else is happening in the Republican Party, which we find more difficult to understand, is how strong Huckabee is. Where are all these people? Because, obviously, they weren’t there in New Hampshire and they weren’t there in Massachusetts, but they are a lot more forceful, and some of it is due to Huckabee’s “just folks” personality. But some of it is deeper. I mean, the religious side of the American political system is really being exposed in a way that we’ve never seen before.
TOM OLIPHANT: Do you think the Republicans that you talk to, anyway, have figured out how to deal with this question of the elephant in the room, President Bush? What they want to succeed it? Do you have a sense of what you’re likely to be up against this fall that emerges from the primary campaigns so far?
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, I think they really are in a quandary. I mean, you can see it in some of the body languages people endorse each other -- I’ve never seen such a long handshake. They want to get close, but not too close. And I guess there was a story in today’s paper that McCain people are trying to mull over how to use the present George Bush. They like the way he raises money, and they’re going to send him off on his own to do that. But they’re not sure they want to stand next to him. So that’s a sure sign -- you know whenever there is a photo opportunity with a politician, those who want to crowd up close, you know you’re doing well; when they go to the edges where they know they’ll be cut off of the photo, you know you’re not doing so well.
TOM OLIPHANT: In an Iowa context, David, first of all, tell us a little bit about how the question or the issue of President Bush unfolded over the course of the campaign for the caucuses? And then I want to ask you a little question about Iowa’s quirks that’s connected to that.
DAVID YEPSEN: I think President Bush was often ignored, but when he did come up, he was supported. We’re talking about activist Republicans. And among those people, the most conservative of a conservative party, President Bush remained reasonably popular. And as it became apparent that the surge in Iraq was working, or at least Republicans felt it was working, it became much more acceptable for candidates to endorse that, to embrace his efforts in what they call the war on terror. So there wasn’t much distancing there, but that was a different electorate than what John McCain will face now. I think to your earlier question, I think President Bush is going to be used in a lot of closed door fundraisers. And you and I won’t be privy, and he’ll go into a town and run the vacuum cleaner for several million dollars, and leave.
I want to just add one thing about the religious conservatives before I forget it, Tom. We’re seeing a change in religious conservatives, and Huckabee represents that. Listen carefully to Huckabee when he talks about issues like abortion. He says he’s pro-life, but it’s not just enough to be worried about saving the life of an unborn, that you’ve got to worry about women’s healthcare, that you’ve got to worry about children’s healthcare. And his record as governor bears this out: the child nutrition programs. I think we’re seeing religious conservatives evolve beyond sort of the snarling Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson image that we’ve seen in the past into something a lot more compassionate, if you will. And I see that on questions of the environment. You see the Democrats reaching out to religious conservatives on the question of protecting the environment, where both ideologies seem to meet over the question of protecting God’s creation. So I think that’s a noteworthy development on the Republican side.
TOM OLIPHANT: Now, nevertheless, David, Iowa -- and, by the way, one historical view I think we all share is that it is no sin that Iowa is not a predicting state, particularly in the Republican Party. Iowa thins the field, maybe, but it’s not going to tell you very often who the nominee is going to be, right, David? And, in fact, the record, if you look down through the years -- 1980, Bush’s dad, before he got clobbered by Reagan; you saw it in ’88 with the showing by Bob Dole and Pat Robertson; you saw it in ’96 when Pat Buchanan came this close to beating … so there’s nothing unusual.
But it seems to me this year Iowa’s result on the Republican side was once again friendly to the social conservative movement inside the Republican Party, and it was, if not hostile, at least unfriendly to McCain. And before we leave the Republicans behind, could you talk a little bit about Iowa’s judgment on McCain? And now that a month or so has passed, why it was reversed elsewhere in the country?
DAVID YEPSEN: Well, for one thing, McCain didn’t work Iowa. In 2000, he didn’t come in there. He’s bashed ethanol subsidies; now he likes them. So he didn’t work the state. I always thought he could do a much better job had he put some effort into it. He started out working the state, then he backed off -- much like Guiliani, sort of the strategy du jour kind of campaign. And so, I thought he had a tactical problem in dealing with Iowa. He just didn’t know how to do it. He couldn’t spend the time there to do the retail work that’s necessary. You are right; Iowa’s function in this process, most generally, is to winnow the field. But it does elevate people to national prominence. Jimmy Carter is the best example. The first President Bush came out of nowhere. Mike Huckabee has been elevated. Gary Hart has been elevated. So you don’t have to go the distance. If you do well in Iowa, you still start to have a later impact on your party for better or worse. And I think this time it’s been Huckabee.
TOM OLIPHANT: Before we leave them aside, Governor, as an experienced observer of Republicans, do you have a sense as to how the party is going to campaign with regard to the war in Iraq? And do you think the issue of stay in or get out is going to be posed starkly this November?
MADELEINE KUNIN: I think it will.
TOM OLIPHANT: Why?
MADELEINE KUNIN: Some of that will depend on what happens between now and November. I mean, the worst nightmare is that there would be another threat or another attack, and that would certainly change the tone of this campaign. But I think that’s where Republicans are strong. I mean, every poll shows that’s the issue they still capture -- national security. And memories can quickly be revived of 9/11. And so, I think, I mean, that’s been the Bush strategy. That was the battle this week over eavesdropping where Democrats showed, unfortunately, they were still afraid of that issue by not really passing legislation that would have restricted eavesdropping. So I think national security, whoever the Democratic nominee is, will be their top issue.
They may be forced to deal with the economy, because we’re seeing increasing signs of that deterioration. And I think that will play into Democratic hands, because, again, memories are very good of the Clinton years when we didn’t have a deficit, we had a surplus, and people were working.
TOM OLIPHANT: That’s the perfect segue, of course. And as David will be happy to tell you, one of the interesting things about the Iowa process is that sometimes, major issues, issues that end up just dominating the national dialogue, do not emerge necessarily with the kind of clarity they acquire later on. While the campaign is in Iowa, Exhibit A, B and C is the condition of the economy, which had very little time to -- correct, David? -- by the time everybody left Wisconsin it was just beginning to be realized.
DAVID YEPSEN: Yes, it’s only been a few weeks, so it hasn’t been that long.
TOM OLIPHANT: You look like you’ve got rest. You have color in your face.
DAVID YEPSEN: Hanging out at the Kennedy School. It has become more pronounced, and then as that anxiety continues it will only work toward the benefit of Democrats. My overarching view of this 2008 race is I think it’s going to be a very good year for Democrats. There’s a lot of angst about the infighting that goes on, but I’m reminded of Eugene McCarthy, the great comment that Democrats are like cats under the porch at night screaming. And you think they’re just killing each other. And then you wake up in the morning and what do you find? More cats. [laughter]
MADELEINE KUNIN: I like that.
DAVID YEPSEN: I think that’s at work here. When you go look at the events that Barack Obama is having -- 17,000 people, 10,000 people in the streets of Iowa City. I mean, there’s clearly something at work there. All the Democratic candidates had huge crowds. The function, I think, Iowa served in the Democratic process this time was to winnow the field -- two candidates going in and there were two, basically, who came out.
TOM OLIPHANT: Your point about elevating somebody may also be valid in the case of the Democrats in Iowa, right?
DAVID YEPSEN: With Obama in terms of his viability among white voters, yes, I think that had some impact.
TOM OLIPHANT: Now, I want you to help us understand what happened. One way of looking at the Iowa result on the Democratic side is to point to a few little things in the middle of the fall that perhaps led us to wonder whether Hillary Clinton was as strong as she seemed at the time, and she seemed extremely strong. I’m thinking of a little vote in the Senate for some reason to designate one part of one section of armed Iran a terrorist group. I’m thinking of an odd sort of dispute on the question whether people without legal documents, working documents, in the United States should be able to have driver’s licenses. And also, at the same time anyway, a continuing question -- which she’s had some difficulty dealing with -- about why she voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002. And sometimes these events, these statements or whatever, mostly in one debate in Philadelphia on October 13th are strung together to sort of explain what happens after that. Do you accept that as a narrative, or was there something deeper going on in Iowa among Democrats as the fall began to turn into the winter?
DAVID YEPSEN: I think something deeper was going on. I think that this had a lot to do with personalities. Senator Clinton was never as popular in Iowa as she was among Democrats nationally. She and her husband have never worked the state. They acknowledged that. And there was a debate inside that campaign about whether they wanted to even compete there or not. So that’s number one. Number two, I thought the overarching campaign was sluggish and bureaucratic and simply got out-hustled on caucus night by the Obama people. But I think there’s also a sense among Democrats in Iowa as well as around the country -- and you see this in the exit polls -- the argument of experience versus change. And change is winning -- the notion of a fresh face, of turning the page, of something different, particularly among voters under 25, who are energized and coming out as never before.
And so, I think, ultimately, she always had that problem in that state, and I think she still has this problem now. I think the management problems and the strategic problems that we all read about, you know, Patty Solis Doyle and all that, those are not what’s really causing her problems. Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton, and she has high negatives and a lot of Democrats are concerned about her electability and a lot of them are also concerned about the notion of moving forward as opposed to looking back. I think all of that took a toll on her.
TOM OLIPHANT: Just to follow briefly before I ask an important question, I hope, of the Governor: you have hindsight now, but it seemed to many of us that Iowa Democrats came to this judgment late and slowly. It wasn’t apparent a week out, two weeks out. Was it gathering force as caucus night arrived? If the caucuses had been held a week later, would Obama have won by even more? What’s the dynamic right at the moment you have to let go of the process?
DAVID YEPSEN: I think more and more both caucus-goers and voters around the country are deciding later and later what they want to do. That’s why so many pollsters got it wrong in New Hampshire, that 20 percent of that electorate changed its mind in the day before. People know they don’t have to decide right now. And if you have pollsters who come out of the field on Thursday to publish a poll in Sunday’s paper, you might miss what’s going to happen on Tuesday. So I think there was some of that at work in Iowa where you had caucus-goers, most of whom had been there before and who knew they didn’t have to decide right now. Wait, take their sweet time until the very end, until the last debate, to see the last commercial before they make a judgment. They’ve been told so often they’re important, they’ve actually come to believe it. [laughter] And so they take their sweet time. You could probably sense that there was something moving for Obama in the last week, Tom, but it was small -- it didn’t break until late.
TOM OLIPHANT: Governor, now, I should add that Hillary Clinton has no better supporter than this person. [applause] It’s such a rare opportunity for David and me to be on the stage with somebody who’s actually accomplished something in life. But I was struck by something Senator Clinton said Saturday night. You know, for those of you who follow this game, the Saturday before a vote in some state, like in Wisconsin tomorrow, is usually the occasion for a big Democratic party dinner. There was one in New Hampshire just before the primary. And at the one in Milwaukee on Saturday night, Senator Clinton was going through her stump speech and sort of stopped at the point where she says, “You know, one of us, Obama or me, is going to make history in this election.” And she sort of paused for a second, and then said something spontaneous, I think: “Isn’t that an amazing dilemma to be in? Isn’t it wonderful that so many people are hung up on this obviously difficult decision.” As near as I can tell, first viable female potential president, first viable African-American potential president, plus one of them’s got a spouse who actually was president. That’s a lot for a system to absorb. How is the system doing with these firsts?
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, I think if you had the scenario in a romance novel, you wouldn’t believe it. But I was struck by the tape that was played about Kennedy, and, of course, the assumption was you’ve got to choose one of the men. And there was no thought that there ever would be a woman or an African-American. Frankly, there was no thought in 2004 that there would be a woman or an African-American leading the Democratic ticket. So this is the exciting news, and I think the country as a whole can take pleasure in that, except for some Republicans who might not feel quite the same way. But, still, it says something about this country regardless of party that while racism and sexism haven’t been eliminated -- they are still there -- they no longer act as a barrier to being seriously considered for the presidency. And that’s a tremendous achievement.
The hard part is how do you choose? Here we’ve got two very good people who people are excited about. As David said, it’s wonderful news that young people are coming out, that people are participating as never before. Well, as I said, racism and gender issues have not gone away, and I’m very sensitive to the fact that Hillary is the first serious woman candidate -- 22 women have run for president; none of them were taken seriously. And gender is playing a role, but this is not a science, and it’s impossible to celebrate who Hillary is as a person and how what she says and what we think of her is influenced by gender.
There’s no question that qualities we applaud in a male candidate we don’t like in female candidates. And everything from -- [applause] -- I’ve never read a story about a man’s cleavage. Maybe some day I will. This is, you know, everything from what she wears to her hair … her laughter is analyzed as a cackle, which sounds more like what witches do. What’s hard is that this is not only true for women in politics, it’s true for women in corporate roles, in any leadership executive position. You’re sort of in “a damned if you do and damned if you don’t” position. If you’re not tough enough, obviously you’re not up to the job. And remember John Edwards criticized her for that welling up moment in New Hampshire, but then there was a boomerang effect against him. But if you’re too soft, obviously you’re not tough enough. So you’re on this little tiny platform, and if you step a little over to one side of it, you fall off; if you step over to the other side of it, you fall off. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I mean, I think what we can applaud at this point is that this is a very close race, that she is so close. But I think we still have to be sensitive to the gender issues.
And on the subject of change, I was thinking about that. You know, the choice has been fashioned as change versus experience. Well, I’d argue with that a bit. First of all, electing the first woman is a tremendous change. [applause] Even though she has the last name of Clinton, you know, some people say, “Would she ever have gotten to first base without her husband, and is this a legitimate test?” Well, you can’t absolutely answer that question, except for my experience of knowing her, I think she was a star from the beginning, and could have made it on her own. But I can’t swear to that on any Bible, though I hope she will swear on the Bible.
The other question is, the one thing she has commanded -- and I’m using the word twice -- which we thought, as women looking at this race, was the title of Commander in Chief. And that is really the hardest part for a woman candidate to do. I don’t know if any of you remember when Gerry Ferraro was running and George Bush asked the devastating question: What does she know about throw-weights? I still don’t know about throw-weights, but the fact that she couldn’t answer about throw-weights shows she doesn’t know anything about the military defense, and that is still the toughest issue for a woman. So gender plays a role, but not a debilitating role.
Going back to change, I think it would have been difficult for her to start out representing change. And I’ll tell you why: because a woman does have to present her credentials first. That was my experience running for Governor. I think it’s the experience of many women running where qualifications may be assumed in a male on some instances, they are not assumed in the same way. So she had to lay down that marker: I am ready to do this job. And she probably missed an opportunity to balance that with a change message, not knowing that the country was so hungry for this kind of revolution that we see now. But I don’t think she could’ve done it all that differently. She could’ve nuanced it differently.
DAVID YEPSEN: Let me ask you a follow-up question: Do you think Hillary Clinton’s gender nets her votes or costs her votes? We obviously know that she …
MADELEINE KUNIN: It depends how you look at it. She does less well with men. She does better with women. What the net effect is, I would say, is still a slightly net loss, because, you know, all the polls show she’s done better with women except in some races like the recent ones -- she still did slightly better with white women, but she lost African-American women. But I think some men, and you have to be careful because a whole lot of men are very supportive of Hillary Clinton and even cheering for this phenomenon as much as the women are, but for some men it is still somehow harder to see a woman there. You have to realize all of us have to change our mindset. We’re used to seeing the portraits, and the portraits, as I said when I first walked into the Executive Office, everything is white males. Now, an African-American is going to be a different portrait, too, but a woman is still more starkly different. So I think it’s a slight loss, but not a loss that she couldn’t overcome.
TOM OLIPHANT: Let me, because of your experience, ask you to continue to be this diplomatic in talking about sensitive topics. It seems to me you’re describing, Governor, a situation where because of the newness represented by this candidacy, a lot of our nerves are exposed, and that slights that might be called digs by hacks like me and David suddenly take on the aura of serious events. You mentioned a starker atmosphere surrounding gender. But to ask you to consider the other side, because of the 400 year history in this country, it is every bit as stark for an African-American to attempt this seemingly impossible journey, and that many of the things that are said, not with animus but perhaps without enough reflection, can hit exposed nerves with regard to race just as severely as they have with Senator Clinton. But the question that I wanted to ask you is, from your perspective, do you think there’s a double standard here, that if you fall over the line on race, the slap-down is much harder than if you fall over the line and exhibit gender bias -- yes?
MADELEINE KUNIN: You said this is a sensitive question, and it is. But if I add it all up, and obviously this is my perspective, I think it is still more socially acceptable to be sexist than it is to be racist. [applause] And I’ll tell you why, I’ll tell you why. And that doesn’t mean racism is gone. Sadly, it is here, and I make no excuses for that. But, you know, in the New Hampshire primary, at one event, these guys held up signs saying, “Iron my shirt.” I mean, that should have been a bigger story. If you had an equivalent comment for an African-American, it would have been. You know, the comment that McCain had when he was campaigning somewhere, I think, a couple of months ago, where a woman said to him, “How are we going to defeat the bitch?” And he didn’t say anything. He didn’t say, “This is an inappropriate comment.” Of course, the talk radio is much worse. I mean, there is terrible pornography and misogyny on one of the TVs and you don’t even want to talk about it or want your children to watch it. But that’s still, you know, it’s very complex when people think about strong women. It doesn’t always bring out the best.
TOM OLIPHANT: David, the question I want to ask you is that all of this, in a way, burst onto the national scene just as Iowa was making its decision, and in the immediate aftermath of New Hampshire having made its decision. But from the perspective of Iowa, do you think the country was prepared for the rather intense emotional experience we’ve all gone through since January the 3rd? Can you see the germs of all this before January 3rd?
DAVID YEPSEN: Well, Tom, I can in the sense that Barack Obama’s crowds all over the country were huge. It just didn’t start with his good showing in Iowa. She had good, respectable crowds, attracting new people, women, to her events, too. His were larger, in fairness, so I don’t know that Iowa told us that that was on the way. We know one effect of it was to … I heard several African-American students of African-American politics say that for Iowa -- a state that is 95 percent white -- to support a black candidate had a helpful effect on him among African-American voters in South Carolina. But the Iowa Democrat was in a bind no matter what they did. You’re either going to vote for the first African-American or you’re going to vote for the first woman. You’re a hero on one hand and you’re dumb on the other. So it was a no-win and no-lose; it was a difficult situation.
TOM OLIPHANT: You all had one aspect of this, though, to deal with directly shortly before the caucuses were held that had its origins, actually, in New Hampshire. And that is the first remark that might make people uncomfortable directed at Obama that had a little racial tinge to it came from New Hampshire. A name up there that many of us associate with the best in politics, Billy Shaheen, made a crack about what would happen -- who was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in New Hampshire -- started this business about, when it comes to vetting time, people are going to hone in on that drug use. And they are going to wonder, was he dealing, was he selling, blah, blah, blah. Not much reaction for about half a news cycle, and then it was as though the roof fell in and Billy was gone, from the campaign anyway. And the repercussions were quite something. Were you surprised at the intensity of the reaction to that episode?
DAVID YEPSEN: I was surprised.
TOM OLIPHANT: And what did it suggest about what was about to happen?
DAVID YEPSEN: Well, it suggests, as we just talked about, we’re dealing with two, hypersensitive issues in our culture, sexism and racism. And they will also be used for political purposes. You know, oh, you’ll take offense where none was intended or see things that weren’t there. It’s a difficult subject to discuss in a civil fashion, let alone in sound bites on the stump. I didn’t take it that way, but it clearly was felt that way and so people take offense. It’s going to continue to be a dynamic throughout this campaign, because it will be interesting to watch and see how the Republicans take on either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama without getting into those mine fields.
I can tell your Republican strategists are particularly worried about how they are going to take on Obama without getting into this whole area. “Well, it was a racist comment.” Or “You’re attacking him because he’s a black man.” How they get their hands around him is going to be very difficult.
TOM OLIPHANT: Governor, isn’t that the origin of the perhaps Quixotic situation -- that what would make this dilemma David was just talking about impossibly exquisite would be if the Democratic Party had both names on its ticket this fall. Then what? I realize you have got a rich background of experience in politics and government and you know how Quixotic it is to suggest that this might happen. However, do you …
MADELEINE KUNIN: However …
TOM OLIPHANT: Do you ever think about it?
MADELEINE KUNIN: Sure. Sure, I think a lot of us think about it. We just don’t know how to pile up the blocks. [Laughter]
TOM OLIPHANT: Oh, go ahead and try. Come on. [Laughter]
MADELEINE KUNIN: Yeah. You know, in one sense people could say, “This is the most daring ticket.” And on the other side they say, “This is the most exciting ticket.” And it would be an extraordinary ticket, whether … You know, we’ve seen kiss and make up in politics before.
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, we have.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Sometimes people hurl the most horrible insults and the day after, I don't know, they send each other Valentines.
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, 1960, since we are talking about 1960, it is the perfect one to put in.
MADELEINE KUNIN: So nothing is impossible on that score.
TOM OLIPHANT: Now, David, you’ve seen them up close and together. And what does your judgment tell you is the level of animus and how difficult it would be to overcome it later on?
DAVID YEPSEN: I think there is animus there. These are two very talented, ambitious people. I think some of it is conducted at the staff level. They both have very passionate supporters. But, look, it has been overcome in our culture before in 1960, in 1980 on the Republican side. So it is not outside the realm of possibility. And I wonder if the race isn’t going to be so spirited that the winner at least has to make the offer in the spirit of some kind of unity. Whether it’s accepted or not, I don't know. I agree with you Governor, it may be a bit too much for the American electorate to take at one time on the same ticket. But, you know …
TOM OLIPHANT: How about two southern white guys from border states? [Laughter]
MADELEINE KUNIN: And what a contrast. I mean, I can’t wait for that photo, you know, between the minority white guy on one side and the woman and the African-American on the other. I mean, maybe not appropriate to say that, but having said it, that would be a first in history -- that the typical white man looks pale. [Laughter]
TOM OLIPHANT: Well, since you said it, I might as well—if you haven’t heard this typically great line by David Letterman—he was talking about the losing photo last week in Virginia, which was of McCain surrounded by John Warner, Congressman Davis who is quitting after 16 years from the D.C. suburbs, George Allen, Macaca, from …
MADELEINE KUNIN: Macaca.
TOM OLIPHANT: … from ’06 and McCain. He said, “Looking at this photograph, it looks like the first tee on Saturday morning at a restricted country club. [Laughter] So maybe you have a point. Now, I should say, if anybody has anything to say or to ask, now is the time, if you would please, to begin queuing up. And while you are doing that I’m going to ask these two geniuses to help me resolve a question that maybe needs more discussion than it is getting right now. And that is, Governor, how is this thing going to end? Forget the prediction part of that question.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I wouldn’t dare.
TOM OLIPHANT: How? How will this stop? Since, obviously, no one can win it mathematically by June.
MADELEINE KUNIN: You know, punditry is an endangered profession these days, so I don’t really have an answer. But there are several scenarios. One is that one candidate will, at least, win the popular vote fairly decisively and/or win the most delegates, if not the number of delegates that is required, 2,025. And there now is a lot of talk about the super delegates. Are they going to go on their own? Should we have them at all? But I think the super delegates, they are also elected, don’t forget. They have their ear to the ground. It is not like they are anointed. I think most of them would go along. The other scenario is that that doesn’t happen. And then we have, of course, Michigan and Florida, which are unresolved.
TOM OLIPHANT: Can you think of any guiding, philosophical theme for this endgame? Everybody’s vote should count. Should we go back to [simultaneous conversation]?
MADELEINE KUNIN: I think we still have to go back to basic democracy.
MADELEINE KUNIN: And no matter who you are supporting, you’ve got to let the people’s voice count.
TOM OLIPHANT: Does that make you happy or sad that you’re not one of those super delegates this year?
MADELEINE KUNIN: I like sort of your position, watching it from the outside.
TOM OLIPHANT: David and I are anarchists. [Laughter] We enjoy the chaos. But, finally, David, let me return as we started in Iowa, because Iowa has super delegates and they’ve had a little chance to think since January 3rd in a different way, perhaps, than some of the people in similar situations around the country. What do you hear?
DAVID YEPSEN: Well, they are just as divided.
TOM OLIPHANT: Really!?
DAVID YEPSEN: As they are elsewhere. I mean the current governor is backing Barack Obama. Governor Vilsack, the former Democratic governor, is backing Senator Clinton. I mean these are super delegates. There is a lot of angst about them. But the fact is, they are … it is a form of peer review. These are politicians. These are people who are experienced in politics and governance. And some will tack to, say, Senator Barack Obama on the theory that he is inspiring and can lead and can win and this is what we need as politicians. Others will move towards Senator Clinton on the theory that she is experienced at running a government, is tough, and we need somebody who’s got that. And I think that is wonderful. I think the system is working, Tom, the way Democrats set it up in the mid-eighties. We have some grown ups here making some judgment about it.
TOM OLIPHANT: Do you sense any consensus among the super delegates in Iowa, even on the question of process? In other words, are we here to ratify the leaders’ leading status?
DAVID YEPSEN: You have both.
TOM OLIPHANT: Or are we exercising independent judgment?
DAVID YEPSEN: You have both. You have some who will say, “I owe my party my judgment.” And you have others who say, “My district voted this way. My state voted this way.” And they will come down on both sides. You have this problem in Massachusetts.
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, we do.
DAVID YEPSEN: Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry. You have in San Francisco, members of Congress whose district voted for Barack Obama and yet the state went the other way. So they will be all over the map. I don’t think there is any one formula.
TOM OLIPHANT: And you have been very patient and we are very grateful for that. Let us have it, please. And we will alternate until they yank me off the stage.
AUDIENCE: First, I want to say, thank you very much for allowing us this opportunity.
AUDIENCE: And I want to share one quick observation. I heard one of the Republican strategists remarking on public radio this past week that he had been working for John McCain since the beginning of the campaign. And he said, “If Barack Obama wins the nomination, I will not be working for Mr. McCain.” And he was asked why. And his reply was, “I read his book and I do not want to be part of a campaign against him.” And it was, I felt, the most stunning, one of the most stunning things that I had heard.
Beyond that I want to say, would you comment please on the role of Bill Clinton in this campaign cycle. I, for one, I grew up in Washington. I’m a Congressional brat. And I follow this business, whatever, this game, voraciously. I was insulted when Bill Clinton addressed the voters in the Carolinas by saying, “We came here and we asked you for your vote. And we respect the fact that you did not give it to us.” I feel that it is detrimental to the campaign of Mrs. Clinton to have that kind of observation in front of an educated electorate.
TOM OLIPHANT: Governor, you’ve worked for the guy. You are supporting his spouse. You have very special insights. I left Bill Clinton off the table while we were having our discussion because I assumed someone would bring it up. [Laughter]
MADELEINE KUNIN: You were right.
TOM OLIPHANT: In fact, he did it again yesterday, twice in Steubenville, Ohio, for those of you who use YouTube. Explain him. Explain the uniqueness of this situation and how you deal with it.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Boy!
TOM OLIPHANT: We just say, “Thank you” when [simultaneous conversation]
MADELEINE KUNIN: Right. Right. Well, once again a double bind. He is a great asset. People who loved him then, love him now. People who hated him then, hate him now. It’s impossible to totally separate Hillary and Bill. But I think we should do our best to judge Hillary Clinton as Hillary Clinton. [Applause]
MADELEINE KUNIN: Because, you know, spouses … I don't know if it was the “we” part that you objected to. But, you know, Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama, they all campaign. Obviously, they are not former presidents or office holders to that fact. But the tendency to say “we,” you do feel this is a family effort. But I do think in some cases his enthusiasm has gotten the better of him. And I wish he would hold back more because he does have a tendency to overshadow her. And sometimes just his anger bubbles over and makes people wonder, “Is this going to happen in the White House?” So I think it’s important for him to be supportive, rally his troops, but be more discreet. [Laughter]
TOM OLIPHANT: What’s that? [Laughter] Thank you, sir, for your patience. Go right ahead.
AUDIENCE: Well, thank you all, again, for a wonderful afternoon. Two quick comments and then a question. A week ago there was a poll that was shown where they compared which Democratic candidate appeared most likely to perform as a commander-in-chief. And Hillary Clinton beat Obama by around 20-percentage points, which I thought was really quite an extraordinary thing given your earlier comment. The other observation, and I guess all of us listen to NPR, but what has impressed me is that the vigor of the Obama staffers and supporters are much more likely to say, “If she gets it, I’m out of here. I’m not going to participate.” But the Clinton supporters by and large are saying, “If he gets it, I think it is important enough for us to get behind.” And I think that’s another important observation.
The question I really wanted to ask was that, as someone commented, in Iowa everyone was really thrilled at who was running on the Democratic ticket. Most of us liked pretty much everybody with the possible exception of Kucinich. [Laughter]
TOM OLIPHANT: Welcome to Boston.
MADELEINE KUNIN: This is VPR. Remember.
AUDIENCE: Well, my question has to do with the media and that the media did the winnowing first before the electorate ever had a chance to. Because if you look at most of the debates -- Biden, Dodd, Richardson, really didn’t get much play, much direct questioning. They weren’t covered the same way. Their issue stands were not presented in an equal way. So that a lot of what you are talking about is change versus experience is a contrivance of the media, because it is change and change, experience versus non-experience.
TOM OLIPHANT: David, let me put this even more directly to you. There were 23 in the beginning in candidates?
DAVID YEPSEN: Total?
TOM OLIPHANT: Yeah. Wasn’t it 23?
DAVID YEPSEN: Yeah.
TOM OLIPHANT: On each side. Now what got it down to one Republican and two Democrats, particularly in Iowa? Was it you or was it them?
DAVID YEPSEN: Well, in fairness, I think it is both media decisions that are made. It’s also financial decisions that are made by contributors. I think there is also a threshold that each party has for what’s an acceptable candidate. I mean Mike Gravel was allowed to participate. Dennis Kucinich was allowed to participate on the Democratic side. We were criticized because we let Allen Keyes into our debate. We devote a lot of effort in the way we cover, to try to give some attention to everybody. But the fact is, the criticism is valid, sir, because media people do get paid to make judgments. We make news judgments all the time. And someone who is statistically closer to the White House is going to get more scrutiny than someone who we all know is not going to be the next president of the United States. So we make judgments. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong. The only defense I can make is, in this age, there is so much information out there about all the candidates -- from broadcast to print to the Internet -- that someone who really did want to learn more about Dennis Kucinich’s infrastructure policy could have found it.
TOM OLIPHANT: Now, normally up here, just one of us is going to handle a question. But I want the Governor to take a bite at this. Because for those of you who may not know, if circumstances had been different in her life, by education and first job, Madeleine Kunin is a journalist, not a public … That’s how she began. So helpful or hurtful in this cycle?
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well …
TOM OLIPHANT: I say hurtful.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I mean the frustration I have with the press is it’s always the horserace. It is always the polls. And the assumption is that the public has a very short attention span. Every once in a while the New York Times will do a long article on issues. It isn’t there. But I think our system, going back to the winnowing question, it is sort of inevitable. And what bothered me was the assumption when Hillary was clearly the front runner, that she self-proclaimed herself that. Well, she didn’t really self-proclaim. The press said she self-proclaimed. And so then the game is, knock down the one who is ahead.
DAVID YEPSEN: Governor, don’t you think she did try to convey to the rest of the country and her party that she was the inevitable nominee? I certainly think that was the subtext message of Clinton’s campaign.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I didn’t see it that way. But I saw her as following a strategy, that rather than attack my fellow Democrats, I want us to attack the other side. And that may have given her the aura of that. But I remember people saying to me, “Oh, she is going to surely get the nomination,” last summer. And I said, “No.” This is a life time of politics. So I think they always knew they were in for a fight. They didn’t know they were in for this kind of a fight. I do grant you that.
TOM OLIPHANT: Thank you for your patience.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, first of all, Tom, I would like to correct you on one thing. In the Iowa caucuses there were three Democrats. John Edwards finished ahead of Hillary Clinton and you only referred to two. The problem with John Edwards was …
TOM OLIPHANT: We are going to get Dave Yepsen in a second to tell a little story or two to help understand why Edwards finished second. Go ahead.
AUIDENCE: The only thing was he wasn’t able to capitalize on that and he wasn’t able … when it came to the New Hampshire primary he was an also ran. The other thing is, as far as commander-in-chief is concerned, there is a nationwide organization called Veterans for Hillary. And 99% of us are males. And we all feel that Hillary will be the better commander-in-chief by far. [Applause] And that is why we are supporting her.
MADELEINE KUNIN: That’s interesting. Interesting.
AUDIENCE: So the other thing is, David, you were talking about the war as an issue. And General Odierno, who was the second in command in Iraq and was responsible for whatever success the surge had, is leaving that job to become a four-star general and be the Associate Chief of Staff of the United States Army. In his parting remarks, one of the things that he said was that you cannot kill your way out of an insurrection. He was referring to the fact that, indeed, it is going to take much more than that. It’s going to take creating jobs. It is going to take creating infrastructure. And it is going to take creating an economy and a stable government. So the whole thing about the Iraq War, that is something that whichever candidate, Democratic candidate wins the nomination should stress. Now the question I want to ask is … [laughter]
DAVID YEPSEN: Is there a question in there?
AUDIENCE: The question I want to ask is not related to any of that [laughter] and that is, in the South Carolina primary, South Carolina has been for the last number of presidential elections a rock-ribbed Republican state. And as I understand it, in their caucuses or whatever they hold there …
TOM OLIPHANT: Primary.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Primary.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, it might have been a primary. Republicans were allowed to vote or Independents were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary. And I’m pretty sure they were, Tom.
TOM OLIPHANT: No, they don’t have party registration in South Carolina. There are no Democrats and Republicans.
AUDIENCE: Okay. So my point is, is it possible, because of the very large majority that Obama rang up, that many Republicans feeling that Obama would be an easier candidate to beat in the general election, came out and voted for him rather than for Hillary. And this is one of the flaws in our present election system, electoral system and I think that should be done away with. You should be a registered Democrat or a registered Republican in order to vote in those primaries.
TOM OLIPHANT: Thank you.
DAVID YEPSEN: Just a quick answer to that. There’s no evidence that Republicans in widespread, organized fashion are doing that or the Democrats do that in the Republican party. I hear this conspiracy theory sort of offered. Obama does attract some Republicans to become Democrats and participate. But the fact is the Democratic party struggles with this. Do you have a closed primary for party members only versus, gee, we want to be an all-encompassing party? We want to attract new people. We want to attract people who are inspired to turn out even on election day. I think most states do allow, most state Democratic Parties allow Independents to participate in the party at some level. I mean they want to attract Independents, whether it’s on election day or you can switch your registration before.
TOM OLIPHANT: Thank you very much. Go right ahead, please.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. When I was campaigning in the last Democratic primary, I was amazed at how excited people got when they thought about having both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the same ticket. I have two very related questions. The first is, if Barack Obama get the nomination for president, would Hillary Clinton accept the nomination for vice president? And the second question, and you know what’s coming, if Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic nomination for president, would Barack Obama accept the position as VP.
TOM OLIPHANT: Take the last on first, Governor.
MADELEINE KUNIN: As of today, no. [Laughter] But after the primary is over, I think there is a possibility, either way, if only the feeling, “We got to unite this country,” because there is so much passion on the part of voters both for Barack Obama and for Hillary Clinton. So I think there is a possibility. I’m not saying it would work or be easy, but I would leave the door open.
TOM OLIPHANT: My, for what it’s worth, down through the years my observation has been that the longer fights go, the more likely combinations like that are. It doesn’t mean they are going to happen but they are more likely to be discussed. Ma’am. Hello? Yes.
AUDIENCE: Couple of comments. I thought it was interesting what Governor Kunin said about women having to be more qualified, to demonstrate their qualifications. I remember years ago, probably about 35 years ago, Professor Willie at Harvard University stated that white men were always considered qualified. Black men always had to prove their qualifications. And it is sort of interesting that has kind of switched in that way. The other thing is a few years ago, maybe 15 years ago, when you are talking about the McCain picture, the labor movement realized that their leadership was what they called male, pale and stale. [Laughter] And as a result they got more people of color, more women involved. And I don't know how much good it has done but, in any event, I think the country is sort of at that point also, that they really want to see something different to try to get us out of this mess that we are in.
The question that I have is do you think if it hadn’t been Hillary Clinton, do you think that Obama would have jumped into this race? Because she was such a candidate with so much baggage that people were, and still are, really worried as to whether she is electable. I mean some people feel -- I think a lot of women feel, including myself, doesn’t necessarily mean, indicates how I voted -- that it really was her time or a time for a woman. But at the same time she’s got so much baggage. I wonder whether he feels that this was, because he is only 46 years old, that it didn’t quite feel that it was his time. But I wonder whether he felt if it had been another woman without the baggage, do you think that he would have stepped into the race?
TOM OLIPHANT: David?
DAVID YEPSEN: I think that was a factor in the calculation of every other Democrat who filed. The White House is wide open as we’ve not seen it before in our lifetime. If you are a credible candidate for the presidency in either party, you’ve got to think, “This may be my shot.” And so it was what Dick Durbin told Barack Obama. I thought it was very instructive, you know, when Obama was saying, “Maybe I won’t run.” And Durbin said, “What, are you going to sit around here for another four, eight years and cast a lot of votes and that somehow that is going to make a lot of difference?” You know, in politics you’ve got to strike when the iron is hot. Timing is everything.
The White House is wide open and I think you had a whole lot of candidates get in. I think Senator Clinton’s baggage—she also has a lot of assets, too, the ability to raise funds, huge base. So I think it cut both ways. I think in the specific case of Barack Obama—first of all, who knows what’s in the man’s soul. But you just have to look at the political environment. And I conclude from the response he got from his speech at the 2004 convention that he said, “This is my opening. I got to go.”
TOM OLIPHANT: Actually, this I can talk a little bit about because two of my children and one nephew are drawing salaries at Obama for President right now and have been for over a year. And watching it happen I am absolutely positive that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy had nothing to do with it. That this is something internal that involved an analysis of the current moment in American history, much as David described it. But that the struggle had less to do with whether he wanted to than with whether she did, Michelle Obama. And that it was only gradually that they were able to figure this out in a way that allowed the candidacy to go forward.
But it’s interesting that so many of the Democrats who talked to him—David mentioned Dick Durbin. I would mention Edward Kennedy. Don’t sit around and vote 10,000 more times. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you have something to offer the country. Kennedy is particularly informed by the example of his brother 48 years ago. And it may seem fanciful to people who play the political game around the clock. But to a lot of the participants, it didn’t seem all that fanciful at all.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I’ll just pick up on one point you made, does Hillary as a woman have more baggage than another woman would have had. Right. Part of it is Bill. But we all carry suitcases, you know. I don't know how affirmative to be on this, but I think any woman will have some baggage. And it isn’t like there’s a whole line up of women waiting that could even begin to have her credentials. So I tend to agree with the two gentlemen here. I think it was more Obama’s own passion and the timing.
TOM OLIPHANT: But maybe if I could just follow up with a very brief question, to follow up on your point. If Barack Obama were female, would his candidacy have been credible, Governor Kunin?
MADELEINE KUNIN: [Shakes head no.]
TOM OLIPHANT: Thank you very much. Go right ahead.
AUDIENCE: The Internet has been used extensively in this campaign by the candidates themselves, even by the debates and the YouTube and the individuals appear as well as ask questions. And so it’s quite a source of information -- text and articles as well as video and even teleconference. So I was wondering if you could comment on the use of the Internet.
DAVID YEPSEN: The history of presidential campaigns I think is a history of candidates who master the leading communications technologies of their day. One of the reasons the candidates used to fight over who the postmaster was in a town was because our founders, if they controlled the postmaster they could get their papers delivered and throw the opposition’s away: Lincoln and the telegraph, President Kennedy and television, FDR and radio. So if you are a candidate for president and you can master the communications technology, the cutting edge technology of your era, then I think it’s to your benefit.
It is uneven how they do it. Republican, look at Republican Web sites. They are much stiffer and not as interactive. I think the use of Internet technologies by Democrats is much more sophisticated, particularly in the raising of funds, but also the social networking sites. I almost think it’s as if the social networking sites are enabling the American left to counter the effect of talk radio on the American right -- that they each have their own little, are developing their own communications and mobilization networks.
We know from the polling that it’s growing. But we also know that it is not as big as some people would have you believe. In some communities, it’s huge. In rural America, in poorer communities, with older voters, use of Internet technologies is just not done. There was a poll I saw the other day of likely Texas Democratic primary voters. And their most common source of information about the campaign was cable news. The next was network news and the next was newspapers. And like 4 or 5% was the Internet. Now, if you were to come to Boston or San Francisco or other cities that are more wired and younger, you would find a higher percentage. So the bottom line is, it’s there. It’s real. It’s growing and a campaign had better master it.
TOM OLIPHANT: Please.
AUDIENCE: All set? Thank you. My question has to do with the misogyny going on in the media right now. And I’d like you to comment on the misogyny in the popular media. And it is still continuing. It hasn’t abated at all from what I can see. I’m kind of a blogger and I’m obviously representing Hillary Clinton here. We have been working on her campaign for over a year. And what impact do you think that this misogyny is having on the electorate?
TOM OLIPHANT: My hunch so far is that the more prominent the misogyny, the better Senator Clinton does in the state immediately ahead—best examples being New Hampshire and Nevada.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, I think you are partly right. But, you know, that some people obviously have a negative reaction and come to her defense. And it awakens in women what they have experienced in their own lives. And then they get angry when people beat up on her. But it also makes it more socially acceptable and that’s the downside. I mean was it Sean Hannity who had to apologize?
DAVID YEPSEN: David Schuster.
MADELEINE KUNIN: David Schuster.
DAVID YEPSEN: And there are several.
MADELEINE KUNIN: But they are out there.
TOM OLIPHANT: To be honest.
DAVID YEPSEN: Senator Clinton said that Fox News was treating her better than MSNBC.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Yeah. I mean I forget. It makes it socially acceptable to say certain things about women in public. It isn’t confined to the pin up photos in the back room at the gas station. And I think anything that exposes hatred for women is dangerous in our society because it’s not just about the campaign …. [applause]. It gives permission for violence, not only verbal but otherwise. So I think it is more downside than upside and I think we do need people who will either apologize, censor themselves, or chastise others when they make these remarks.
TOM OLIPHANT: Thank you. Now we have behind you the person with the awesome responsibility of asking the last question. And I just wanted to say that at the conclusion of our discussion of it I will say good night and thank you. But please proceed with this huge responsibility.
AUDIENCE: I’ll try. So far Senator Obama has won the most states and has the popular vote. But if the nomination comes down to the super delegates, do you think that we’ll see an outrage reminiscent of 2000 when the election was chosen by someone, by a group that was not the electorate, if they do choose the person who doesn’t hold the popular vote. And should the super delegates choose someone based on what they think is the ability, the candidate with the best ability to lead our nation? Or in such a close race, should they make their choice based on how their state went?
TOM OLIPHANT: And David, did you ever expect that that issue would loom so large?
DAVID YEPSEN: No.
TOM OLIPHANT: When Iowa was voting?
DAVID YEPSEN: No. We all thought this would be over with by now. In fact, the template for this campaign was, it was going to be a replay just like 2004 when John Kerry won Iowa, won New Hampshire and ran the table. So everybody dumps all their resources into Iowa and New Hampshire and here they are: everyone is struggling now. The game changes every cycle. And this time they were fighting the last war and it’s proven to be wrong.
That goes to my point earlier. Some super delegates will decide, “We’ve got to get somebody who can run the country.” Others will decide, “We’ve got to get somebody who can win.” Others will decide, “I’ve got to represent my state or my Congressional district.” And it will be a sorting our process. I do not think it is bad. It may come to a crisis stage. I think something may still happen to break this open. The fact that Senator Obama has run eight in a row, if he goes with Wisconsin and Hawaii, that puts her up against the wall in Texas and Ohio. So I‘m not sure we get to that scenario.
But there will be a concern about trying to heal up the party. But I do not think that that is something that will be … I don’t think either party has irreparable wounds. And it goes like this: John McCain is going to look at the social conservatives and will say, “I know you don’t like me but who do you want? Do you want President Hillary Clinton’s judges or do you want mine?” And I think Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can do the same thing with the supporters of the opposing candidate. Senator Clinton can go to Barack Obama’s people and say, “Before you leave the room, who do you want picking the next Supreme Court judges?” And I think they will come around. It will take some time but they will be there in the end. And I think both parties are going to have a pretty unified party going into the fall elections because it is such a pivotal election and it is so wide open.
TOM OLIPHANT: Governor, do you hear anything to disagree with there?
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, I’m a little less optimistic. I think it might be hard if it really is close. And like the gentleman who was here before, I hear more about Clinton supporters supporting Obama than Obama supporters supporting Clinton. But I think if it should fall out that way, that she would be in the lead. I think after thinking about it and getting over the disappointment, they would come around. So I think the next few weeks will probably be crucial and, hopefully, we will get some definition after that.
TOM OLIPHANT: Let me tell you what I’ve heard in private. It’s a number you almost never see in the story. The number is 100 and I think it’s magic. And I think the Clinton side and the Obama side, there is no real dispute about this. If, as of the end of Pennsylvania or early June -- pick your date -- the delegate lead, because he’s obviously going to be ahead in popular votes, the delegate lead for Obama is more than 100, it’s over and the super delegates will take care of it. If it is less than 100 they are going to keep fighting. And I think both sides understand and appreciate that fact.
And you have been a wonderful audience on a holiday. We are so grateful. Thanks for coming and good afternoon.
END OF FORUM