Saturday, January 12, 2008

Farewell to Hillary

Not Clinton -- Sir Edmund

I have always marveled at this picture of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay drinking tea in front of the tent shortly after their historic first ascent of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. The photo captures, for me, the consummate self-satisfaction they must have felt at that moment and which was expressed in Hillary's quip to the expedition leader when he met him on the way down from the summit -- "We knocked the bastard off."

Hillary of course went on to lead a supremely satisfying life of mountaineering, polar exploration (both poles), river running (the Ganges), conservation (cleaning up Everest), public service (as Ambassador to India) and philanthropy (financing construction of schools and hospitals in Nepal). He knew personal tragedy when his wife and teenage daughter died in a plane crash in Nepal en route to one of the hospitals he was building. He was more embarrassed than impressed by his knighthood and never called himself "Sir". He participated in a hilarious and fruitless search for the abominable snowman. He lived long, dying yesterday in New Zealand at age 88.

Sir Edmund Hillary was one of the great men of the last century. I cannot let his passing pass without paying tribute.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Hampshire -- The Aftermath for Obama

A Return to Normalcy?

Supporters of Senator Barack Obama, of whom I am one, should not take New Hampshire too hard. Instead we should take a deep breath and step back. The result (39-36) was neither a crushing defeat for him nor a smashing victory for her. New Hampshire did not herald a collapse of the powerful momentum Obama and his campaign have recently acquired. The result is not a revolution in Clinton's support. The result is not even a startling surprise. Just look back a minute. On December 10, 2007, none of us expected the Obama campaign to be where it is today. In contrast to the perspective of one month ago we now know, Hillary knows, and the country knows that the Obama campaign is for real and can win, and that Senator Barack Obama is indeed a candidate with presidential credibility and stature.

Let us take New Hampshire as a reality check. It is a test of our ability to organize, mount and maintain a tough, smart, disciplined and effective presidential campaign. A campaign such as those JFK and RFK conducted. A campaign such as neither Gore nor Kerry conducted (sadly). I worked as an advance man for RFK in 1968 and have, as a result, seen an effective campaign from the inside. The Obama campaign must rise to that level if it is to win.

What we have today, two days after New Hampshire, is less a setback than a return to normalcy. The Clinton campaign organization remains rich, powerful and competent. Hillary has a natural call on the support of women. Barack Obama is a bi-racial man running against strong overt and covert currents of racism in this country. No one should think this will be easy. To the contrary.

My wish is that the Senator will within the next several days, and well before South Carolina, give a major foreign policy address. The address should demonstrate that he has a thoughtful and deep understanding of foreign affairs in his own right and is astute enough to surround himself with experienced, top-level foreign policy advisors. In my opinion, such a speech would not be hard to draft (I think we all know what it should say) and would be a strong tonic for the malaise that otherwise might plague and distract us. If the text of the speech is competently crafted by people who know what they are talking about, and is then delivered by the Senator with the same command, confidence and eloquence as his Iowa victory speech, then this campaign will take a huge step forward. Such a speech will, moreover, shock and confuse the Clinton campaign. At the same time it will show the American people a new and exciting side of Senator Barack Obama.

The next step would logically be a major speech on the economy. One might argue that the speech on the economy should come first, with the foreign policy speech following. My call, however, would be to go with foreign policy first and then do the economy. That order of delivery is more surprising and interesting and does more to keep the Clinton campaign off balance.