Cody Shearer: Party leaders trying to hold party together during bitter fight between Obama and Clinton
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: If the next few months leading up to the convention, if momentum is on Obama’s side, both in that he has more money, he’s more likely to win most of the primaries, does that really give him an upper hand going into the convention?
CODY SHEARER, JOURNALIST: Absolutely. Here we have, in the month of January, Barack Obama raised more than $32 million in contributions. The Clinton people have raised $13 million in January. And what’s happened is that Obama’s contributions are coming in from small donors all over the country, and Hillary’s people are basically maxed out. So Obama’s going to have more money to do advertising and also put people on the ground in all of these states. And so he will have a much better army. And so the Clinton people then are going to say, well, if these guys got more money, what do we do? How do we undercut him? And so the Clinton people have been saying that Barack Obama has never had a tough Republican opponent in his entire life. They’re saying, “This guy hasn’t been vetted. Nobody knows anything about this guy. And so he hasn’t been tested. Are we going to take an untested horse and put him in a critical general election against John McCain?”
JAY: And by “tested,” partly what you’re talking about is: is there any dirt to dig up that people haven’t seen yet?
SHEARER: Well, the question is there are a lot of questions in terms of Senator Obama’s background that haven’t been answered. And these campaigns, you know, when you deal with character and you’re dealing with a new generation, this is being viewed as an insurgent campaign, the Obama operation. A lot of questions are raised. And the Republicans have a lot of very high-paid consultants, and you hire detectives in these campaigns, and they investigate the respective candidates.
JAY: If your math is correct and a bitter battle at the convention won by Hillary could leave the party divided and without much enthusiasm, doesn’t the party hierarchy and congressmen and senators who want to get reelected, don’t they at some point have to pick their horse? And it sounds like the horse they would have to pick is Obama to avoid what you’re describing as a kind of train wreck.
SHEARER: Well, that’s what’s going on right now. There is a group of senators that met this morning in Washington. I spoke to one of the senators, and they realized they have to be peacemakers. They’re going to have to hold hands between these two camps to try to build a bridge. Otherwise the party is going to blow itself up. And they’re trying to figure out which horse to ride, which one has the best chance of winning against John McCain, who’s a very formidable opponent. And, you know, then we also run into the variable, if there’s an international crisis or some kind of crisis that’s triggered by the White House, will it favor Senator McCain? There are so many unknown variables. There may be an international crisis during these next primaries in the next three months. So it’s really hard to tell. But it doesn’t look good for the Democrats today in my opinion.
JAY: So this convention might well be decided by these super delegates. What’s at stake for them?
SHEARER: The super delegates, you would think and you would hope that they would be interested in—in terms of what’s best not only for their party but what’s best for the country. That’s not the way it works. In all too many cases, these super delegates are concerned about what’s best for themselves. And they want their party to win so that they’re entitled to a whole series of patronage privileges, whether it can be so menial as a parking place. This is what’s critical to these guys. “Are you going to take away my right to, if I’m a former member of Congress, I’m a super delegate, I can, you know, no longer use a barber shop? Or I can’t use the gymnasium in the House? Or I may not be able to use this or that?” This is what—I mean, it’s very, very trivial stuff. But this is what these guys care about.
JAY: But in terms of winning the White House, it’s thousands and thousands of patronage jobs, tens of thousands of jobs.
SHEARER: Well, there’s actually a book called The Plum Book, which the government printing office publishes after the general election. And there are roughly 35,000 jobs that the new president has to hand out to all of his friends, to these super delegates and their friends. And so this means a lot of money. There are commissions, there are literally hundreds of commissions that you’ve never heard of in which donors to the party, relatives of super delegates get on. And there’s a commission to make sure that monuments that are overseas are in excellent condition. There is a commission to make sure that artwork in American embassies is in top shape. You get paid a lot of money for being on these commissions. And so all of these factors come into play for a super delegate. You know, if my guy wins, I can have my friend or my contributors and my daughter or someone get on these commissions. This is what this is about. It’s pretty petty stuff that has not a hell of a lot to do with improving the condition or the quality of life for the American people.
JAY: So when you talk about the horse-trading that’s going to go on at the conventions, a lot of this horse trading is about these kinds of patronage appointments.
SHEARER: Well, exactly. You know, I’ll scratch your back, you scratch my back. What are we going to do for each other? It’s just like a small country club. And it’s this old back-room horse-trading that was supposed to be cleaned up after the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, and now we’re seeing it’s more of the same thing. In spite of all these primaries, we’re going to come down to what these super delegates want to do. And that’s what we were supposed to clean up. So if you ever wanted to change the system, you want to get rid of these super delegates and simply hand out theses delegates on the basis of a popular vote, which would probably be a fairer system in each state.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.