Tom Hayden has publicly endorsed Senator Obama.


Story Transcript

TOM HAYDEN, ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR: I don’t know what the relation is between debates and the outcome of a primary like Texas or Ohio. But judged purely as a debate, I thought that she did very well, and that her conclusion was tremendous and deserved the standing ovation that it got. It doesn’t mean that Barack Obama failed. I just think that Hillary prevailed. She was more like Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Eleanor Roosevelt, proposing a kind of New Deal, an identity with the palpable suffering of people in this country like the vets. And I remember growing up under the spell of Roosevelt. Obama was more like John F. Kennedy, the promise being even greater than the person, the idealism, the idea of a new beginning. And those are very powerful mythologies within the Democratic Party. And both of them are positive in a sense. And so I would think given the economic doldrums that people are in, the memory of Franklin Roosevelt is somewhat more attractive than the memory of John Kennedy at this point. As I said, I don’t think debates do enough, unless a new side of her was revealed, which was hard to believe after so many years. But she was passionate. She was vulnerable. She was articulate on the issues. You know, I think that a lot of people in Texas who vote for Barack will feel a certain guilt or sadness about not voting for Hillary Clinton as a result. But this is about much more than a debate, unless there’s a turning point where somebody blows up in a debate, and that didn’t happen.

MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST: You didn’t feel like during the course of the debate, until the end, where she really got personal and came out in a way that she hadn’t been, during the course of the debate it seemed like she was throwing these punches that just weren’t landing, and he was for the first time the presidential one.

HAYDEN: That’s certainly what their advisors were trying to do. Her advisors are divided, so her punches were not very well calculated, because she has found that her punches don’t land in the course of this campaign. And Obama was being told by his advisors that now’s the time to reassure people, to be presidential. But I think, from my experience, the beginning and the end of the debates are usually what people most pay attention to. Her beginning—I don’t know why he gave her the opening, but her beginning was very good. It connected with Texas. It was spirited, it was practical, it was good. Not that his was bad by any means. And then her end overwhelmed him. So I think that she did fine. Again, I don’t know that this translates into what makes people turn out to vote. I just don’t. I was very unhappy with both of them, frankly. In my lifetime, I have not seen this kind of coming together of movement and rank-and-file Democrats to create the potential of a progressive populace majority, and that’s what drives candidates. Last year, neither of these candidates, you know, strongly articulated an opposition to Iraq. They do now because of the voters. Neither of them articulated a strong opposition to NAFTA and called for trade agreements that respect the environment and worker’s rights. Now both of them are doing it. So despite the fact that they’re divided fifty-fifty in a way, there’s not a division on the message from the point of view of the rank and file. So I think those of us who have worked at the grassroots level of social movements in the Democratic Party have a lot to be proud of.

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Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden is an American social and political activist and politician, most famous for his involvement in the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 1960s. Hayden served in the California State Assembly and the State Senate. His books include Rebel: A Personal History of the 1960s; Ending the War in Iraq.