Heroes and Heels: The Best and Worst of Campaign 2008 — So far!

A campaign hall of fame and infamy -- a look at who's been good and who's been bad through the primaries.

The Democrats appear to be quickly moving to unity after a delayed but, in the end, very powerful concession speech from Senator Hillary Clinton. She endorsed Obama with stentorian clarity. She also pledged a committed fight to secure victory for the Democratic ticket in the fall. Bravo!

One cannot have watched this prolonged primary season without thinking a lot about the media, politicians and us, the voters. How these players interact will ultimately determine the outcome of this election and the future of the nation. While there is no point in dwelling on the past and carrying political grudges, it is wise, all the same, to be mindful of who did right and who did wrong over the past 16 months. And in that spirit, I’d like to identify some of my heroes and my heels of primary season 2008.


Even the media deserves some recognition. To be sure, at times, like most people, I felt buried in a seemingly endless, repetitive, and uninformative stream of so-called “news” coverage. However, in the main, I was impressed. I have lots of individual heroes, like Keith Olberman who has proven that there is a progressive antidote to Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs, and like Jeffrey Toobin, who coined the phrase “deranged narcissism.”

The Bronze : High honors, and in this Olympic season, my bronze medal, goes to CNN. The depth and range of the coverage they provided has been without peer. At times Soledad O’Brien seemed overwhelmed by exit polling data, but otherwise the whole team has been extraordinary. And the diversity of commentators and views they put on the stage is unprecedented. With Donna Brazile, Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, Toobin, and so many others, CNN has altered the face of presidential election analysis. That face is no longer all male and no longer all white. Bravo!

The long primary season featured many great moments for politicians, pundits, and political spinmeisters. Indeed, I think we witnessed more than a few moments of shinning political courage this primary season. In particular, I think of congressman and superdelegate John Lewis’ early switch from Clinton to Obama, and Caroline Kennedy’s unexpected endorsement of Obama prior to the California primary. Likewise, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ endorsement of Obama prior to the Super Tuesday primaries looms large as one of those politically courageous moments: As a white woman and an elected official, for Sebelius to step out so boldly and endorse the first serious African-American presidential contender at such a critical moment, when his main opponent was the first serious female contender for the presidency, counts for quite a lot and should not be forgotten.

The Silver: Yet my Silver Medal for the most courageous act by a politico this primary season goes to Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. At a point when Obama was still struggling to gain votes among Latinos, when race had been injected into the campaign in poisonous fashion by the various Jeremiah Wight sermon videos, Richardson cut against the heavy-handed pressure from the Clintons, his one-time political sponsors, and stood up for a new voice and a new approach in our national politics. Congratulations and thank you Bill Richardson for showing us what political courage is all about.

This entire process has been about us, the voters, and who we want to lead us over the next four years. Obama’s eleven wins following Super Tuesday certainly stand as important milestones. We could also look back to North Carolina and especially Indiana as the primaries that truly signaled the end of any real challenge to Obama’s ultimate success in securing the nomination. Particularly since these primaries happened immediately after the most unexpected re-eruption of the Reverend Wright problem.

The Gold: So for me, the Gold Medal for courageous political acts goes to the voters, specifically to the people of Iowa. Never has the message of choosing “hope over fear” been more loudly delivered than by the voters of Iowa on January 3rd, 2008. The echo of that primary victory still reverberates not just on the campaign trail but through the annals of history. Thank you Iowa!