Barack Obama announced Sept. 10 that Bill Clinton will be campaigning for him down the stretch. It's about time. Aside from Hillary Clinton's Unity, N.H., appearance, this is the first time the Democrats have displayed any teamwork. Because of his solo campaign, Obama is neck-in-neck at the polls with John McCain. America is at war and in a recession; even the military-industrial complex has failed over the past eight years.
The Democrats have a majority in the Congress and a caucus majority in the Senate (do I count Joe Lieberman?). Yet Obama has only teamed up with his campaign managers and Joe Biden. Poor politics. Biden is fine; he's a good speaker, experienced, but he hasn't had to square off against an incumbent since 1972. And John McCain is a much tougher foe than Cale Boggs.
It doesn't matter that McCain isn't the incumbent — the Republicans are. Obama spent his summer squaring off against the strong man in a party of weak links. He faintly associated Bush and McCain through black-and-white pictures and "same old politics" slogans, but his "change" campaign has not defined what it is America's supposed to be moving away from. Let the tic-tac nit-picking of John McCain and Sarah Palin's records be one play. Not the whole playbook. Obama needs to bring the entire Republican Party into the fold. Really just usher them all in for snapshots:
Sen. Bob Ney, R-Ohio: Pleaded guilty to corruption charges, 17 months in prison.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska: Indicted on a seven-count corruption charge.
Former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas: Indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
Former Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Calif.: Convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion, 8 years in prison.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska: Under federal investigation.
J. Steven Griles, former No. 2 in the Department of Interior: Pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice charges.
Former Vice President Chief of Staff Scooter Libby: Convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury (his sentence was commuted by President Bush).
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez: Resigned, and since then has only found work giving speeches.
Senior Justice Department officials: Broke Civil Service laws in connection with the firing of seven U.S. attorneys.
In 2000, George W. Bush promised to bring ethics back to the Oval Office, implicating Al Gore by association with Clinton's scandal. Bush ran now-sadly-ironic ads saying he just wanted the American people to believe in their government again. That Clinton's actions and Gore's politics were unrelated; it didn't and shouldn't matter in a campaign. They are in the same party. Clinton and Gore did the same in 1996, linking Republican Newt Gingrich to Bob Dole.
Obama's ads connecting McCain to Bush ("Oh, him again?") are uncreative and inadequate. The Illinois senator should be convincing voters not only to back him but the whole party. I thought prominent Democrats would have been blazing blue campaign trails across the country by now. Through coordinating well-known and skilled politicians, Obama would present himself as a leader of an entire party, not just a campaign. He needs to request (or require) Democrats like Jim Webb, Ken Salazar and Ed Rendell to speak on behalf of "change." Touch voters locally. Remind them there are more important issues than hog hoopla. Bypass the ridiculous Charlie Gibson-Bill O'Reilly-Chris Matthews-Jon Stewart filtration system that turns elections into speed dating.
The trickle-down corruption of the past eight years is too vast for Obama to address alone. And leaving a first-term senator out there against the much louder, more aggressive Republican campaign team is just silly. Bill Clinton campaigned for "change" in '92, dominating George H.W. Bush; he will do nothing but help the ticket. Obama needs the Democrats in office to start doing the same.
Greg T. Spielberg is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism
and a former assistant city editor for the Columbia Missourian.