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A Roundtable on the 2008 Race with Clinton Supporter Kim Gandy, Obama Supporter Bill Fletcher and McKinney Supporter Ted Glick

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The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is continuing following Hillary Clinton’s win over Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary. We host a roundtable discussion on the 2008 race with Clinton supporter Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organization for Women; Obama supporter Bill Fletcher, the executive editor of The Black Commentator; and Cynthia McKinney supporter Ted Glick, a member of the Green Party. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue now our election coverage by turning to three guests. Here in the Washington, D.C., Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, she has endorsed Hillary Clinton. We’re also joined by Bill Fletcher, executive editor of The Black Commentator, former president of the TransAfrica Forum. His forthcoming book is called Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice. Bill Fletcher is endorsing Barack Obama. And we’re also joined by Ted Glick. Ted Glick is a Green Party member who has endorsed Cynthia McKinney.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! But we’re going to begin with Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. She has been traveling the country, stumping for Hillary Clinton. Kim Gandy, you were in Pennsylvania. First, your response to the primary yesterday there?

KIM GANDY: Well, obviously, all of Hillary Clinton’s supporters were delighted by the outcome of the primary. A double-digit lead was what we had all hoped for. We traveled all over the state talking to people from one end to the other and got a very, very strong response, especially people who made their decision in the last few days, one to three days, went nearly twenty points for Hillary Clinton.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was your observations, as you stumped through Pennsylvania? Where did you go? What are the issues that you were focusing on?

KIM GANDY: My focus was on behalf of the National Organization for Women PAC. I was talking about women’s issues and things that affect women and families and what Hillary Clinton has done and how she has worked with us and worked on these issues all the way back to the Equal Rights Amendment campaign in the ’70s and early ’80s, right up to working for equal pay and the Fair Pay Act, which, by the way, is coming to the floor tonight. Senator Clinton will be flying back to vote on that and to speak on the floor. And so, I went from, let’s see, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to Lancaster, Elizabethtown, Kutztown, Allentown, really made the rounds of the state, talking mostly to women about why Hillary Clinton is the candidate who will best support women’s rights and family issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher, you have endorsed Barack Obama. You’re executive editor of The Black Commentator. Why? And your response to his defeat yesterday in Pennsylvania?

BILL FLETCHER: I think, Amy, that he actually did very well yesterday, that he — we have to keep in mind the context. He was expected to lose Pennsylvania. He was expected by many people to lose substantially in Pennsylvania. He closed the gap. I think that he, all things considered, did quite well. And the campaign has simply not lost momentum.

My reasons for backing Obama is that I think that on the issues that he is better positioned and that he offers an opportunity, beginning with his inauguration in 2009, to change the direction of the country and particularly to change the relationship between the United States and the rest of the planet. So I’m excited about the possibilities, and I’m not despairing. I mean, let’s keep the context in mind. I think he did quite well.

AMY GOODMAN: You didn’t always come out with an endorsement. Can you talk about what made you endorse Barack Obama?

BILL FLETCHER: No, that’s quite correct. I’ve had differences, and I still have differences with the senator. And I think that he needs to be stronger in certain issues, particularly in foreign policy and healthcare. But I think that we’re now in a very different position than we were several months ago. We have these two candidates, and we have one candidate who has touched a nerve within the United States and has mobilized this very fascinating constituency of younger voters, of voters that have been alienated in the past, who are looking for change. And I think what we’re seeing is actually a rebellion in the ranks against the years of the Bush administration, but actually as well against the politics that was played out during the Clinton era. That’s what I think progressives need to capitalize on. That’s why I think it’s so important for us to get involved in the campaign now and make a difference.

AMY GOODMAN: Ted Glick, you’re a Green Party activist. You’re supporting Cynthia McKinney. What is your assessment of what happened in Pennsylvania?

TED GLICK: The problem with what happened in Pennsylvania, as happened in all of the other states where there have been elections, Democratic primary elections, particularly since it’s been Obama and Clinton, is that major issues are just not being addressed. We have no candidate, no horse in the race, who is calling for single-payer universal healthcare, for example. We have no candidate who is saying that we need to get out of Iraq, and we need to renounce our demand, our desire for Iraq’s oil. No candidate has said that we should not be about privatizing Iraq’s oil. It’s their oil for them to use as they see fit. We have no candidate who is against the building of more coal plants. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama support so-called “clean” coal, which is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama support nuclear power, which is not a solution to the climate crisis.

So the problem that we have is that until the media begins to cover other candidacies that are out there — Cynthia McKinney is the likely candidate of the Green Party when it holds its convention in July — we need options, we need alternatives, we need consistent progressives out there. That’s what Cynthia McKinney offers. That’s why I support her.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Kim Gandy and ask you about the whole issue of the Democratic Party being divided right up until the convention, that this is a key moment for Democrats, unless they destroy each other before the election. Your response, Kim Gandy?

KIM GANDY: Well, if you look back at Bill Clinton, he didn’t get the nomination. He didn’t clinch the nomination, at least, until June. So I don’t think there’s any real problem with the race carrying on until June. And in fact, it seems to be inspiring people. We get more and more new Democratic registrations every day. The Democratic voters, the Democratic electorate, is turning out in record numbers for primaries across the country. Clearly, the Democrats are electrified by the choices that they have. And so, I think that this is good for the party. And frankly, it keeps John McCain completely out of the news.

AMY GOODMAN: The quote of the New York Times, the editorial that they just did called “The Low Road to Victory,” saying it’s past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity for which she is mostly responsible does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election?

KIM GANDY: Well, I — you know, I really disagree with that. My experience with this campaign has been that certainly the negativity that I’ve seen has been coming from Senator Obama. He went sharply, sharply on the attack the last few days, and that really shows up in the fact that the people who decided in the last few days went for Senator Clinton. I think that’s because of the very, very sharply critical attacks that he’s made.

But you know what? He hasn’t had to do much challenging of Senator Clinton, because the mainstream media has done that for him. She has focused on her experience. He’s the one who’s been making character attacks and questioning whether she’s trustworthy.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think that Hillary Rodham Clinton hasn’t endorsed single-payer, Kim Gandy?

KIM GANDY: You know, she has had a commitment to healthcare for as long as I’ve known her and has taken — she started off trying to do it big and got hit with Harry and Louise. And in fact, Senator Obama’s ads really echoed Harry and Louise. They look just like the picture of Harry and Louise, even a husband and wife sitting around the dinner table with the bills in their hands, criticizing her in the same way that her original plan was criticized. But I think what she learned from that experience is that we can go only so far, one step at a time. But she has taken the biggest bite. Her plan would cover every single American, would not leave anyone out.

We at the National Organization for Women certainly support single-payer universal coverage. That would be our first choice. I wish our candidate were endorsing that, but her plan, nonetheless, is the best one out there and covers everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher, let me ask you the question of single-payer, as well, why Barack Obama, you think, has not endorsed a single-payer healthcare system, which takes out the insurance industry and their profits from the healthcare equation.

BILL FLETCHER: Well, Amy, I can give this answer, but very bluntly, in part because I’m not speaking for the campaign, I actually think he’s been playing it too safe. I think that — and in that sense, I agree very much with what my friend Ted Glick was saying. I think that — you know, that there needs to be much more of a push on the issues, and I think that, unfortunately, Senator Obama has thought that this might hurt his coalition. So I do think he needs to be pushed.

But I want to say one other thing, Amy. I’m trying to figure out whether we’re in the same country when I hear these comments about Senator Obama’s alleged negativity. I mean, let’s be clear about who it was that kept the issue of Reverend Wright alive, who it was that implied that there was a problem with the relationship between Senator Obama and Bill Ayers in Chicago. I mean, there has been this undercurrent that comes very close to red-baiting that has been coming out of the campaign, which I think does a disservice to the Clinton campaign. So I think that there really is a time where people need to pull up and be a little bit more humble in their approach.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Kim Gandy, let me put that issue back to you, the issue of Hillary Clinton on negativity around Reverend Wright, on raising other issues that aren’t to do with basic issues in the campaign around healthcare, around war.

KIM GANDY: Certainly, my experience with the campaign was that they stayed away from the Reverend Wright issue. The first I recall Hillary Clinton saying anything about it was when she was asked what would she have done if this had been her pastor or if her pastor had said such things, and she said that she wouldn’t have continued going to that church. I don’t consider that a negative attack.

On the other hand, you know, Senator Obama ran ads saying that Hillary Clinton had advocated for NAFTA, which was, according to the — including her detractors, who were not — who were around at the time, even they say that she not only didn’t advocate for it, but actually argued against it inside the White House and urged that NAFTA not be undertaken. She said, “If we do this, we’ll never get healthcare.”

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher?

BILL FLETCHER: Senator Clinton can’t have it both ways, Amy. You know, she goes after Senator Obama about his associations with Reverend Wright and with Bill Ayers, yet wants people to see her as distinct from the Clinton White House, yet claiming that she’s ready to assume the presidency precisely because of her years in the Clinton White House. You simply cannot have it both ways.

See, what this really speaks to, Amy, is, bottom line, Senator Clinton cannot significantly distinguish herself on the issues from Senator Obama. And in that situation, unfortunately, what happens is that many people turn to issues that are a bit inflammatory, that are provocative, rather than getting to the issues. Again, I want to go back to what Ted was raising. This campaign should be focusing on the issues. The media should be focusing on the issues, and they should be pushing the candidates, including the candidate I support, Senator Obama, on them, and push them so that they’re specific about each of these questions.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me play a clip of Cynthia McKinney. I interviewed her earlier this year about her decision to leave the Democratic Party, a longtime Democratic congress member, and seek the Green Party nomination. This is some of what she had to say.

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: We have a whole huge swath of the potential electorate who don’t even vote at all. And starting in 1968, many of them have said that the treatment of the Democratic Party of people, their children, basically, who were outside of the Democratic National Convention and who wanted only to express their opposition to the Vietnam War, that was a tipping point for them. Others have experienced—have said that 9/11 truth is a tipping point for them. The failure of the Democratic Party to support impeachment, which is really the ultimate form of accountability in our system, is a tipping point for them. And then, of course, we have this huge population of the African American community that has decided to withdraw itself completely from the electoral process. And Hurricane Katrina was like the last straw.

    And so, what we now want to do is to bring those people back in and to demonstrate to them that it is possible for us once again to have this community of conscience of people who are willing to participate in the process and to make that participation based on shared values. And our values are, first and foremost, peace. The values that we have to express are ending the disparities, the glaring disparities based on race and class that exist in our country.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Cynthia McKinney, former Democratic congress member from Georgia, now seeking the Green Party nomination for the presidency for 2008. Bill Fletcher, let me put this question to you. Are you saying, given your stand on issues and Cynthia McKinney’s or Ralph Nader’s, that you actually support Obama over their positions?

BILL FLETCHER: I support the candidacy of Senator Obama. I believe that both Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney are outstanding advocates for social justice. I don’t think that you build political movements largely through national presidential elections. I think that if they really want to build a challenge, (a) they could have run and should have run within the Democratic primary, but also that it’s a longer-term process of building a movement. And so, these once-every-four-years let’s appear and say the right issues and expect that people will rally, I don’t think it makes any sense, and there’s no historical basis, looking at the United States on the right or the left, to see such a phenomena working. So on the — given what we have, given the kind of change that I think we can make in this country, I’m with Senator Obama.

AMY GOODMAN: And let me put that same question to you, Kim Gandy — on the issues, what McKinney represents, what Nader represents, why you stand for Hillary Clinton.

KIM GANDY: Well, Ralph Nader and I split on the issue of the Supreme Court several years ago, when he said it didn’t make any difference who the Republicans and the Democrats appointed to the Supreme Court, that they wouldn’t mess with Roe v. Wade, and they’ve already done that.

I love Cynthia McKinney. My organization worked for her actively and sent staff down to work for her in both of her elections.

But in this case, Senator Clinton is the one that we have the longest and strongest relationship with, going all the way back to the years that she was in Arkansas working for the Equal Rights Amendment, supporting children’s rights through her work at the Children’s Defense Fund, Legal Aid, Access to Justice. All of the issues that we champion as an organization, Hillary Clinton has been there for us. She’s not just talked about these issues. She’s worked for them. She’s committed her life to them. And we know that she’s not going to stop. She’s going to hang in there until she gets it done.

AMY GOODMAN: And Kim Gandy, on the issue of war?

KIM GANDY: We are certainly a peace-oriented organization. We opposed the move to the Iraq war, but, frankly, most of the senators at that time voted the same way that Senator Clinton did. And considering that Colin Powell was the one making the case to give George Bush that authorization and that Colin Powell is at least an informal adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign, I think that if Senator Obama had been in the US Senate at that time, which he was not, I doubt that he would have left Colin Powell’s arguments unheeded.

AMY GOODMAN: Ted Glick, finally, what strategy does Cynthia McKinney actually have to win?

TED GLICK: Well, Cynthia McKinney has defined victory as getting five percent of the vote. She understands she is not going to be walking into the White House on January 20, 2009. But a third-party candidacy, a national presidential candidacy that gets five percent of the vote then gets resources from the federal government for party building.

That’s one thing, in terms of what Bill said. that I wanted to underline. It’s not Cynthia McKinney, the individual, just all of a sudden running out there. She’s running for the nomination of the Green Party that has been around for years, that has organized in almost every single state in the country, that has something like 250 people elected to office, local offices, around the country right now, that has a track record — it’s uneven in terms its strength. But we need alternatives within a political system that is dominated by big money, by corporate power. It’s a winner-take-all system, where it’s very difficult for third parties to exist, much less win elections. That needs to change.

We are not going to change this country if all we have is the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. We need a consistently progressive third-party alternative. The Green Party and Cynthia McKinney’s candidacy, in particular, has the potential to keep that dream alive and to build upon it this year.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us, Ted Glick, Green Party activist, supporter of Cynthia McKinney. I also want to thank Bill Fletcher, who is executive editor of The Black Commentator. And I want to thank Kim Gandy, head of the National Organization for Women, for this roundtable discussion.

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