Friday, April 18, 2008

Robert Reich for Obama!

Maggie says:
I'm thrilled that Robert Reich just announced he's endorsing Barack Obama for president.

Reich is someone I greatly admire, both for his work in The American Prospect, his reputation as Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Labor (despite?), and his advocacy work, teaching, and political thinking since. Reich's memoir of his Clinton years, Locked in the Cabinet, remains for me one of my favorite cabinet reads (I'm a sucker for those). In that book, Reich opens up about how painful it was for his values - and the values, he thought, of the new president - to be sacrificed to Republican wolves in the name of "welfare reform" during the first administration. Reich is a true believer, and couldn't stomach what politics was doing to his life's work, especially since his name was stamped on it. The behind-the-scenes tales are riveting.

I also have a personal connection to Reich. My former employer in Boston, the boundless Barry Bluestone (the nicest labor economist you'll ever meet), was best friends with Reich and Robert Kuttner, Reich's co-founder of The American Prospect. Reich was in and out of Barry's Cambridge living room and our offices spreading endless charm everywhere he went. His famous 4'11 frame gives off twice the energy you'd think it could, and his compassion and core values are equally endless. Reich's great politics and charm were on full display in his run for Massachusetts governor before I left Boston. Although Reich lost the primary, his candidacy was full of classic Reich-isms.

I bring up the personal here to add value to this endorsement as I see it. Reich is a really great American, someone who's true to his heart in his work, who wouldn't reprise his tenure as Secretary of Labor because he didn't believe in what he was being made to do. That same core has led him to endorse Obama today, and that means a lot to me.

Notes Reich: "We have three terrible traditions that we've developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn't possibly believe and doesn't possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I've seen growing in Hillary's campaign."

And also: "[Obama] offers the best hope of transcending the boundaries of class, race, and nationality that have divided us. His life history exemplifies this, as do his writings and his record of public service. For these same reasons, he offers the best possibility of restoring America's moral authority in the world."