Bill Bradley: McCain / Huckabee Toughest GOP Ticket

This past week the Obama Campaign has told all California supporters that now's the time to fire it up--to get out there and tell every friend, neighbor and colleague about Barack. For Jeffrey Bleich, a San Francisco lawyer and a chair of Obama's California Campaign, this has meant, among other things, asking his old friend Bill Bradley, who happened to be in town, to speak at a small event for Obama folk. Here's what Bradley had to say.

Asked about Barack Obama's prospects in New Jersey next week, Bill Bradley told the circle of Californians around him that polls still put Hillary Clinton 16-18 points ahead in his state. The former senator and presidential hopeful paused. "Sometimes I think that we've just seen a major shift in this country, but then I tell myself 'no'--people will stay put." Nevertheless, he was headed back to New Jersey to campaign for Obama. "Forty percent of the vote [in NJ] would be great for Obama," Bradley said. "It would be hugely significant if he got forty instead of thirty. Also he would get forty delegates."

On John McCain: "I think McCain is the toughest opponent, without any doubt. The toughest ticket is McCain/Huckabee. If you look at how Republicans have won the last twelve years, they need that Christian Right base. If I were McCain, I'd select Huckabee and say, 'Okay! See you on Election Day! Go out there and mobilize the Christian Right!' McCain is difficult [as an opponent]. When he gave his acceptance speech in New Hampshire--these days I'm reduced to watching all this on TV--in his acceptance speech he talked about service, and it was the real thing, it was moving. And he has a life that personifies his message, which is really important. . . . I think McCain will not campaign dirty, and I actually think we could have a debate where a Conservative could stand up and make his points about why we should be in Iraq and fight the war, and Barack could say why we shouldn't be in Iraq and why we should leave. You could have somebody talk about why government should do nothing except collect taxes and fund national defense. And Barack could talk about how the government is the collective representation of all our best selves, and the right moment held accountable. It could be a really great debate."

How he came to endorse Obama: "John Roos [Silicon Valley attorney and another chair of the Obama California Campaign], he's such a stalwart for Barack, he was a stalwart for me, and he kept saying to me, 'When are you going to endorse Barack? When are you going to endorse Barack?' 'I'm thinking about it.' And Barack would call and say, 'When are you going to endorse?' And I would say, 'I'm thinking about it.' And I would talk to Edwards and Biden and the rest of them. . . . Actually, this is a true story, and if you believe in these things--and I think there's an element of, a certain value to these synchronicities--John Edwards was someone who was very solicitous [sic] of me, someone that I knew well, that I felt maybe I should've endorsed in '04, not that my endorsement means a whole hell of a lot--I wanted to give him his shot in Iowa. The day after--I knew whom I was going to endorse, but I wanted to give him his shot--so the day after, I'm talking with a friend, and I say, 'You know, I think now's the time for me to endorse Barack.' Four minutes later, the phone rings. It's Barack, asking me, will I endorse him--now. I said, 'You got me.'"

Campaigning for Obama in New Hampshire: "The theory was, I did well in New Hampshire eight years ago; and there would be 35 people who remembered that. So I went up and did my thing, and on Election Day--I have a couple of jobs, so I was working--and I came back and turned on the television around 9 o'clock and heard these pundits saying, 'Yeah, well, Barack Obama is behind Hillary Clinton, and it seems that it could be the Bradley Effect.' Geez--I thought--I only met about 200 people! It just goes to show that once you're a senator your ego is never small."

The New American Story: "I've never felt about someone running for office the way I feel about Barack. And about this campaign, and what it means to the country. . . . You know it's one thing to say that you want to inspire people; it's another thing to actually inspire people. And I can't tell you how many times I've seen people cry when he [Obama] spoke. Of course, inside-the-beltway types ask, 'Well, what's his policy positions?' X, Y, Z. You want policy positions, fine--I got lots of policy positions--a whole book, if you want to read it. But speaking of that book, I talk about the old story that we've been living with for twenty years, a can't do story. We lived with it through Reagan, we lived with it through Bush One, we lived with it through Bill Clinton. There are a variety of reasons why we did. We can't make sure everyone has health care. We can't make our public schools world-class. We can't break our addiction to oil. We can't make sure if you work forty years in this country, you have some kind of adequate pension when you retire.

"And it's not a story that's true to who we are as a people. Because our whole history is a can-do story. So I call that [what Barack's doing] the new American story. And the core of that is you put country ahead of party, and you tell people the truth. And if you look at Barack's candidacy, he's putting country ahead of party. The Clintons slice and dice; they're gonna go for this segment, this demographic, this group, that group--go after them. But Barack's speaking to everybody. And that means Independents and Republicans. I can't tell you how many conservative Republicans have come up to me and said, 'I think if he [Barack] gets the nomination, I'm going to vote for him.' And I think that's because he puts country ahead of party."

The Race in California: "People say California--you can't organize California. Well, I learned this, this afternoon, that there's an army of people here, an army of people here organizing, Californians are organizing Californians. Barack is an old organizer, and he constantly talks about changing our politics. I have always been under the view that the way you change our politics--politics is fundamentally an imitative profession, right? You do it in a different way, and everybody else imitates you. And he's trying to do it in a different way. . . . And I think he'll be able to tap a much wider group of American citizens to be a part of solving these problems. And to me that's another example of his ability as a leader. And hopefully that's what you vote for here. You vote for a leader. It's not the experience thing. Well look. It seems to me like there was a governor of New York, who was three years governor, and he was elected president, and his name was Teddy Roosevelt. And a governor of New Jersey, who was elected, after maybe two or three years, president, Woodrow Wilson. And of course there was that one-term congressman who managed to win--Lincoln. Experience is in the eyes of the beholder. What he [Barack] does is he raises us all up, challenges us to our better selves, and in doing so allows us to turn the page on an era."

Even as Bradley spoke, Blackberries twittered that McCain had won Florida, that Clinton was celebrating there and that Edwards would announce his withdrawal the next day in New Orleans. The race had shifted once again. Minutes before, Bradley had said that one of the issues ahead was Edwards's 300-400 delegates (which Bradley predicted Edwards would "throw to" Barack). Suddenly, that delegate chunk shrank, with consequences yet unknown. Are Bradley's other comments predictive? We should know much in less than a week.