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Clinton Defections Should Raise Eyebrows

Is the string of defections merely politics as usual? Are they the residue of angry former employees? For whatever reason, sitting at the table with the Clintons is no longer as appealing as it once was.
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Rev. Jeremiah Wright has proven to be Barack Obama's cross to bear. Wright's recent road show, specifically his National Press Conference speech and subsequent press conference, raises questions for some about Obama.

It may not always be fair, but we are judged by the company we keep. What then does it say about the company we no longer keep? If Wright's behavior raises questions about Obama, are not similar questions raised by the defectors within the Clinton camp?

This week, former Democratic National Committee Chair and superdelegate, Joe Andrew switched his support from Clinton to Obama. On the heels of the Indiana primary, Andrew, who lives in Indianapolis, also stated he planned to call the other superdelegates he knows, lobbying them to back Obama.

Bill Clinton appointed Andrew chair of the DNC in 1999, he led the party through the disputed 2000 presidential race before resigning in 2001. He originally endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy last year.

Given the context of Jeremiah Wright and the contested Indiana primary the Andrew defection is big not only because of his superdelegate status, but because he worked with the Clintons. But he is hardly the first.

Former Ambassador to Chile Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon, a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, recently left the campaign apparently to hold a similar position with Obama. It was reported that he raised nearly $500,000 for Clinton. Guerra-Mondragon was appointed Ambassador to Chile by President Clinton in 1994 and served until 1998.

According to NBC News, among the reasons for Guerra-Mondragon's defection included his uneasiness with the tone of the Clinton campaign and was beginning to worry about what this would mean for the general election.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, recently endorsed Obama. In addition to serving in the Clinton administration, Reich's personal relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton spans five decades.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's recent endorsement of Obama has been viewed by some as duplicity of the highest order. Former Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, referred to Richardson, the former Clinton Energy Secretary and former presidential candidate as "Judas."
In addition, Greg Craig, who served as special counsel to Bill Clinton during his impeachment; Anthony Lake, former National Security Adviser, have thrown their support to Obama. Even Obama's chief political strategist David Axelrod worked for Hillary Clinton during her Senate campaign.

Then there are the members of the Senate who have known and worked with Bill and Hillary Clinton for the past two decades who have decided to support Obama, including John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and former presidential candidate Christopher Dodd.

There have been several reported cases of heated telephone conversations, most notable, between the former president and Kennedy as well as Richardson after they decided to endorse Obama.

Is this string of defections merely politics as usual? Are they the residue of angry former employees? Or is there something else at play?

The first hint of defection came in early 2007 when Hollywood media mogul David Geffen, once a Clinton supporter who was reported to have raised $18 million for the former president, decided to hold a fundraiser for Obama.

Geffen told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, "Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling." Geffen described Hillary Clinton as "incredibly polarizing" and Bill Clinton as "reckless."

The adjective Geffen used to describe the former president conjures memories of Monica Lewinsky, a subject the Clinton's have deemed off limits during the primary season but may be reexamined in the post Jeremiah Wright world.

If Wright's association with Obama has done damage to the senator's image, is it not fair to ask what the myriad defections by a number of highly respected aides and supporters say about Clinton? Moreover, a number of these defections have occurred since "bittergate," the Pennsylvania primary, and Jeremiah Wright.

Many of these defectors are not immune to power. Some, in all likelihood, have made their own Faustian bargains at times for a seat at the table. For whatever reason the possibility of sitting at that table with the Clintons is no longer as appealing as it once was.

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of "Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War". E-mail him at byron@byronspeaks.com or go to his website, byronspeaks.com