Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Importance of Jim Whitaker's Obama Endorsement

On Tuesday, Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, an up-and-coming voice in Alaska Republican politics, announced his support for Democratic Party Sen. Barack Obama's presidential bid:

“Barack Obama has the unique ability to bring people together from all political backgrounds—Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Partisan business-as-usual has crippled Washington. It’s time for a president who will work to unite our country and bring about the change we need.

“Barack Obama will stand up for Alaska’s families. As president, he’ll support the Alaska natural gas pipeline and work to lower the skyrocketing fuel prices that have caused an energy crisis here in Fairbanks. He has a plan to move this country forward and will be a president who is as independent as Alaskans are.”

Sen. Obama replied:

“I’m grateful for Mayor Whitaker’s support. Fairbanks residents are paying some of the highest energy prices in the country. Mayor Whitaker knows firsthand the importance of solving our energy crisis. He believes as I do that we need to bring people together in order to solve the many challenges our country is facing right now, from energy to the economy.”

Interestingly, neither the Fairbanks News-Miner story, nor the Anchorage Daily News Political blog coverage of the announcement quoted Whitaker or Obama. The News-Miner story quotes Whitaker thusly:

“My goal is to let Republicans have a clear understanding that their right to vote should not be restricted by any party affiliation."

The ADN blog merely hyperlinks to the Fairbanks story. Neither hyperlinks to any full statement by either Whitaker or Obama. Can't resist being gatekeepers, can they, eh?

The News-Miner story adds, "He said his endorsement should not be viewed as one of the Democratic Party, noting that absent criminal convictions of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens or Rep. Don Young, he would be supporting their respective re-election campaigns."

The other prominent Republican in Alaska endorsing Obama - people seem to be arguing in the comments to the ADN and FN-M articles about who is more important - Wally Hickel, endorsed Barack Obama way back two full weeks before Super Tuesday, in an ADN Op-Ed, fittingly published on January 20, 2008, one full year before Obama's impending inauguration.

Hickel startlingly made his endorsement very early in the primary series, long before it was clear that Obama would be his party's nominee. His statement then didn't even touch upon the GOP presidential primary contests, which then still had a full slate of aspirants. But Hickel, in the January 20 article, did make a couple of statements that reflect on one of the things Whitaker brought up. Here's Hickel:

"Also, I want to tell Sen. Obama, and any of the other candidates willing to listen, that the price of freedom doesn't have to be blood. It can be sweat.

"Immediately after the invasion of Iraq, I wrote to President Bush saying, "Next time skip the war and get right to the Marshall Plan." A few days later in the White House he thanked me for "my great letter," but it wasn't until last year that the Pentagon finally broadened its mission to "defense, diplomacy and development.""

Here's Whitaker yesterday, quoted by the

"Whitaker, a former state lawmaker, said a comparison of Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain — neither of whom he has personally met — leads him to believe Obama has the stronger “intellectual capacity” and a greater ability to manifest it."

Wally Hickel brought up fitness for office yesterday, too. Bloomberg quotes the visionary ex-Governor as saying about Sen. Ted Stevens, "He has served Alaska for 40 years, but his time is over."

Jim Whitaker's endorsement is important, particularly because it will increasingly help to highlight the rational base to Obama's energy policy, compared to McCain's irrational back-and-forth, particularly on the Alaskan aspects. Obama, with the help of his former and present Alaskan on his staff, seems to have a grip. McCain, when speaking on Alaska energy development, is as loony as he is on "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb --- Bomb, Bomb Iran!"