Robert Reich: ‘An amazing ride,’ glad it’s over

I just spoke with Robert Reich, U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton and now a University of California, Berkeley professor, who endorsed Obama in April. He said he’s glad to see the presidential primary endgame upon us.

reich.jpg“It’s been an amazing ride — I don’t remember a primary that’s attracted more excitement and attention. People who are enormously cynical about politics have been glued to their televisions. What happens from here? Hopefully Senator Obama will make a victory speech that is extremely gracious toward Hillary Clinton, which compliments her on her campaign, gives her credit for whatever Obama can possibly find to give her credit for, and in general holds out the olive branch to her and to all of her supporters.

“Hopefully likewise, she makes a concession speech that praises Senator Obama, focuses on what he has done right, celebrates his talents and character, wishes him the best in the general election and asks her supporters to come to support him, saying in no uncertain terms that she will fully support him. Hopefully then there is a photograph, or abundant photos of the two of them together with one arm around each other, the other raised almost as if they are president and vice president. The symbolism is very important, the graciousness is very important, the positive tone will be important.

“Democrats have fought during many primaries; almost always they come together. The only exceptions were in 1968 when there was so much animosity, and perhaps in 1980 when Ted Kennedy ran against Carter… and both of those concerned real ideological divides. Here there is not much of an ideological divide — both candidates have stood for much the same thing. So despite the bad feelings that some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters may harbor toward Obama right now, I am confident they will disappear.”

Did the race go on for too long?

“I thought we were rapidly approaching the tipping point where the benefits of the excitement and enthusiasm and interest were just about to be overwhelmed by the disadvantages of not having a clear nominee this late in the game, when McCain is well into the general election.

“But I don’t think that there would have been this much party-building had it not been for this competition between Obama and Hillary Clinton. It had an enormously positive effect on politics in terms of getting people interested again. I don’t think that’s going to end now. Obama has a very good chance of being what’s called a ‘transformative candidate,’ someone in the image of John F. Kennedy or Robert Kennedy who is seen to change the way we do politics in America.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.