What Not To Say on Canadian Radio

A campaign blog.
April 1 2008 11:57 AM

What Not To Say on Canadian Radio

Surrogates seem to think that telling something to a foreign news agency means that their words won’t get back to the United States. How else to explain Sam Powers’ "monster" comment to the Scotsman or a new statement on Canadian radio by Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Clinton superdelegate, that "Barack Obama is going to be the next president"?

To call Cleaver’s remarks off-message would be an understatement. Cleaver goes on to say with brutal, hilarious honesty that "[i]f I do the party line, I'm supposed to say—and maybe I'll say just so if anybody hears it they can say well, 'Cleaver did the party line before he told the truth,'—we believe that a contest going all the way to the convention is good for America," he said. But he calls that scenario a "tragedy of tragedies." Cleaver then reveals that he knows he’s supporting the losing team: "Even though I don't expect the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Indianapolis Colts, I cheer for the Kansas City Chiefs." (Listen here .)

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It makes you wonder how many of Clinton’s superdelegates are thinking the same way—sticking with her out of personal loyalty but ready to bolt if they see an opening. That could take the form of an insurmountable delegate lead by Obama (which he, er, already has), a swing of superdelegates, or big victories in North Carolina or Indiana.

To be fair, Cleaver is a special case. His district went for Obama, and he has expressed ambivalence about standing in the way of the first black president. He’s not quite ready to sever ties like John Lewis.* Rather, he’s trying to have it both ways—sticking with Clinton so as not to tick her off, while publicly praising Obama so as not to alienate constituents. It’s a dance that, while perhaps not damaging to Clinton, certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.

*Not Anthony Lewis. Our b.  

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.