Blumenauer: Barack Obama should talk to Oregonians, not debate with Hillary Clinton

By Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon. Blumenauer is the co-chair of the Obama campaign in Oregon.

Oregonians will have a unique opportunity to influence the choice for a Democratic nominee for President when we vote in our upcoming Democratic primary.

Recently in this campaign, there's been a lot of talk about the specific concerns of our local communities as well as having a 22nd and 23rd debate (there have already been 21 including 4 one-on-ones between the Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama, all of them televised nationally). This challenge is simply a Washington game. Senator Obama is focused on meeting directly with Oregon voters on the issues that really matter to us here.

As Co-Chair of the Oregon campaign, I've talked with Senator Obama about the issues important to Oregonians and he's presented his views to the people of Oregon. For instance, Senator Obama has called for guaranteeing Oregon's right to determine the siting of liquid natural gas terminals, supporting a long-term solution to the county payment program that will provide Oregon communities the resources they need to invest in a strong education system and a sustainable economy, implementing a meaningful salmon recovery plan, defending Oregon's "death with dignity" law, and protecting our old growth forests.

The fact is, I am thrilled that both Democrats in this race understand our local concerns and the issues important to Oregon communities, but Oregonians don't need any more 13 page documents. We have been talking about these issues in every election, year after year. What we need is a new style of leadership. We need the kind of leader who will kick the special interests out of Washington and finally turn the page on the failed policies and divisive politics that have characterized Washington for decades. Barack Obama is that leader.

Today in our nation, millions of people are uninsured or underinsured because of rising medical costs. America is addicted to foreign oil and as a result of climate change, glaciers are melting faster and the polar ice caps are shrinking. Our natural resources are threatened. The time for playing Washington games is over.

Senator Obama is the only person in this race who doesn't take money from federal lobbyists or special interest PACs. He has a record for standing up for working families, fighting for affordable health care and curbing the influence of lobbyists. We need a leader who can bring people together to actually make progress on the challenges facing Oregonians today, not more promises.

The issues important to Oregonians, and indeed all Americans, have not even been getting the attention they deserve because we're still stuck in a war in Iraq – a war that never should have been authorized and never should have been waged. This misguided war has cost the state of Oregon more than $4 billion. With that money, we could have employed more than 85,000 police officers for an entire year, we could have provided health care to more than 1 million children, and we could have hired more than 71,000 elementary school teachers.

Senator Obama is the only candidate who had the judgment to join me and the rest of the Oregon Democratic Congressional Delegation in saying no to this war. Barack Obama has been against this war from the very beginning. Back in 2002, when conventional thinking and Washington insiders were lining up in support of this war, Senator Obama spoke out against invading Iraq, he said it would be "a war of undetermined length, undetermined cost, and undetermined consequences. A war that would do nothing to make us safer. A war that would take the focus away from the important challenges we face right here at home." Senator Obama had the right judgement in saying no to this war.

When Senator Obama is President, he will end the war in Iraq and bring the focus back to the priorities of Oregonians. He will work with Democrats, Independents and Republicans to finally make progress on the issues we only talk about every election year.

Comments

  • Alberto Borges (unverified)
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    We need a debate between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

  • Katy (unverified)
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    This is disappointing to me. I don't see how TV and radio ads are better for Oregonians than a real debate on the issues?

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    I want Obama and Clinton to come over to my apartment, knock back a few drinks and tell me what they're really going to do about cleaning up the mess left by GWB. That's all the "debate" I'm interested in.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    I am so up for another debate on trivial issues full of media-hyped controversies. Maybe Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are available!

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    Ditto Tom's snarky agreement with Blumenauer.

    I see no reason to have more debates. None whatsoever. We know where they stand on the issues which a President will deal with personally.

    Pretending that either of them would micromanage the federal relationship with small states like Oregon or Montana is nothing more than a grand farce premised on gullible voters.

    Let's vote already!

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Steve Novick and Jeff Merkley have been debating so often, they're probably rooming with each other by now. If Barack and Hillary debate anymore their spouses might start to get jealous. So let them just focuse on town halls with citizens, if for no other reason than to get folks out of the house and away from their TVs.

  • kg (unverified)
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    Cong. Blumenaur:

    I agree with you. They have debated 21 times. BO needs to spend time talking to voters. Preparing for a debate will mean he spends less time connecting with people. He needs to get out to Washington and Clackamas Counties. Also, North/NE Portland and Bend/Redmond/Prineville.

  • John L (unverified)
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    Congressman Blumenaur,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. The most recent debates have trivialized the concerns of millions of Americans. We don't need to see candidates bloodying each other up for their own political gain.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Substantive debate NOT moderated by high-priced, ethically compromised network talking heads--GO FOR IT.

    More baiting about Bosniagate and Flagpingate--screw it.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    I want them to go bowling and play basketball with my youth group!

    Seriously, I agree. Let them state their positions by talking directly to the people via TV ads and personal appearances. We don't need another "debate" over trivial matters not affecting Oregonians.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Apr 29, 2008 10:25:39 AM

    LOL - well said, Robert.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Kevin,

    Snarky is my middle name.

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    Tom,

    Too often snark ends up being a net negative. But there is a time and a place for it and, IMHO, you used it superbly. Actually, it cracked me up when I read it. ;-)

    ::: tip o' the hat:::

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    I also agree, and since Hillary Clinton has gone on record as willing to commmit nuclear genocide against Iran, I'll be voting against her for Senator Obama.

    However, this part of Congressman Blumenauer's column is somewhat disingenuous:

    Senator Obama spoke out against invading Iraq, he said it would be "a war of undetermined length, undetermined cost, and undetermined consequences. A war that would do nothing to make us safer. A war that would take the focus away from the important challenges we face right here at home." Senator Obama had the right judgement in saying no to this war.

    Then Illinois state senator Obama was dead right in 2002. His current position is much weaker and not nearly as clear.

    His current position is that some U.S. combat "brigades" will stay in Iraq a minimum of 16 months from his inauguration, i.e. halfway into 2010. Nor is even the protracted withdrawal definitive -- he holds open the possibility of keeping troops there even longer. So he now is for "a war of undetermined length."

    (Senator Clinton's position has no timeline at all, not even a provisional one like Senator Obama's, just a promise to begin withdrawing troops immediately.)

    Moreover, Senator Obama says

    Residual Force to Remain: Under the Obama plan, American troops may remain in Iraq or the region. These American troops will protect American diplomatic and military personnel in Iraq, and continue striking at al Qaeda in Iraq. If Iraq makes political progress and their security forces are not sectarian, we could continue training the Iraqi Security Forces.

    Since the imperial proconsular U.S. embassy in Iraq is actually small colony of 5000 inhabitants, even a force to protect them would be substantial. And clearly part of this "residual force" is envisioned to be engaged in combat "with al Qaeda." How an Iraqi government that has called several times for U.S. withdrawal on a definite timetable would respond to such combat by U.S. forces, especially if the U.S. judges their security forces to be sectarian (as they almost certainly would be), is not clear. The picture nonetheless remains one of U.S. forces in the midst of Iraqi civil conflict, creating pressure to suck more forces back in.

    Further, Senator Obama has also refused to say that he would withdraw all of the 180.000 U.S. mercenary "private contractor" forces in Iraq.

    <hr/>

    Senator Obama says no permanent bases in Iraq, which is good. He is committed to a substantial multilateral U.N. led diplomatic program for Iraqi political development and stability involving regional nations, which is good. He is committed to substantial material aid to relieve Iraq's humanitarian crisis of refugees and internally displaced persons, which is good, though he appears to underestimate the scale of the problem.

    He does not say anything about U.S. responsibilities to rebuild the destruction we have rained on Iraq going back through the murderous failed Bush-Clinton sanctions regime of the 1990s.

    And unlike Representative Blumenauer, Senator Obama has not voted against continuing to fund the war. Nor has he worked to put pressure on the Democratic congressional leadership to challenge President Bush on the war and force him to veto funding for the troops or accept a definite timeline (neither has Congressman Blumenauer).

    <hr/>

    In short, Senator Obama's anti-war positions, while stronger and clearer than Senator Clinton's, are far from adequate.

    We should bring pressure on Senator Obama to take a stronger anti-war stance.

    We should also demand that both Senator Obama and Representative Blumenauer press the Democratic congressional leadership to change their weak-kneed unwillingness to challenge the Bush administration on ending the occupation of Iraq.

    (We should demand the same of Senator Clinton, for that matter)

  • OregonDemocrat (unverified)
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    Barack Obama will make a good VP for Madam President Hillary Clinton. He does not have the experience or judgement to be President.

  • Matthew Sutton (unverified)
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    Well "OregonDemocrat", you are right only in that he did not have the same judgment as Hillary and McCain when it came to the invasion of Iraq. Thank God we have a candidate like Barack Obama with the judgment we need!

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    OregonDemocrat,

    Please provide several examples of decisions that showed Clinton's judgment superior to Obama's. Or, are you just blowing smoke?

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    Thanks, Congressman Blumenauer. I, too would rather see both candidates finding ways to connect with Oregon voters, than do another debate that is local only in the most literal of senses. This is a unique opportunity for Oregon, having a voice in a primary election; it's best to use it in a way that gives voice to our needs to our country's future leader, rather than promoting ourselves as a pawn in a beltway game.

  • Ashlander (unverified)
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    Anyone who thinks Obama should give Hillary Clinton more free air time should have to re-watch the first hour of that ABC "debate." It wasn't just the moderators who were jerks, with their asinine, Rovian questions. Clinton was loving it, piling on whenever she could. Unlike Obama, she appears to lack any sense of sportsmanship or basic decency, much less concern for the Democratic party. She is running like a Republican in OUR primary. Why should he do her any favors? To the person who suggests Obama as Hillary's VP? Don't make me laugh.

  • OregonDemocrat (unverified)
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    Speaking of judgment... Why did Obama support Dick Cheney's energy policy which is now creating wrecking the economy? That kind of judgment. No thank you.

  • A (unverified)
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    I would love to have a debate between them. I would take my young relatives. A debate on Oregon issues. Not a major TV style debate but an issue driven one. Calling on candidates to simply talk at the public is really a mistake.

  • DB (unverified)
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    I agree about not needing any more debates. I'd rather have BO meeting actual people.

    That said, the last week has been depressing for me. The Obama campaign seems to be off the rails right now, with the kind of malaise I remember from Kerry during the swiftboating. He's been hit from Clinton and McCain (what a love-fest from the two of them, btw) on both sides for a couple months now, and his counter-punches have seemed ineffectual lately.

    Is it just me?

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    Can't agree with the esteemed Congressman here.

    Obama and Clinton would communicate with far more Oregonians in a debate then they could possibly meet in a series of staged events.

    An unstructured debate where candidates can pose questions to one another would communicate far more policy content than another round of stump speeches.

    A lot has happened in the campaign in the last month, and I think another debate would benefit voters in Oregon, Indiana, and North Carolina.

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    To "A" and others supporting "issue-driven" debates that focus on Oregon -- is there any precedent for something like this? I suppose the Nevada one and the Texas one did a little bit of that, but those were earlier in the cycle. And while they focused on local issues, I'm sure residents of those states weren't thrilled with the depth of that focus.

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    I think the ideal model of an Oregon political debate was the Stassen-Dewey Debate during the Oregon Republican Primary of 1948. It was a radio debate.

  • Lani (unverified)
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    If they had the League of Women Voters moderate it and found some non-partisan journalists, it might be a good idea for a debate.

    However, the last debate was horrendous--I couldn't read past the first seven pages of the transcript before wanting to ralph.

    Also, I couldn't watch CNN's stupid "Compassion Forum" with the candidates after I heard one of them ask Hillary what her favorite bible story was.

    I don't believe the media know how to run a debate today. If it's more of the same, then it's a pointless waste of time.

  • backbeat (unverified)
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    This is disappointing to me. I don't see how TV and radio ads are better for Oregonians than a real debate on the issues? Katy

    Please point out where Earl said anything whatsoever about TV and radio ads. Thank you.

  • Katy (unverified)
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    The more I think about this post the more it bothers me, especially because it comes from Congressman Blumenaur. He says, "Senator Obama is the only person in this race who doesn't take money from federal lobbyists or special interest PACs. He has a record for standing up for working families, fighting for affordable health care and curbing the influence of lobbyists." Okay, but Obama continues to take money from oil companies while claiming he doesn't: "Sen. Obama accepted more money from oil company executives last month than any other candidate, while he ran an ad saying he didn't take money from oil companies. "Sen. Barack Obama continued accepting donations from oil company executives and employees last month even as he aired ads in which he stated he took no oil company money, his campaign finance reports show. Obama has taken at least $263,000 from oil company executives, family members and employees since entering the presidential race last year, including $46,000 last month. At least $140,000 has come in chunks of between $1,000 and $2,300, the maximum permitted under federal law." [LA Times, 4/24/08]"

    Also, I don't think it's fair to claim that he was against the war from the beginning when he's said this: "In a meeting with Chicago Tribune reporters at the Democratic National Convention, Obama said, “On Iraq, on paper, there's not as much difference, I think, between the Bush administration and a Kerry administration as there would have been a year ago. […] There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage.” [Chicago Tribune, 07/27/04] and "In fact, Obama's Senate voting record on Iraq is nearly identical to Clinton's. Over the two years Obama has been in the Senate, the only Iraq-related vote on which they differed was the confirmation earlier this year of General George Casey to be Chief of Staff of the Army, which Obama voted for and Clinton voted against. [ABC News, 5/17/07]"

    I understand that people are trying to make Senator Clinton look like the bad guy in this campaign but I think we need to be a little more careful with the facts. And since when did a debate become "an old Washington game." That one boggles my mind.

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    The subtext, of course, is that Hillary's trying to claw her way back into the race, and free time and two or three days of spin would really help her out. This Lincoln-Douglas gambit is a way to try to make Obama look bad. Of course, every candidate who ever trailed in an election wanted to have more debates than the leader.

    Sucks to be behind, but Obama owes her nothing.

  • backbeat, woman (unverified)
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    I don't believe the media know how to run a debate today.

    Oh, indeed they do. It is all going according to their plans. These white male bobbleheads are public enemy #1 as far as I'm concerned.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    If a debate can't be organized by some non-partisan organization such as the League of Women Voters that would require fair and responsible questions, unlike most of the previous debates, then they should do their debating via political ads. To make an important point Obama should state where he agrees with Reverend Wright and where he disagrees, and after he has fully clarified his position there, he should let the media know that is the end of the subject for him. It is a pity that Wright went beyond his commendable interview with Bill Moyers. Unfortunately, since then he seems to be indulging himself with an ego trip.

  • Edward Orlean (unverified)
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    I would like to hear Obama speak about Reparations. The black people need to be compensated for slavery. I have heard $50,000.00 / black, but this is a discussion that is long overdue. Many black people are poor and hurting this money could help them.

    Thank you, Ed

  • backbeat, woman (unverified)
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    Reparations? Get ready for every whitey in America to suddenly find their black DNA.

  • im (unverified)
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    Given the events of the last 48 hours, the Obama campaign needs to change the conversation, PDQ. A successful and civic minded debate might help voters ignore the last one, also. They don't owe Clinton a debate, but at this point, a debate might conceivably be in their self interest.

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    Candidates Gone Wild: Barack and Hillary

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    Barack won't debate and here is why-

    If Hillary loses both Indiana and NC she has no reason to stay in the race. Scheduling a debate gives her another reason to stay in it. I doubt Obama will agree to anything here until she's for sure still going to be in the race and coming close to his poll numbers here...which she has made a dent in.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Great! Let's debate more about lapel pins, and flag salutes, and God, guns, and guts, who is bitter and who is not.., who is more American, and who is an "elitist", all those code words, and all those other really, really important substantive issues. Hillary and her supporters want some more Stephanopolous gotcha moments. Get it on your own time.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    CNN just had a piece about Obama's break with Jeremiah Wright, but if Campbell Brown is representative of most TV personalities the media will keep stirring up the Wright problem for the wrong reasons. It's up to those of us supporting Obama to let them and others know we have had enough of this crap.

  • C Johnson (unverified)
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    "Yes OREGON....YOU NEED ME (HRC) to come to your State and save you! A debate is what you need (and don't forget, you need to vote for me too....right? I mean, I AM the one offering the debate, in your State....what is Senator Obama offering you?!!) Besides...I am ready on day one, answer the phone at 3am, take on sniper fire....should I go on?"! When I think about it, where would you Oregonians be w/ out me...........

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    Garrett sez: "If Hillary loses both Indiana and NC she has no reason to stay in the race. Scheduling a debate gives her another reason to stay in it."

    But Clinton can't catch up on states, pledged delegates, or the popular vote. The remaining automatic delegates will not give it to her without those, especially the last two.

    So...she already has no practical reason to stay in the race--by every possible measure Obama has already won. If his opponent were anyone but a Clinton she would already have been shown the door.

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    Paul, your proposed format in particular won't fly. Hillary Clinton has lost all claim to trust that she would in fact debate policy issues in a candidates question each other format.

    Katy is right that Obama's claims not to take money from big corporate interests are untrue.

    However, I still am going to vote against the only candidate who has threatened nuclear genocide against a nation of 60-70 million people, i.e. to "obliterate them" (Iran).

  • Larry McD (unverified)
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    I agree with Congressman Blumenaur but I'd STILL like to see a candidate forum on OPB in which the candidates would, in separate interviews of 30 minutes each, answer the same five questions- all of which would have been given to them in advance- of particular significance to the Great Northwest.

    The interviewers would also have three followup questions which the candidates would not have been notified of, but which would have to be the same for both. One of them could, in fact, be as simple as "That wasn't especially responsive to the question. Could you be more directly responsive?"

    Some of the nice folks at OPB have told me that they're willing but the complications of getting the campaigns to cooperate haven't been promising.

    Friends and neighbors, this would be a relatively painless way to get the responses on regional issues we might all like to have without the debate crap that has become all too familiar.

  • naschkatze (unverified)
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    Thank you, Representative Blumenauer! We do not need another debate between Clinton and Obama. The last one on ABC was a mockery of fairness and decency. If you are in touch with Senator Obama, might I suggest, since he has wisely managed his campaign funds, unlike Clinton, that he use some of it before the NC & IN and OR & KY primaries to take air time and explain his policy positions and agenda directly to the people without interference from Senator Clinton or the pro-Clinton media? Neither is giving Obama a chance to do this with their Rev. Wright attacks. BTW, I think in a Lincoln-Douglas type of debate he would kick her you-know-what to kingdom come. I just don't think he should waste his time with her anymore or provide her with free air time since she squandered her own campaign war chest.

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    I heartily disagree with my congressional representative on this score. I agree with Governor Kulongoski - a debate is a good thing.

    Let's be blunt. Hillary wants debates because she does well in them - even when the questions have been slanted against her (which they have been far more often than against Obama) she has weathered the storm and come out strong. Obama doesn't want them because he doesn't do well in them - he um's a lot and doesn't take tough questions well - the insult his sense of his own inevitability and infallibility. Blumenauer is acting as Obama surrogate here, nothing more.

    A debate would be good for Oregon. There have been calls for a science debate, and what better place to have such than here now that we've had faith-focused forums elsewhere.

    But most of all, Hillary is still the stronger candidate on health care, on environment, on economy, and I believe every day she shows herself to be more electable as polls in more and more swing states show McCain trouncing Obama. Every democrat should want a chance to get through the issues and know exactly how and why one candidate deserves to win. There are plenty of undecideds in Oregon and to deny them the same local focus that voters in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states have had is a dumb move, motivated not by real concerns but by a one-sided concern for the outcome.

    Hillary is a fighter and will go the distance. If "words matter" let's hear some, in an Oregon debate, without scripts and with some tough new questions on both sides.

  • myopinion (unverified)
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    Barak is afraid of looking like the weak, uneasy ninny he did in the last debate. If he is so afraid, should he be the democratic nominee. Heck NO!!! Barak would rather purchase your vote than earn it by a debate on issues to differentiate himself from HRC.
    Barak is so DONE even if he wins the nomination he will never win the national election.
    So Oregon. You have to ask yourself if it's more important to "nominate" the Hope guy who can't win because he makes you weak in the knees or are you loyal to the democratic party platform and the candidate who is best prepared to be commander in chief and win a national election. Do the right thing Oregon. Hillary '08!!!

  • Pete F (unverified)
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    Whoa dude, your take on politics is totally crazy, thats awesome like WWF 'n shit. Like dont even come up in here less you wanna party, get what i'm sayin??!

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    Watch Baracky before it gets pulled by MGM.

    (There's also "

  • Michelle (unverified)
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    We've had enough dam debates! If you don't know who your voting for yet then you are clueless!

  • Genie Uebelacker (unverified)
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    <h2>I'd sooner hear Senator Obama speak about the important issues for Oregonians and the nation and discuss the differences between McCain's ideas and his than another debate between he and Hillary. What's the point of having another debate where she tries to tear him down and he has to be completely on his guard and respond. This is an important election for us all and more folks need to hear his ideas.</h2>
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