WASHINGTON--Distracted by talk from the Clintons about a Clinton/Obama ticket, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Monday got back on track by forcefully reminding Mississipi voters who have a primary election tomorrow that "I am running to be commander-in-chief" and not the number two spot.
Clinton is mounting a sort of “two for one” offense, to try to swing people who are torn between the two rivals to vote for her because they can get Obama on the ticket. That’s a trick, said Obama.
“See I was trying to explain to somebody a while back…the oki- doke. You all know the oki- doke. When somebody is trying to bamboozle you, when they are trying to hoodwink you. You…They are trying to hoodwink you," she said.
Speaking in Columbus, Ms. before heading to Jackson, Obama responded as chatter increased about a so-called "dream ticket" with him as the understudy, not the lead. The talk was troublesome to the Obama camp because he is leading in every metric at the moment--pledged delegates elected, states won, popular vote accumulated, money raised.
But the perception that the playing field is level is dangerous for Obama because he is trying to get superdelegates to commit to him and they are frozen at the moment because Clinton stopped Obama's surge with her wins last week in Ohio and Texas.
That's why he issued a strong retort as Bill and Hillary made the frame seem as if she were ahead. Moreover, Obama was debating on Clintons' terms, not his own.
"So I don't know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who is in first place," Obama said.
"...I'm in first place now," he reminded his audience.
Clinton has boxed herself in on signaling she wanted Obama as her runningmate--if she ever got the nomination. She has spent the last days saying Obama is not qualified to be commander-in-chief--that was the thrust of that "red phone" ad that ran in Texas.
Obama said both can't be true.
"If I am not ready, Obama said, "how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president. Do you understand that?"
Here’s what Obama said…
I respect Senator Clinton. She was a friend of mine before this campaign. She‘’ll be a friend of mine after this campaign. Because we’re gonna have to unify together to win in November. But I do have to say I was listening to some of the things Senator Clinton said down here in Mississippi over the last couple of days.
So I am gonna have to say a little bit about it.
You know as I understand it. Both Senator Clinton and President Clinton repeatedly talked about how I would be a great Vice President.
Now first of all..with all due respect..with all due respect. I have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton. I have won more of the popular vote than Senator Clinton. I have more delegates than Senator Clinton. So I don’t know how somebody who is in second place is offering the Vice Presidency to the person who is in first place. I mean. I am just wondering. I am just wondering. If I was in second place I could understand it, but I am in first place right now. So that is point number one.
But there is another. There is a second point. This is an interesting point. I want you guys to follow me on this. President Bill Clinton back in 1992 when he was being asked about his selection for Vice President
Now they have been spending the last two, three weeks. Remember with that advertisement with the phone call. Telling everyone.. Getting all of Generals to say well we are not sure he is ready. “I am ready on day one”, “He may not be ready yet” But I don’t understand it. If I’m not ready how is it that you think I should be such a great Vice President. Do you understand that?
See I was trying to explain to somebody a while back…the oki- doke. You all know the oki- doke. When somebody is trying to bamboozle you, when they are trying to hoodwink you.
You…They are trying to hoodwink you.
You can’t say that he is not ready on day one unless he is willing to be your Vice President then he is ready on day one.
So look I just want everybody to be absolutely clear here, okay. I want everyone to be absolutely clear. We are in a tough battle and I don’t presume that I have won this election. Senator Clinton is fighting hard. She is tenacious. I respect her for that. She is working hard to win the nomination. But I want everybody to be absolutely clear.
I am not running for Vice President. I am running for President of the United States of America. I am running for President of the United States of America. I am running to be Commander in Chief. And the reason I am running to be Commander in Chief is because I believe that the most important thing when you answer that phone call at three in the morning is what kind of judgment do you have, not how long you have been in Washington, but what kind of judgment do you have when you are answering that phone.
And I believe that I have shown better judgment than Senator Clinton. I believe I offer a clean break from the policies of George Bush. Because Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on the war in Iraq. Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on her willingness to try to saber rattle when it came to Iran. She has gone along with many of the conventional ways of thinking about foreign policy that have gotten us into trouble. That is what I intend to change when I am President of the United States.
So I don’t want anybody here thinking that I that somehow well you know maybe I can get both. Don’t think that way. You have to make a choice in this election.
Are you gonna go along with the past or are you gonna go towards the future?
Are you gonna do the same old thing or are you gonna try something new?
I am not running for Vice President. I do not believe Senator Clinton is about change because in fact this kind of gamesmanship, talking about me as Vice President, but he maybe he’s not ready for Commander in Chief. That is exactly the kind of double speak, double talk that Washington is very good at. That people who spend a lot of time in Washington have a lot of experience at, but is not gonna solve the problems of the country.
FROM THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN…..
From May 1992...
Bill Clinton: Most Important Criteria For VP Is Someone Who Would Be Good President If Something Happened To Me A Week After I Took Office.
Harry Smith: Let me ask you real quickly, do you have a short list for vice president yet?
Bill Clinton: I have a shorter list, but I'm not ready to share it.
Smith: What's--what's the most important criteria, as far as you're concerned?
Clinton: Someone who would be a good president if, God forbid, something happened to me a week after I took office. That's the most important thing.
[CBS News, 5/22/92].