Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Words Mean Things

By Shawn Healy
In this political era of 30-second sound bytes and blogs, it should come as no surprise that musings directed toward, uttered by, and associated with presidential campaigns launching in full force 22 months before Election Day have come back to haunt all of the aforementioned parties.

The brigade began two weeks ago when aspiring Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden "complimented" fellow contender and party member Senator Barack Obama by calling him "clean" in comparison to former African-American candidates. He issued an immediate apology, and later made fun of himself on the Daily Show, but the damage was done. Biden's story ran on the front page of the New York Times, and his campaign may have effectively ended on the same day it started, setting a record for brevity.

Obama accepted Biden's apology immediately, brushing aside any ill intentions, but later moved away from this position as other African-American leaders rose in opposition.

President Bush also "complimented" Obama in an exlcusive interview granted to the Fox News Channel. By describing him as "articulate" the President ignited a firestorm of his own as some took the description to mean that this trait was rare among African-Americans.

Obama proved equally adept at stepping on his own foot. One day after officially entering the race he claimed that the more than 3,000 U.S troops who have died in Iraq "wasted" their lives. Although he read from a scripted speech, he has since recanted his remark and claimed that he spoke in error.

The blogosphere was the site of the most recent controversy. Former Senator John Edwards, another Democratic contender for his party's presidential nomination, employed two bloggers who posted anti-Christian and anti-Catholic rants on their own personal blogs in months past. Edwards refused to fire them, although he did admit to being offended by their content. In the end, both bloggers resigned, but only after the story became a national scandal.

The Democratic frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton, in perhaps the biggest of ironies, is drawing scrutiny in New Hampshire and Iowa for what she refuses to say. While Obama has opposed the Iraq War since its inception and Edwards has since labeled his vote to authorize the war a "mistake," Clinton refuses to do the same. She admits that if confronted with the evidence as it currently exists, she would have voted against the war.

In the end, Democratic primary voters will sift through this littany of gaffes and omissions, but their compilation is evidence of a profoundly changed political landscape where minor stumbles can lead to great falls with the cameras always shining, keyboards in perpetual motion, and a million pundits ready to weigh in. Only 629 days to go...


Post a Comment

<< Home


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

Powered by Blogger