Lou Dobbs introduced the March 21 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight by announcing: "Tonight, Senator [Barack] Obama wins the endorsement of the nation's only Hispanic governor, Bill Richardson. Is Obama pandering to ethnocentric special interests again? We'll have complete coverage." The subsequent report included no discussion of whether Obama is "pandering to ethnocentric special interests."
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On the March 21 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs introduced his program by announcing: "Tonight, Senator [Barack] Obama wins the endorsement of the nation's only Hispanic governor, Bill Richardson. Is Obama pandering to ethnocentric special interests again? We'll have complete coverage." The subsequent report by Capitol Hill reporter Jessica Yellin did not include a discussion of whether Obama is "pandering to ethnocentric special interests."
Later, during a panel discussion with Washington Post New York bureau chief Keith Richburg, New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin, and Democratic superdelegate Robert Zimmerman, Dobbs asked: "Are each endorsement, are we going to hear, as white Americans, as black Americans, as Hispanic-Americans, I mean, is this going to be part of what is the group and identity party in this country? Are -- is that not -- is it just -- I mean, just tell me, is there some sense that the Democratic Party is being overwhelmed by its own sense of group and identity politics here?"
Yellin's report also aired during the 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET hours of the same day's edition of CNN's The Situation Room; in neither instance did guest host John King introduce or tease the segment by asking whether Obama was "pandering to ethnocentric special interests." Rather, introducing the 4 p.m. airing, King stated:
KING: In the battle for superdelegate support, Bill Richardson's endorsement is considered a big get. Now the New Mexico governor and former presidential candidate has cast his lot with Barack Obama, saying he'd be a historic president. Richardson's endorsement comes despite a history of close ties to both Hillary and Bill Clinton.
My interview with Governor Richardson just ahead. First, though, to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's been following this story from the campaign trail in Indiana. And Jessica, this could not have been an easy decision for Governor Richardson.
Introducing the 6 p.m. airing, King stated:
KING: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is setting his ties to the Clintons aside and hopping on the Barack Obama bandwagon. The former presidential candidate offered his endorsement today, after weeks of mulling and hand-wringing.CNN's Jessica Yellin is on the trail in Indiana. Jessica, a big get for Obama and I assume a difficult choice for Governor Richardson.
From the March 21 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: Tonight, Senator Obama wins the endorsement of the nation's only Hispanic governor, Bill Richardson. Is Obama pandering to ethnocentric special interests again? We'll have complete coverage.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico today deserted Senator Clinton and instead endorsed Senator Obama. Former presidential candidate Governor Bill Richardson declaring Obama is what he called a once-in-a-lifetime leader. Governor Richardson backed Obama even though Democrats voted for Clinton in New Mexico's primary election.
Meanwhile, new evidence today that the outrage over Senator Obama's controversial former pastor has had a negative impact on Obama's polling numbers. We have extensive coverage tonight from the presidential campaign trail. And we begin with Jessica Yellin in Indianapolis -- Jessica.
YELLIN: Good evening, Lou. It was such a tough decision for Governor Bill Richardson to do this -- make this endorsement that one Clinton staffer recently described him as Hamlet. He just couldn't make up his mind until now.
[begin video clip]
YELLIN: He's a former Clinton confidant, the nation's only Hispanic governor, and his is one of the most sought-after endorsements of all. Now this superdelegate is on Obama's team.
RICHARDSON: Your candidacy -- and this is an expression of your candidacy -- is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our nation, and you are a once-in-a-lifetime leader.
YELLIN: Richardson made the decision last week. But he says Obama's speech on race reaffirmed his faith in the senator.
RICHARDSON: As a Hispanic-American, I was particularly touched by his words. Éste es un hombre que nos entiende y que nos va a respetar. [This is a man who understands us and will respect us.]
YELLIN: Some say the Clintons helped make Bill Richardson's career and they've wooed him aggressively, the former president flying to New Mexico this year for the Super Bowl.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Do not get between Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson and the TV set when the Super Bowl is on, so --
YELLIN: But the governor says he developed a soft spot for Barack Obama during all those debates and, clearly, a rapport.
RICHARDSON: He didn't mention me. But that's OK.
OBAMA: Did that hurt your feelings?
RICHARDSON: Well, a little bit.
YELLIN: The endorsement comes after a run of bad news for Barack Obama, including damaging stories about his pastor, an indicted former donor, missteps on NAFTA, and losses in Texas and Ohio. This could turn the tide.
Now the Obama campaign can only hope it clears the way for other uncommitted superdelegates to follow Richardson's lead and that his stamp of approval will bolster the candidate's standing among Hispanic voters and buttress his foreign policy credentials.
[end video clip]
YELLIN: Lou, I spoke to aides to four of those top uncommitted superdelegates, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, [former Vice President Al] Gore and [Sen. Joe] Biden [D-DE]. They all say they do not expect those folks to follow suit and endorse Barack Obama, at least not now. Senator Clinton says this should all be left up to the voters; endorsements shouldn't decide a nomination -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much. Jessica Yellin reporting. Presidential candidates tonight demanding a thorough investigation after a security breach in the State Department -- a breach that enabled State Department contract workers and a trainee to read the confidential files of all three presidential candidates, obviously without authorization.
RICHBURG: I agree, it could. I mean, it's -- I think the speech has actually done him some good. I think the problem is he didn't answer some questions about the controversy. But you know, Bill Richardson [unintelligible] in his endorsement today mentioned that speech as one reason he would be -- he gave him the endorsement, so --
DOBBS: Do you believe him for a moment?
RICHBURG: Well, you know, he had --
DOBBS: No, no, no. Do you believe Richardson for even a moment that that's the reason he gave Senator Obama his endorsement?
RICHBURG: Well, I -- the question is, why did he give it to him today? And I think he needed to come out and do something that was gonna --
DOBBS: A little change of pace was in order?
RICHBURG: -- change the story line.
DOBBS: From the things that Robert Zimmerman prefer we'd be focusing on?
RICHBURG: Change the story line.
ZIMMERMAN: But you know something? I've got to defend Barack Obama in terms of the context of his speech and main points of it --
DOBBS: Stop the presses, as they say.
ZIMMERMAN: No, but I think it's worth recognizing that was a very important address that really did elevate the debate. But now back to Governor Richardson.
DOBBS: OK. Well, speaking of Governor Richardson --
ZIMMERMAN: Speaking of Governor Richardson --
DOBBS: Let's hear what he did say and how he said it in part today.
RICHARDSON [video clip]: As a Hispanic-American, I was particularly touched by his words. Éste es un hombre que nos entiende y que nos va a respetar.
DOBBS: Are each endorsement, are we going to hear, as white Americans, as black Americans, as Hispanic-Americans, I mean, is this going to be part of what is the group and identity party in this country? Are -- is that not -- is it just -- I mean, just tell me, is there some sense that the Democratic Party is being overwhelmed by its own sense of group and identity politics here?
ZIMMERMAN: Look, there's no question when you have the first African-American running and the first woman running at the stature they're at, obviously you're going to have people galvanizing around these issues.
But it does trouble me enormously because I, as a white American, a white Jewish-American, was also moved by Senator Obama's speech. And I think when we start allowing our politicians to define the race for president and these issues along group and identity politics, it undercuts us as a national party and certainly undercuts -- and certainly is a disservice to the American people.
DOBBS: I got to say, I couldn't agree more with what you have just articulated. Why is that so difficult for Senator Obama, Governor Richardson, and others in this party right now to comprehend that the more they go to this identity, they become more divisive? I mean, am I --
RICHBURG: Well, you're -- I think Obama is trying to get away from that identity. I think the whole point of that speech was to say --
DOBBS: Well, who -- I mean, he sure -- getting a lot of help here.
RICHBURG: No, we have. But I think the point of that speech was to say, let's all come together. I mean, he can't win if he's an identity politician. He's running as an African-American, he can't win.
ZIMMERMAN: Well --
DOBBS: Well, if everyone continues this nonsense -- I mean, it's -- I mean, whether you're Jewish or Catholic or you're black or you're white or you're Hispanic, I mean, this is becoming an explosion from the center, which is where I think most of us want to reside.