by Ted Manna
American Reporter Correspondent
Castle Rock, Colo.
September 26, 2007
A BIG MAN GETS BEHIND HILLARY
DENVER, Sept. 26, 2007 -- Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb is a big man, standing 6'5" tall, and his praise for his candidate matches his stature.
Webb, an African-American who was recently named a national co-chair of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, spoke with The American Reporter in Denver about the race for the White House, the influence of race in politics, and the race for voters in the "New West."
While Webb professed immense respect for Sen. Barack Obama, an African-American from Illinois, he was unequivocal in his endorsement of Clinton as the next President of the United States.
"For me, this is about the country's future," he said, "and who is the best person prepared to walk in, when they take that oath of office on Jan 20, and pull the right team together with the capacity to make America not only strong again, but respected throughout the world, and who has the maturity, temperament and the ability to bring this country together in
dealing with the issue of health care.
"This was the question for me. Who is best equipped at this point to lead this country? I believe it's Hillary."
Webb, back from a meeting in New York and on his way to Nevada to stump for Clinton, candidly answered questions about his reasons for backing Clinton over Obama, his experience in Western politics and his views on the importance of the American West in the upcoming election.
Webb immediately took the race card off the table, citing his election as a three-term Mayor in a city where African-Americans were only 12 percent of the population.
"I said I was running for mayor of the whole city, not running to be mayor of the Black community," Webb said, acknowledging that "many people in the African-American community are supporters of mine because I have lived in the African-American community my entire life.
"I chose to live there, I have lived in the same house for 30 years and raised my family there. Obviously this has been a base for me, but it has been there for me because of a long record of service in the African-American community. When I first started out, I was fighting for freedom movements in Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. I was fighting for higher wages for workers, fighting for union rights, fighting for women and seniors."
Webb backed Clinton for a number of reasons, foremost being her stand on health care. "This is the issue she tried to get everyone - this Congress and this nation - to address many years before," he said. "She was ahead of her time. Now she will have a chance" to promote that agenda.
"The Democratic Party has an embarrasment of riches in their great candidates," Webb gushed. "There is John Edwards, former U.S. Senator from North Carolina. We have Bill Richardson, a good, close friend of mine who I have done a lot of work for. Barack Obama, one of the younger generation of African-Americans, I greatly admire and I think has a tremendous future. And Hillary Clinton."
Webb recalled meeting Hillary Clinton for the first time when he was regional director of the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter, qat a time when her husband, Bill, was the youngest Governor in the countrys' history.
"Hillary worked with her husband," Webb said, "and just because she is a spouse (of a former President) doesn't mean she can't work to fulfill her own ambitions and be what she is capable of being."
Webb thinks Obamas' main weakness is his youth. "I'm sure he won't agree," Webb said, "because I didn't agree either when I ran for Mayor the first time, unsucessfully. I think he has a long, bright future."
Webb said his selection as co-chairman resulted from his unofficial work for the campaign. "This just gives status to what I have already been doing. One of the reasons I was selected for this was because of my history and style has been grass-roots politics.
Asked whether he thought an African-American could ever be elected President, Webb answered, "it all depends on the person, but the toughest place [for an African-American] to get elected is the South. You look at past elections, the South still has a lot of hang-ups where blacks vote for blacks and whites vote for whites.
"We have a Western ethic here... . If you're leading a wagon train, across the mountains, over craggy trails, through snow and ice, whether you're black, white, short, pudgy or female, Latino, - if you can get the wagon train over the mountain, people will hire you. If you can't get the wagon train over the mountain, they are going to fire you.
That's more of a Western ethic - our rugged individualism - and I consider myself a Westerner."
Long considered a backwater in American politics, the New West - usually defined as Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Wyoming - is emerging as a microcosm of the desires of the whole country, and all the candidates are spending more time here. and earlier, than ever before. Webb believes that how the West goes, so goes the rest of the country.
"This nation wants something different than what they have now," he said. "They have tried President Bush, they don't care for his policies or his leadership. I think they will move in a Democratic direction, and out of the abundance of great candidates we have running, I believe Sen. Clinton is the best one to lead this nation at this time."
Webb said he is not disappointed he lost the Democratic National Convention Chairmanship to Howard Dean in Florida last year. The first African-American to run for that position, he said he was up against a well-tuned political machine still in place after Dean lost to John Kerry for the nomination.
"It allows me time to do some political things and I can dedicate my time to helping elect the next President of the United States, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and that nomination is going to be held right here in Denver."