Saturday, February 2, 2008

Why Obama, and Why Not Clinton, Revisited

Two newspaper endorsements of Barack Obama sum up the argument in favor fairly well:

* The Los Angeles Times endorses Obama based on their opinion that he and Hillary Clinton are essentially identical in their stands on the issues. The difference is in style, and it's a large one:

With two candidates so closely aligned on the issues, we look to their abilities and potential as leaders, and their record of action in service of their stated ideals. Clinton is an accomplished public servant whose election would provide familiarity and, most important, competence in the White House, when for seven years it has been lacking. But experience has value only if it is accompanied by courage and leads to judgment.

Nowhere was that judgment more needed than in 2003, when Congress was called upon to accept or reject the disastrous Iraq invasion. Clinton faced a test and failed, joining the stampede as Congress voted to authorize war. At last week's debate and in previous such sessions, Clinton blamed Bush for abusing the authority she helped to give him, and she has made much of the fact that Obama was not yet in the Senate and didn't face the same test. But Obama was in public life, saw the danger of the invasion and the consequences of occupation, and he said so. He was right.

Obama demonstrates as well that he is open-eyed about the terrorist threat posed to the nation, and would not shrink from military action where it is warranted. He does not oppose all wars, he has famously stated, but rather "dumb wars." He also has the edge in economic policy, less because of particular planks in his platform than because of his understanding that some liberal orthodoxies developed during the last 40 years have been overtaken by history. He offers leadership on education, technology policy and environmental protection unfettered by the positions of previous administrations.

. . .

In the language of metaphor, Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility. Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long -- a sense of aspiration.

* The second largest Los Angeles newspaper, and one of the largest Spanish-language papers in the USA, La Opinion also endorses Obama, this time based primarily on an issue: immigration:

As well, we were disappointed with {Hillary Clinton's} calculated opposition to driver’s licenses for the undocumented, which contrasts markedly from the forceful argument in support made by Obama. We understand that this is an extremely controversial issue but we believe there is only one right position and it is that of the senator from Illinois. And, while both senators support comprehensive immigration reform, only Obama has committed to bringing forward new legislation during his first year in office.

It is this commitment to the immigration issue which drove Obama to condemn the malicious lies made during the immigration debate, to understand the need for driver’s licenses, and to defend the rights of undocumented students by co-authoring the DREAM Act. The senator has demonstrated character by maintaining his position despite the hostile political climate.

* On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal reminds us that Hillary Clinton, who keeps bragging about her White House experience, is curiously reluctant to let us see evidence of that experience:

We're referring to the controversy over records at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, which opened in 2004. At the time, Mrs. Clinton promised that "everything's going to be available." More than three years later, the library that is partly funded by taxpayers has released less than 1% of its records, and the withheld documents include two million pages covering Mrs. Clinton's White House tenure.

. . .

The National Archives supervises Presidential documents, and in November 2002 Bill Clinton sent a letter asking the Archives to "consider for withholding" any "communications directly between the President and First Lady, and their families, unless routine in nature."

. . .

Mr. Clinton and his surrogates insist that this letter doesn't "block" the release of anything, and the implicit suggestion is that the Archives has discretion to release what it wants. However, a spokeswoman for the Archives in December acknowledged that it had already withheld 2,600 documents in accordance with Mr. Clinton's directive. Adding to suspicions of stonewalling is the fact that the Clintons' liaison with the Archives is none other than Bruce Lindsey. Readers may remember Mr. Lindsey as the longtime Clinton consigliere and keeper of the secrets going back to Arkansas.

. . .

Mrs. Clinton is running for the highest office in the land, and voters have a right to expect that both she and her husband release everything possible about her record, subject to national security and the privacy concerns of third parties. The Clinton White House records may well contain information that would give voters insight into both her political philosophy and character. They could relate to her role (if any) in such scandals as Travelgate and the Marc Rich pardon, plus policy disputes over health care, welfare reform, and Social Security.

* There was one other link I wanted to share, but I've lost it. In short, an Australian op-ed writer pointed out that recently de-elected Conservative PM Howard instituted an individual-mandate system in Australia along the Clinton lines. The result? No better healthcare, but a much higher burden on the poor. The Romney-Clinton-Edwards healthcare plan amounts to a regressive health tax, one which lies on the poor far more heavily than on the wealthy.

With all the endorsements Obama is getting, I could only hope that would transfer into votes... but please let us not forget Al Gore's endorsement last year of Howard Dean...

... I'm going to vote for Obama in the Democratic primary, but I'm afraid Clinton will get the nomination... in which case I might even vote for McCain, if no write-in appeals to me.

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