Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hillary-Barack Face to Face

After Obama’s decision to curtail his role in the endless pseudo-debate schedule, how can the Democratic front runners give voters what they really need to decide who is best suited to clean up the Bush mess and lead the country forward?

Despite what polls show now, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be close and crucial, and the two of them have an opportunity to get beyond canned campaigning and set an example to offset the politics of personal destruction that decided the last two presidential elections.

They would be serving their country, their party and, ultimately, their own interests by using a fraction of the millions they have amassed to buy TV time for a real debate of their differences--no moderators, videos or other gimmicks--about the war in Iraq, health care, immigration policy and the tension between homeland security and individual rights, among other subjects.

Conventional wisdom might argue against Clinton’s doing it because she is ahead in the polls, but conventional wisdom has never encompassed a Presidential contest between a woman and a man of color.

Clinton and Obama are members of the same party who have more in common than the manufactured sound bites and campaign gotchas indicate, and they may very well end up on a ticket together.

Why not provide an example of grownup politics for a country exhausted by the idiocy of show-business campaigning? Why not show what politics can be rather than what it has become? Why not give their supporters--and all voters--a sample of the kind of change they want?

They don’t have to be Lincoln and Douglas but, amid all the
madness to come in the next fifteen months, Clinton and Obama could show us some sanity that would eventually serve them and all Americans well. At the very least, it would provide a contrast to the Republican mud fight that is sure to come.

1 comment:

Mortimer Brezny said...

I was at a party and the conversation turned to politics for a moment. When I said I was undecided, about three of the women there tried to convert me into a Hillary voter. They said:

1. Obama would be great in 4 years. But not yet.
2. We need someone who can hit the ground running on day one, and Hillary has Bill whispering in her ear. We don’t need a forward thinker.
3. At a personal event, Hillary went out of her way to talk to disabled people first.

My response was that I did not want to return to the politics of the 1990s and all the baggage that the Clintons bring, that anyone elected in 2008 is likely to be Gerald Ford-like one-termer regardless of their experience because Iraq is a thankless mess, and thought but did not say that purposely talking to a disabled person first is just Pandering 101.

When these veiled attacks on Obama’s “hope-mongering” did not work, (no surprise there, “Bring the Clintons Back” does not sound like a solution to Iraq or like the change I would like to see) I was essentially called a misogynist. My reply was that other female candidates would not have the problems that Hillary Clinton is having because she is Hillary Clinton, and that I did not like Hillary Clinton. This met with the admission that people would attack Hillary Clinton mercilessly once she was in office (HINT: this assumes she would win).

In other words, when push came to shove and I did not accept being called a woman-hater simply because I don’t want a Third Term of the Clintons, I was told that Clinton was simply super-duper electable, without any empirical backing for the claim. This is exactly what troubled me about Kerry’s candidacy, which I did not support. Everyone said he sucked, but he was electable, and then he was not elected. Meaning he just sucked.

So let’s analyze how such a sucky candidate won the nomination. Kerry focused on Iowa and New Hampshire extensively with positive commercials and town hall meetings while Dean and Gephardt duked it out in the press and on the airwaves. Edwards went around doing a lot of town hall meetings swayed undecideds and Independents. Both had low national polls and state poll numbers but cleaned Dean’s and Gephardt’s clocks in Iowa and New Hampshire. And they rode the favorable press cascade out of the initial contests.

Obama is not a sucky candidate. People actually like and strongly support him and his candidacy has a theme and a message. Taking the Kerry-Edwards approach to Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina makes far more sense than bickering with Hillary in debate formats that everyone agrees are stifling, especially because, if one takes her supporters’ arguments seriously, there is no actual reason to support her candidacy. Just like there was no reason to support Kerry’s. Of course it makes sense to talk to the people. Frankly, I don’t even understand the nature of the criticism of Obama.