If you read the January edition of the Los Angeles CityBeat, a free monthly newsletter, you would think that Clinton will carry the day over Obama
on Super Tuesday (February 5th, 2008). Why?
One look at the issue positions held by Clinton and Obama reveal enough to begin the debate but as the long campaign for President of the United States
limps on, impressions create the lasting impressions.
For instance, Hillary Clinton supports strengthening the middle class by cutting taxes, improving wages, addressing the high cost of health care premiums (by socializing health care or lowering premiums – we don’t really know yet), and college tuition (what does making college accessible and affordable mean – subsidizing college tuitions? lobbying to lower costs per unit at community colleges or state-funded colleges?. Moreover, she promotes retirement savings among seniors and a $50 billion Stategic Energy Fund for alternative energy research. Asking how her administration will balance the cut in revenues has not been answered yet but I’m sure the Republicans will ask if she gains the 2008 Democratic nomination. Has taxing the rich ever created more jobs? Middle class families have tapped into home equity to fund costs-of-living, which is not good, but it has gotten worse with the high, burdgeoning rate of foreclosures around the country, especially in Florida and California. Clinton is tapping into discontent on the social and fiscal side.
Obama, similarly, is also tapping into discontent by calling for CHANGE. He wants to aid the struggling middle class by taxing the rich and giving tax relief to 150 million U.S. workers. Moreover, he wants to institute a universal mortgage credit, expand the earned income tax credit (EITC) for families and eliminate income taxes for seniors earning less than $50,000 annually.
OK, so each candidate has a plan for getting money out of the rich and giving more money back to the poor or middle-class. Still don’t know how you guys are going to pay for it all but I’m sure there’s a plan for it. Declining interests rate spur savings not spending by the populace. How will Obama and Clinton not force us into an expedited recession? I would have expected a plan from Hillary Clinton since she’s experienced the Presidential scene as First Lady. She’s even attempted to/succeeded in creating policy as First Lady and Senator from New York. Maybe she’s saving the recession/balance the budget gameplan for the Presidential debate. Maybe the Democratic constituency in this country doesn’t want to hear about balanced budgets. It’s possible. In the end, though, one or both will have to come clean about how they’ll pay for everything.
So, given that both candidates share similar views on the economy, how do we distinguish one from the other? Both would make for a great story: Clinton, the first woman elected to the Presidency, just 108 years after suffrage was voted in. It would also be a great story for Obama to be the fist black President in our nation’s history.
So, How Do We Tell Clinton and Obama Apart?
We tell Clinton and Obama apart through the things said, but motly not said. How does each respond to the other’s attacks, strategies and positions? How does each look when defending accusations and/or offering solutions? In the Nevada debate, each was asked to detail their greatest personal weakness. Obama issued an honest yet misguided admission: he said that he wasn’t good at personal organization. Oops! Clinton had a field day with that one. Because Obama appeared distraught over Clinton’s offensive, he appeared weak. Remember, we’re listening and observing. If Obama gets rattled at this nonsense, how will he deal in real negotiations with Iraq, Iran, with the Congress, etc.? Moreover, Clinton appears older, wiser, yes more stoic but also like a persistent negotiator, maybe even a good tactician. Some people think she pulled a fast one on Obama but voters aren’t naive. They realize they need a leader that can defend their territory even if that leader sometimes baits and plays a bit unfair. If you play unfair, you’d better win and that’s what Clinton did after Nevada.
The Los Angeles CityBeat believes Obama scored points in South Carolina by pointedly saying at a debate that he coudn’t tell who he was running against, Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton. Good point but it sounded like he was complaining. He seemed to underscore the feeling amongst some voters that he is still a neophyte and perhaps requires a bit more seasoning. Leaders don’t complain outwardly. Leaders don’t cry. Obama can’t complain about a 2-for-1 Clinton-Clinton package. He’s got to be creative, intelligent and strategic in his responses to games that Clinton plays. He’s got to smile, not wince. Professional athletes do not telegraph injuries for fear of giving the opposition an edge. Professional politics follows the same rules. When he gets hurt the most, smile more broadly, carry a bigger swagger. What do you think got Reagan that early respect at the debates? Back to the Clinton-Clinton team: how could Obama not think to discredit Hillary’s cache with voters by accusing her of constantly needing Bill to out-voice her on the campaign stump? Is Hillary that weak where she needs her husband’s record and strength to conceal her own inability to connect with voters? Is Hillary intending to ride her husband’s leadership qualities to the White House? Is it not hard to realize that perhaps Bill Clinton is confusing Hillary’s campaign for his own? This is all fair game now and Obama is not correctly asking those questions. Obama will learn and will be a better candidate – but it might be as a candidate in 2012. Or can he get a new emboldened message across to the 50% of American voters that will be voting on Super Tuesday?
The question now is NOT about the message, it’s about who is the better leader. Both Hillary Clinton and Obama can do better. And they must do better not just to attain their short-term goals of winning the 2008 Presidential Democratic nomination but to realize the long-term goal of beating the Republican nominee in the general election.