I watched all of the Democratic candidate’s debate from Los Angeles last night. I thought that both Clinton and Obama did very well. But because of things I saw in the debate, and something else I read just this morning, I’m coming down on Hillary’s side, and I’ll be voting for her in the California primary on Tuesday.
Hillary came off better in the first part of the debate, especially on health care. She clearly knows the subject in great, some would say mind-numbing detail. And frankly, I want a president who understands the nuts and bolts of such a wide-ranging proposal that would affect the lives of all Americans. I’ve said before that I thought that Hillary has the better health care plan, and nothing that I saw last night changed my mind, especially when the two candidates got into their disagreement about individual mandates. More about individual mandates and a hardball, beyond the pale attack from Obama later.
In the second part, which focused on Iraq, she did not come off as well, because she was trying to defend the indefensible. Like most other politicians from both parties of the time, she allowed herself to be cowed and stampeded by the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 lies and fear mongering. It was a crucial failure of judgment on her part.
Obama, naturally, wants to capitalize on Hillary’s mistake, and he essentially says that because he was right back then, his judgment would be superior to Hillary’s in all future foreign policy scenarios. That’s a breathtaking assertion, verging on arrogant. Extraordinary statements require extraordinary proof, and I don’t see where he has provided examples of his superior judgment and leadership at a time when he was personally under great pressure to perform (has he ever been under great pressure to perform?). When he made his speech against the Iraq war in 2002, he was an Illinois legislator who was not yet running for the US Senate, and he had little personally on the line.
But I think that neither candidate did as well on foreign policy as they will need to do in the fall campaign. Neither laid out an especially compelling, Democratic vision for a post-Bush foreign policy stance, other than the obvious “Less wars, more diplomacy.”
I don’t need any more magical thinking
What bothers me the most about Obama is his core message, which boils down to “I’m magic, and I’ll be able to bring everyone together to move America forward.”
Last night, he said:
But the last point I want to make has to do with how we’re going to actually get this plan done…And part of the reason, I think, that [past plans] have failed is we have not been able to bring Democrats, Republicans together to get it done.
That’s what I did in Illinois, to provide insurance for people who did not have it.
That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.
Looking at the way that the Republican minority in the Senate has managed to stymie anything of importance from getting done, with virtually no consequences, I seriously have to wonder if Obama has the slightest clue of how to really beat an opponent. That was one of the things I liked about John Edwards; he knew that the only way to accomplish progressive change was to defeat your enemy, not make nice to them. Progressives have fundamental differences from conservatives, and we will not, repeat not, sway them to our view by virtue of our superior arguments. We will have to crush our opponents and force our solutions upon them. Because our solutions are backed by the majority of the American populace, we will prevail, but we cannot avoid a hard, vicious fight for our principles.
I’ve seen plenty of magical thinking from Bush’s band of idiots over the past seven years. I don’t need it from the Democratic nominee for president.
Obama fights like a Republican
This morning, I saw a report of a mailer the Obama campaign is putting out against Hillary’s health care plan, specifically against the part of her plan where she requires all Americans to purchase health care. Failing a true single-payer plan, individual mandates are crucial because if everyone is not covered, it allows insurance companies to cherry-pick the healthiest and steer the sick to the government-supported plan, inevitably increasing costs for the government plan.
Obama’s mailer is the worst sort of demagoguery, because it directly recalls the infamous “Harry and Louise” attacks against Hillary’s 1993 plan. In my view, if you are a Democrat, you don’t get to use Republican talking points against a Democratic opponent. You don’t get to attack a fellow Democrat using conservative memes.
Yet Obama has done just that, again and again. He says that Democrats “need to stop disrespecting people of faith” (when the hell did that happen?). He claims that the GOP were “the party of ideas for the last 10 or 15 years” (but they were bad ideas! Why exalt them for bad ideas?). If Hillary wins the presidency, Republicans will use this ad to fight against universal health care. It’s shameful of Obama to attack her from the right.
It’s indefensible to resurrect Republican attacks from the bad old days as part of a campaign against Clinton. I can’t support Obama for the nomination.