I actually watched the debate last night between Obama and Clinton, and I watched it all the way through. My blood pressure stayed at 100/60 the whole time, although I did wave my finger (I’ll let you guess which one) at the television a few times. The perception of who came out ahead is always colored in these things by the likes and dislikes of the viewer, and anyone reading this has no real doubt about my opinion of Senator Clinton. Even with that thumb on the scale, however, I thought Senator Obama did very well indeed.
My opinion of Senator Clinton is not exactly enhanced when she is asked why she formed her health care plan behind closed doors in 1993 and her response is, “Well I was trying to start the national conversation on health care.” That was one of the finger-waving moments. How, precisely, does holding meetings in secret start the national conversation? People are talking about you then, not with you about health care.
I seem to recall a similar thing with the energy issue and Cheney. That certainly served us well. What kind of “national conversation” did that start?
She also didn’t answer the question of how she is going to enforce the mandates in her plan. Neither did Obama and his plan also contains mandates, but at least it has fewer of them. For the record, I oppose government mandates of any sort because either they are accompanied by punitive measures or they are meaningless. Neither option is attractive.
Confronted with the “tax and spend” issue I liked Obama’s response. He talked about principles, about what is right for the nation, about the proper way to apply progressive taxation. Clinton talked about detail of how she will pay for her health care plan, saving “x” dollars by electronic records and so forth, but that was not the question. The question was how she would respond to the Republicans on the charge of “tax and spend.”
The main part of her campaign is that she is better equipped to go against the Republicans in the general election but when asked, here, how she would do so on a specific issue she missed the point of the question and did not answer it. Obama did answer it and his answer was not bad at all. He seemed ready for that general election battle.
On the immigration issue it seems to me that Obama’s position was significant in a couple of ways. In declining to blame job losses on immigration he is rather transparently courting the Latino vote, but I think he’s doing more than that. I think that stance is part of his “bringing people together” theme, because I don’t think this is merely a campaign slogan for him. I also respond to his position that we have to get beyond the blaming and scapegoating and deal with the bigger problem, which is the jobs that have been lost and why they have been lost.
My suspicion is that some African-American unemployment absolutely is caused by illegal immigration. So is some white unemployment. What we need to deal with is unemployment and we do that by creating decent, well-paying jobs. We don’t do that by blaming and dividing, by setting one people against another. That's the point that Obama spoke to, and I liked it.
Finally, there’s Iraq. Senator Clinton still, after all these months of the campaign, trots out the “if we knew then what we know now” meme. She still claims that "certainly I did an enormous amount of investigation and due diligence to try to determine what, if any, threat could flow from the history of Saddam Hussein being both an owner of and a seeker of weapons of mass destruction. But her "due diligence" did not include reading the then-current N.I.E.
It is not her vote that so greatly disturbs me. It is not even her refusal to admit the error of that vote that so disturbs me. The empty, patently absurd, vacuous arguments that she uses to defend that vote betray a personality that would spell disaster in a national leader.
We’ve seen that delusional self justification for the past seven years.
She also said, "I believe in coercive diplomacy." And I, most emphatically, do not. That is what starts wars. That is what started this war in Iraq.