Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Setting a Few Matters Straight: Why I'm for Hillary and not Obama. Part 2.

clinton - Obama

In my previous post, I enumerated the various reasons why I feel that Hillary is not the ogre that most people feel that she is, and why she's presidential timber. The trouble is, can honestly say the same for Obama? I don't know. The trouble with that is, now is not the time for an Obama learning curve. How much do we really know about him?
For the past 7 years this country has been brutalised by an idiot who has brought us war, threatened our civil liberties, abused our economy, and destroyed our reputation around the world. His reign was the culmination of a way of thinking that has been entrenched among Conservatives for the past 30 years. It is a way of thinking that threatens our future socially, economically. And ecologically, the survival of the human race. We need someone at the helm that we can rely on to fight that entrenchment. Someone who is vastly experienced in fighting Right Wing onslaughts. I don't think the politics of "coming together" is going to work on the likes of John O'Neill's Swift Boaters, Karl Rove, or Fox News. Already Obama has to contend with false rumors concerning his religion, and his upbringing. And now, the Rezko business will come up.

But what is at the core of my objections to an Obama candidacy? Not only do I find myself questioning the feasibility of his "new style" of politics, but I question whether he can possibly pursue it given today's circumstances.

• His positions are really not that different from Hillary's.

• He strives to set himself apart from most politicians yet his very history suggests otherwise.

• In particular, his relationship with Antoin Rezko calls into to question his judgement of character. Not only that, but his very criteria on what constitutes a friend can be questioned. Is a friend someone you like and trust, or is a friend merely someone who is "usefull" to you?

On the issues, Clinton and Obama differ only on. the details. According to

In a 2004 fundraising speech in San Francisco, she was highly critical of George W. Bush's tax cuts, saying that "Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."[2] Clinton has sponsored legislation designed to reduce the deficit by reinstating some taxes that had been cut. She has co-sponsored legislation related to debt and deficit reduction. On the other hand, she has advocated for federal spending that advocates of less government spending deem nonessential, such as funding a museum commemorating the Woodstock Music Festival.[3]

Obama's stand two years later wasn't that much different:

Obama spoke out in June 2006 against making recent, temporary estate tax cuts permanent, calling the cuts a "Paris Hilton" tax break for "billionaire heirs and heiresses."[18] Speaking in November 2006 to members of Wake Up Wal-Mart, a union-backed campaign group, Obama said: "You gotta pay your workers enough that they can actually not only shop at Wal-Mart, but ultimately send their kids to college and save for retirement."[19] Obama has also proposed his own tax plan, including $80 billion in tax cuts for the poor and middle class.[20]

On health care the only difference between the two front runners is how they define "universal.":

In September 2007, as part of her presidential campaign, Clinton revealed her new American Health Choices Plan, an "individual mandate" universal health care plan that would require health care coverage for all individuals. Clinton explained individuals can keep their current employer-based coverage, or choose an expanded version of Medicare or federal employee health plans.[18][19] The projected cost of the plan is $110 billion annually and will require all employers to cover their employees' health insurance or contribute to the costs of their employees' health insurance coverage; tax credits will be provided to companies with fewer than 25 employees to help cover costs.[18][20]

And Obama said:

On January 24, 2007 Obama spoke about his position on health care at Families USA, a health care advocacy group. Obama said, "The time has come for universal health care in America [...] I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country." Obama went on to say that he believed that it was wrong that forty-seven million Americans are uninsured, noting that taxpayers already pay over $15 billion annually to care for the uninsured.[15] Obama cites cost as the reason so many Americans are without health insurance, and claims his health care plan would cut the cost of insurance more than any of his Democratic rivals' plans in the 2008 Presidential race. [16]

The list goes on and on. In foreign policy, both Hillary and Obama favor a tough approach to terrorism with Obama assuring people he will escalate the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He would even go into Pakistan despite warnings that such a move could further destabilize the situation.

On the Arab-Israeli situation, both candidates meet at the center from different viewpoints agreeing that the Palestinian leadership must be more responsible. Obama wants more dialogue with the Arabs while Hillary is still in favor of the wall, and concentrates more on Israel's security.

According to Associated Press:

When asked who the United States' top allies are, Senator Barack Obama said the European Union and Japan, but failed to mention Israel.

The debate moderator NBC News anchor Brian Williams interrupted Obama, drawing his attention to the omission and quoting Obama as having once said, "No one suffers more than the Palestinians."

Obama, unperplexed, explained that the Palestinians suffer because of their leadership. "I said that no one suffers more than the Palestinian people because of their leadership's failure to recognize Israel, denounce violence and be serious about peace negotiations and regional security," he said.

"Israel is one of our most important allies in the world. It is the only democracy in the Middle East," Obama added. He even noted that if he was elected, he intended to increase American involvement in the region.

But Obama comes to this point of view from the standpoint that we must have a dialogue with the Palestinians. According to AP at the National Jewish Democratic Council this was his (highly commendable) position:

Obama said while he was committed to protecting Israel’s security, he would also reach out to Arab leaders who were committed to recognizing Israel and renouncing violence.

And according to Wikipedia Obama is no friend of terrorism:

Obama  on Iraq 21

Referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in January 2006, Obama denounced Hamas while praising former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. At a meeting with then Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on the eve of Hamas' sweeping election victory,[33] Obama stated that Sharon's role in the conflict had always been "absolutely important and constructive."[34] At a meeting with Palestinian students two days later, Obama stated opposition to Hamas in favor of rival party Fatah, noting his desire to "consolidate behind a single government with a single authority that can then negotiate as a reliable partner with Israel." In a comment aimed at Hamas, he said that "the US will always side with Israel if Israel is threatened with destruction."[35]

On Iran there is considerably less daylight between Clinton and Obama. While Hillary accuses Iran of having a nuclear weapons program, and supports UN sanctions against Iran, she believes that diplomacy is necessary, and has criticized Dubya for refusing to talk to the mullahs.

And while Obama is all for talking to Iran, and has criticized Hillary for voting to declare the Quds Force a terrorist organization, he wants all military options on the table.

On the issue of Iraq, again there are only a few variations on the same stance. Let us dispense with the fact that Hillary voted to give authorization for the war. I had already touched on her reasons for that vote in Part 1 of this series. However, she did charge Dubya with rushing to war, and pulling the rug out from under the UN inspectors, and came out for an international solution to the problem. However, to quote from Wikipedia:

On June 15, 2006, Clinton charged that President Bush “rushed to war” and “refused to let the UN inspectors conduct and complete their mission ... We need to be building alliances instead of isolation around the world ... There must be a plan that will begin to bring our troops home.” But she also said, “I do not think it is a smart strategy either for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment which I think does not put enough pressure on the Iraqi government, nor do I think it is a smart policy to set a date certain.”[63][64]

Hillary voted for the USA PATRIOT ACT in 2001, but helped to filibuster the bill for its renewal when enough money wasn't apportioned to New York for anti-terrorism efforts. She also stood up for some of the civil liberties concerns with it. She voted in favor of the compromise bill.

FISA and warrantless wiretapping were a different matter though:

Regarding the December 2005 NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, Clinton stated that she was 'troubled' by President Bush's 2002 actions. In a statement, she said: 'The balance between the urgent goal of combating terrorism and the safeguarding of our most fundamental constitutional freedoms is not always an easy one to draw. However, they are not incompatible, and unbridled and unchecked executive power is not the answer.'[83]

Clinton didn't take the American Freedom to stop the military commissions, end torture, or restore habeas corpus, but then as President, she can end the former and sign into law the other.

Obama wants to restore American prestige all over the world:

Obama is also right that resetting the world's view of the U.S. begins with making our government more transparent. As a senator, he's worked to visibly link members of Congress to their roads to nowhere and to their Iowan rain forests. As president, he will hold large-scale, open discussions on the issues facing Americans in the 21st century: health care, climate change, comprehensive immigration reform, border security, tax policy, education and economic development.

Both Hillary and Obama take a rather tortured path concerning same sex couples. Obama...

• Voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment

• And yet, he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.

• Supports civil union that carries legal standing equal to marriage, but believes that the appellation of marriage should be left up to the states.
• Feels that homosexuality is not immoral.

To confuse things all the more, for the all-important South Carolina primary, Obama invited anti-gay people like Reverend Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary and Hezekiah Walker to his 3 day "Embrace the Courage" campaign tour. After a whole lot criticism, he added openly gay pastor Andy Sidden.

Hillary has an equal amount of 'splaining to do Lucy:

Senator Clinton expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage while affirming her support for some form of civil unions for homosexual couples: 'I think that the vast majority of Americans find [same-sex marriage] to be something they can't agree with. But I think most Americans are fair. And if they believe that people in committed relationships want to share their lives and, not only that, have the same rights that I do in my marriage, to decide who I want to inherit my property or visit me in a hospital, I think that most Americans would think that that's fair and that should be done."'[115]

And yet:

• She opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment like Obama.

• She admitted the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" was a failure and that gays should be allowed to serve openly.

Lastly the environment. Hillary wants:

• energy conservation

• to release oil reserves

• no drilling in ANWR

• to ratify the Kyoto Protocol

• a Strategic Energy Fund to put $ 50 billion into R&D and deployment of renewable energy, clean coal, ethanol, and homegrown biofuels.

I think Wikipedia says everything I'd say for Obama's views on environment:

Obama has taken the stance that global warming is human-caused, and that it must be addressed. He has a record of supporting environmentally friendly bills.

The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe.[64]

He has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 by creating a market-based cap-and-trade system.[65] Obama also has plans for improving air and water quality through reduced pollution levels.[citation needed]

And so, there doesn't seem to be much daylight between Hillary and Obama's positions.

And yet, Obama says he won't "play the Washington game." We'll see.

In Part 3 of this series, I shall examine the feasibility of the "politics of hope," and whether Obama is sincere or a fool.

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