Why I'm Glad Hillary's Still in It
Obama Pays Lip Service to Good Ideas, But Doesn't Follow Through
I was thrilled to see Hillary Clinton taking the lead in New Hampshire Tuesday night, and not—as you might think—just because she's a woman [Hillary Clinton Has a Vagina and So Do I, Erica C. Barnett, October 30]. It's because of the two frontrunners, Hillary's tougher, more experienced, smarter, and more specific than Obama. (Given the dismal showing by my favorite, John Edwards, in New Hampshire—locked in at 17 percent—it's safe to say he's out of the running.) It's not just that I've failed to be electrified by Obama's "dynamic" personality and message of "hope"; it's because, on policy grounds, he isn't saying what I want to hear from a Democratic frontrunner going into an election that's the Democrats' to lose.
Savvy, battle-tested voters in New Hampshire didn't seem as taken by Obama's lofty rhetoric, and seemed to be focusing on his flawed policy prescriptions, like me. At press time, the presumed frontrunner lost to Clinton, 36 percent to Clinton's 39 percent. Here are a few reasons Obama's not my guy.
First of all, his energy plan is the least progressive and most status quo of the three. The plan, released last October, includes every pale-green, fake-environmentalist scheme you can imagine: Expanded nuclear, doubling or tripling (!!!) of corn production for ethanol, a carbon sequestration scheme that relies on technologies that don't yet exist, and so-called "clean coal," which isn't really clean at all. Yes, he talks about greener technologies like cellulosic ethanol and plug-in hybrids; and yes, he would implement a fully auctioned cap-and-trade system whose proceeds would pay for investments in clean energy development. But on the whole, Obama's done little more than pay lip service to clean energy and environmental reforms while supporting industries that are fighting them—speaking out against mining reforms, for example, that would have eliminated a notorious mining law that allows companies to mine public lands for free. He also attacked Clinton on ethanol—for not supporting corn farmers enough.
Politically, Obama's an appeaser. He issued a convoluted response when news broke that he planned to make a campaign appearance with Donnie McClurkin, an "ex-gay" homophobe, then allowed McClurkin to use his campaign as a platform to spread his homophobic message to thousands of African-Americans. He's attempted to reach out to Republicans, both by triangulating on several key Republican issues and by stating directly that he would include Republicans in his administration. In 2005, he even wrote that Republicans were not, contrary to what Democrats believed, a "sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners" party, calling those descriptions mere "labels" and "jargon." Um, really? Maybe his positions have changed since then, but I find it alarming that Obama would dismiss as "labels" a description of the Republican Party that was and is undeniably true. The Democratic Party needs people who will fight the Republicans on their own terms, not appeasers more interested in getting along than winning.
And speaking of parroting Republicans (and their talking points): He's bought into the false idea that Social Security is in a "crisis," going so far as to use that word. Social Security is not in a crisis. To quote New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, "This isn't 1992. The DLC isn't the Democratic party's leading edge. The center isn't somewhere between Joe Lieberman and John McCain. I can't understand how Obama can be this out of touch."
The thing that bugs me the most about Obama, though, is that he's the only major Democratic-Party candidate who wouldn't give Americans universal health coverage. Unlike Edwards's and Clinton's plans, Obama's would not include a mandate that every adult participate; without a mandate, the plan just isn't universal. The whole point of universal health care is that everyone pays into the system, even if they don't think they need health care at the time; in return, everyone gets coverage when they need it. Without a mandate, healthy people could choose to wait until they have a health problem to buy in, forcing those who bought insurance when they were healthy to subsidize those who waited until they weren't. Obama has responded to critiques of his plan by, once again, parroting Republican speaking points—saying, in essence, that his opponents' plans would "force" Americans into buying health insurance. "Socialized medicine," anyone? Obama's plan just won't work.
Hillary isn't my favorite, either, but the way she's handled her opponents' attacks—with grace and forbearance, even when they got nasty—has been impressive. I'm glad she's still in the race.