The Democrats have a tough choice coming up beyond Super Tuesday. Will it be Billary or Obama? Now I have deliberately taken this inflammatory designation of Hillary’s campaign for reasons discussed immediately below. But first some full disclosure.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are huge steps ahead of whatever comes out of the Republican Primary pledge of allegiance to The Base and Ronald Reagan. Remember George W. made these same pledges 8 years ago and then proceeded to outspend and sink the US into greater national debt than any of the Democratic presidents for the past 30 years. George W also promised to not get involved in “foreign adventures” and then proceeded to in the most slipshod of fashions and in the process forever gutting the Republican manifesto – “we know how to govern better”. And not finally George W. made a primal lie of the Reagan advantage – professing “I am a uniter not a divider” while indulging in the sleaziest campaigns and most partisan of administrations including wrecking the unbiased tenure of the civil service by insisting on unbridled political partisanship throughout its ranks. So John McCain, or Republican Whomever, will have, in the immortal words of Desi Arnaz, “a lot esplainin to do” to the American people. This is particularly true because the Republican Party, with only a few exceptions in the past 1-2 years, bought into the Bush line including voting in rigid Bush blocks no matter what the issue.
So now we return to Billary or Obama. Now I have deliberately used the term “Billary” because that is the number one problem facing Hillary Clinton – what to do about Bill. As many political observers have noted, Bill Clinton around political power is like a Fox in the Hen House. Having distinguished himself over the past 8 years as being a light of rational and careful thought, particularly on World affairs; Bill Clinton shot that image nearly down the drain in one extravagant swoop of smear politics in the New Hampshire and then South Carolina primaries. So that raises the question – is the US buying into another duopoly presidency with Billary in the fashion of Bush/Cheney where Vice President Cheney appears to have had carte blanche in filling in the blanks on large chunks of US policy, especially on Iraq ? Hillary insists no; this observer is not so sanguine.
Hillary presents the following opportunity to Americans – she will indeed be a “policy geek”, extremely well informed on all of the major domestic and foreign issues. Knowing all the major players and trade-offs and able to discuss them and persue independent lines of thought. Or will she be her own man? How she deals unequivocally with the question of what role Bill will have in her White House and right from the beginning will largely determine her own level of voice and control of the White House either perceived and/or in reality.
There is a second advantage to voting for Hillary – she has worked hard and well in the Senate including across party lines. There may be more practical substance to her ability to work in effective internal and bi-partisan fashion than Barack Obama . This is an issue worth fleshing out in more detail simply because after George W. Bush the President’s plate is going to be overflowing: Iraq, Iran, the sputtering economy, global warming, the Palestine-Israeli powder keg, the declining US education position, energy management, etc, etc. The ability to do high quality delegation of tasks to Cabinet members, special leaders, and bipartisan committees – and then demand and get high quality output/results, is going to be the number one challenge facing the next President.
Barack Obama presents a change of tenor opportunity for Americans. Both Hillary and Barack follow reasonably closely in their major policies with some substantial differences in Health Care, Emigration, and How to Leave Iraq. But Barack has done two things that Hillary has either been unable to do or chosen not to. First, Barack has brought more people into the electoral process, particularly young people and disaffected voters. Second, Barack has brought demonstrated judgement into key decisions not just the Iraq war or not rushing to an economic stimulus package in the recent recessionary downturn. He has also adopted a more inclusive style of getting elected. The question is can he translate that into an effective plan for governing? His books certainly signal a strong concern about reaching a worthy plan – the question is can he effectively survive, especially over time, in the rough and tumble that is Washington. Hillary insists she has been vetted – and to an extent that is true. But her own record on Health Care reform during Bill’s years is not without some serious setbacks.
Here is an interesting observation on how the two work. On NBC’s Meet The Press, the issue of the dream ticket arose – Hillary + Obama or Obama + Hillary. The pundits all agreed the first could be a real possibility, but the latter would never work. Does this provide insights into either the Hillary or Barack Presidency ?
If you can answer the latter question – take a 5th on me.