Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Weighing in: Bill Richardson and Obama V. Clinton

Bill Richardson dropped out today. I liked him, but he didn't stand a chance in a field with 3 people considered Rock Stars by the rest of the country. And, to be fair, one of his strong points was that he was a Governor with a long resume of experience in Washington. This election race has already proven those qualifications unnecessary. His slip when asked if being a homosexual was a choice, and his answer was "I'm not a doctor" placed the final nail in his political coffin. Almost everyone recognized it was a mistake, but to beat Clinton, Obama and Edwards, he could not afford mistakes.

On to the remaining contenders:

Edwards is an interesting case. He's a great candidate, stands for all the right issues. But in at a time when simply not being a Republican is a huge positive, he has one glaring flaw: He's not the first of anything. He's not going to be the first woman, he's not going to be the first president of color.

If Edwards gets the nomination by sweeping on the 5th, I'll write about him a lot more. He's still a great candidate. But for now, he isn't going to get many bytes dedicated to his candidacy on this website. It is not personal - this blog (ie, me) doesn't support any candidate in particular. Each has their pros and cons, all of them are better than the other side's candidates, and I believe, with the exception of probably Huckabee, none of them will lose to a Republican candidate.

So without further ado, here is a brief analysis of Obama v. Clinton:

Neither one is perfect, but neither is as flawed as their die hard supports will lead you to believe. I'll start with Hillary, as she is the most hated of the group.

Hillary Clinton is outstanding politically. Outstanding. I'd say she's even better than her husband with the exception of his Obama-like Charisma. Hillary does not make mistakes. And in a world where making just a few mistakes can be the difference between success and failure, this is an amazing accomplishment. Always remember that politics is just that. Politics. Imagine you have a job that requires a skilled typist, and you find a person who can type 200 words a minute with no errors. She's less likable than the other candidates for the job, but she's still really, really good at it. Even if you like Edwards or Obama more, if she ends up being the candidate, you should still be excited, because you're getting a candidate that does not make mistakes.

For that same reason, however, she's flawed. To get political work done, you're automatically doing two things. First, you're forced to acknowledge and respond to the needs of the other side. For politics to work, you need some sort of balance. Already, Hillary loses points, because she can't be as liberal as we all wish she were. Now, whether she is genuinely liberal or not is not the issue. She can't acknowledge the need for gay marriages, whether she believes in them or not, because she can't justify that belief with Republicans. Civil Unions she can. She can't say she plans on taking all of the troops out of Iraq because she can't justify that belief with the 30% of people that still think it was a good idea. Pulling the majority of the troops out, she can. For her to keep this political advantage (by that I mean, the fact that she's better at it than everyone else) she has to keep the balance between what we want (the Democratic party) and what she can justify to the right. If you're liberal, it's hard to stomach this. If you're a Republican, just because she can justify it doesn't mean you'll care or bite - so she isn't really more liked for this by the right, and liked less by the left. But she still needs to maintain this balance to keep the advantage.

(Video posted for no reason. But give me 5 stars, okay?)

Second, the fact that she doesn't make mistakes is one of the reasons many people dislike her. She appears fake, disingenuous. Obama does not. Edwards does not. This immediately makes her less likable. I don't have much to say on this, other than I want you to remember that George Bush was elected for being likable, and we saw how that turned out. Likability is not the best criteria. Though that is not to say it isn't important. How likable she is will eventually dictate at least a little of what she will be able to get done once in office. Similarly, by not being likable, if she ever does make a mistake her popularity will drop much faster than Obama's would if he made the same mistake, because it's easier to forget negative things about people we like.

Issues about her past should, in my opinion, be taken with a grain of salt. I don't expect anyone on either side, with the exception of Giuliani, to be corrupt upon taking office. I could care less if a candidate had money in oil companies, etc., unless I thought it would affect their job as president, which in this case I don't. Bush was corrupt, Cheney - obviously. These candidates, both Democratic and Republican alike, are not those two.

And for those that actually have a problem with her sticking with her husband after Lewinsky (I'm talking to you, racist commenters that post on AOL blogs), you need to get over it. Funny that the people who have the biggest problem with it seem to be voting for Giuliani. Is it necessary to bring up the kind of crap he's pulled?

So Hillary Clinton is a great candidate. Not perfect, but incredibly skilled with the potential to do great things. Does that mean she will? Not necessarily. To use a baseball analogy, not all prospects pan out as expected, but that's no reason to give up on them before they reach the Bigs.

Now, Barack Obama also has that much potential. Let's start with responding to his strengths:

First, he's likable, charismatic, a great speaker - he gives the impression of being a leader, something many of us noticed when he spoke at the Democratic Convention in 2004. Whatever people say about his abilities because of his short time in office is bunk. Obama knows what he's doing. He's not as polished as Hillary, no, but again, it's hard to be. Still, his likability allows most of us to ignore his mistakes, and so he is at far less risk of unexpectedly dropping in popularity because of a speech blunder.

Similarly, the guy is good. Very good. Politics often takes some degree of manipulation - not for a vindictive reason, but because it's necessary to sway people to your side. Obama doesn't need that manipulation. He's believable. He explains his points clearly and wins over his opponents simply because they can see the truth in his words. And he's liberal, inarguably. So that's a plus.

As for his flaws - they, too, are questionable. Not enough experience? Please. Experience seems to have a fairly low correlation with abilities. If any of you have worked for a boss, chances are you know this to be true. Cheney had a lot of experience. 'Nuff said.

On the flipside, he does make mistakes, and he lacks some of the clout of Clinton. But again, he has the charisma and the knowledge to get better. While there are no guarantees he can make this adjustment, he's shown no reason to believe he doesn't have the ability. Consider where he has come in 2 years. Part of politics is getting public support, and there is no question that Barack Obama can garner more public support than any of the other current presidential candidates.

That makes him an incredible force.

So, in my opinion, the question comes down to one thing: Who can win? And the answer is: Both of them. The Republican candidates suck. They're really, really bad. They're the "Dude Where's My Car" of Presidential politics. The only exception would be Huckabee vs. Clinton. In that one instance, I think Huckabee would be difficult to beat. Otherwise, they're both going to beat any other candidate the Republicans have to offer (especially with Wesley Clark as Vice President, yeah?) . True, Clinton is HATED by Republicans. For a lot of people, they worry that she will lose because there will be a high Republican turn out just to defeat her. I have three responses to this: First, I think she's a strong enough candidate that she'll still win. Second, don't forget that Obama's best demographic is young voters - and I'm not convinced they're going to be running the polls any differently than any other year. Finally, I don't know about you, but I personally like something more when it pisses off Republicans.

Once more, however, if you are a woman, voting for Hillary Clinton because she is also a woman is a bad idea. Similarly, voting for Obama because he is black is equally bad. Remember, NeoConservatives vote for their candidates based on their religion. Let's not be like them.

You can, however, be excited that those two candidates will be the first of something. The first black president OR the first woman. That's exciting. But if you vote for Hillary because she's female, you're basically saying: "I'm not voting for Obama because I'm not black, I'm female." You are WELCOME to like her, and you may even like her because she is female, but that should not be WHY you're voting for her. Same goes for Barack.

So they can both win, and they are both great candidates. So who should you vote for?

Well... Both of them. If you have opinions one way or the other, I encourage you to make your pick at the primaries. There is nothing wrong with a preference for a candidate, and if you have one, I hope you vote for them in the Primary in your state. But be happy you have these candidates to choose from and be excited even if the candidate you'd prefer does not end up as the Democratic pick. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are phenomenal candidates, and though you may like one over the others, I'd take those three over Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani any day.

Go Democrats, 2008.


pdb said...

I want to like Hillary Clinton, I really do. But when I look at Hillary Clinton, I see the kind of naked political manipulation that I would detest in an old white male, and it bothers me.

I get the sense, when I watch Clinton campaign, that she will do anything, say anything, or promise anything to get elected. Sure, this isn't different from every other politician, but Hillary's posturing is so obvious as to make me uncomfortable. She can't sell it like her husband could.

The reason that scares me is, in a twisted way, the same reason that Bush (I and II) and Reagan scared me - if she's elected, I don't think Hillary will make a major move without relying on (not just getting, but relying on) endless input from her advisors, especially in a first term when she'd be theoretically starting a run for a second term. Which makes her only as good as (and completely subject to the whims of) the people that surround her who give her opinions.

What I'm not sure of, though, is how different Obama would be - but I definitely get the sense from Obama that he's a strong enough personality, when faced with a major decision, to get some input, but then step in and say "This is my decision and here it is".

With Hillary my feeling is she would get counsel, think it over, and then say "This is my decision unless you advisors think this will hurt me politically in 2012".

I don't know if that's right or wrong, but that's the vibe she gives off, and it makes me a little nervous.

Librocrat said...

I get that from a lot of people. And I don't see anything wrong with feeling that way.

Really, my point is that what you state above is a good reason to hope that Obama (or Edwards, or Gravel for that matter) get the nomination, but that if for some reason they don't, you should still be excited for Hillary (or whoever else is nominated). No matter who you support or how you feel about candidate X, there is really no downside. There is only a less positive upside. It's one of the reasons I won't pick a candidate - I can't see myself disenchanted by anyone we pick, so I choose to let people with stronger opinions (like yourself) pick my candidate for me.

So I suppose what I'm saying to you is that feel free and not want Hillary Clinton as the nominee. You'll hear no argument from me. But if she becomes the nominee, you should still be excited for the election because she's not a bad option. She just may not be as good as the others.

pdb said...

Absolutely - I'll be 100% behind whoever gets the Democratic nomination, I just had thought that we as a society were trying to move past blatant craven vote-grabbing...and this sets up the dream scenario where Hillary makes Bill VP, then steps down. hahaha.

Librocrat said...

God I miss him.