Before anyone goes labelling me, let me say that I have yet to make up my mind who to vote for in the California Democratic primary. To clarify my own thoughts, I am going to attempt to reason out aloud –
It is pretty clear to me that on the substantative issues, the agendas the three front-runners have laid out are more or less the same. After the awful presidency of GWB, I think we can safely say that a President from the Democratic party will be more intelligent, less inclined to go off half-cocked to war and more concerned about the well-being of the common man.
That being said, here are the criteria on which I am going to rate Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
Hillary Clinton: Much has been said( by herself) on HRC’s “35” years of experience. I am inclined to take this with a pinch of salt. She has perhaps 35 years of experience being in the political arena, just like anyone who starts off young involved in local politics, but by no means can this translate into legislative or presidential experience. Her perosnal legislative experience is only her term as a senator from 2000. Does being First Lady of first Arkansas and then the country count? I wish I could go and presume to compete for my husband’s job based on having been his wife for 17 years. ( would make a nice chunk of change, sigh!)
Barack Obama: Obama has been senator since 2005 and state senator since 1999 before that. He actually has more years of legislative experience that HRC!
John Edwards: State Senator from 1998 to 2004. Also has ( in my mind) the important experience of running for President before and hopefuly will have learnt from the mistakes of the Kerry campaign.
Information from Project Vote Smart.
Hillary Clinton: An argument can be made that Bill Clinton has accrued a great deal of goodwill in the world and leaders of foreign governments will be happy to have his ear once more. But is that really reflective of HRC’s own capabilities? Her vote for the Iraq war and her vote for a resolution urging the Bush administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization cannot have made her many friends.
In the Senate, Clinton has been involved in foreign policy issues through her assignment to the Senate Armed Services Committee and her significant involvement with Homeland Security issues.
Barack Obama: As Obamapedia puts it ( yes, there is really such a thing!) -Obama service on the Foreign Relations committee has placed him in an unique position in that he is the Chair of the Subcommittee on European Relations and serves on the Subcommittees on African Affairs; East Asia and Pacific Affairs; and International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.
He has also travelled extensively and has co-sponsored the “Lugar-Obama Act” with Republican Senator Richard Lugar who was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations at the time. This act was a bi-partisan effort to increase U.S. security in terms of the elimination of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction.
John Edwards: Former Senator Edwards has travelled extensively and has already had his policy credentials scrutinised a couple of times before. In the Senate, Edwards served on the Select Committee on Intelligence. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Hillary Clinton: Politiko argues that while he thinks Senator Obama would make a better president, Senator Clinton is better at playing the campaign game against ‘dose nasty Republicans’ and therefore, in the interests of ensuring a Democrat in the White House, one should vote for her. This argument has been doing the rounds ever since her candidacy was announced, in one form or the other. One thing I can be certain of is that unlike Gore, Hillary will not roll over if the results are close or controversial. She will fight tooth and nail and take the case to every single court she can until she can be declared a winner. She knows this is probably her last and best shot at the Presidency.
She also has tremendous grassroot support from middle and low-income families. She can also mobilise the vote verywell. But I find her a polarizing figure among all other constituencies. I doubt if she can swing the independent votes, which are sure to go to John McCAin if he wins the Republican nomination or the youth vote, many of whom will be disgusted enough to stay at home and vote for nobody.
Barack Obama: Regardless of all our pretty speeches about race equality, I am sure there will be many Americans who will be put off at the thought of an African American as president, even if his black roots are pretty shallow. Still, he enjoys tremendous support from the young, independents and even some Republicans and if he wins the nomination, there will be many people who will come out to take part in this historic moment. Imagine what a statement that would make about America to the rest of the world. I foresee a groundswell of support, even from people who were ardent Hillary supporters before.
John Edwards: Even though JE voted for the war originally, his repudiation of it later, his tireless efforts towards poverty alleviation and his anti-lobby speeches make him an every-man who would be popular among Democrats come election day. I find him passionate, forceful and willing to poke fun at himself, even though his recent poor primary performances seem to ahve drained him out. If he survives South Carolina , he has a real chance.
Trust and integrity: This is the biggie which is deflecting my vote away from HRC. I just don’t trust her. Her back-pedaling on the war( I much prefer Edward’s approach of admitting it was a mistake..he is a bigger man for it), her flip-flop on immigration, her veering to the left on globalisation after having been a strident free trade supporter, all point to a politician whose positions change with the mood of the public. Nothing bad in evolving to newer positions, we now know what it is like to have a president who does not like to change his mind no matter what evidence he gets, but it is hard to figure out what she stands for. I also don’t trust that she will tell us the truth when it is unpalatable or acknowledge her mistakes.
Barack has not earned my trust or lost it. He seems like an intelligent and earnest person, thoughtful and incisive. His poor performance in debates is a point in his favor in my books because it has been my experience that people who think deeply are often poor speakers because their speech is not in sync with their mind. He is inspiring and can command a youthful audience, good qualities if this country is to get out from the mess it is in.
John Edwards, as I mentioned before, scores big points for admitting that his vote about Iraq was a mistake. I am a little more concerned over his approach to free trade and his strident and aggressive support for unionization is a little disturbing. But overall my perception of him is that of a trustworthy man. He has real concern for the poor in the country and we need a president who has a clear vision for improving the standard of living of every American.
In the end I am torn between Edwards and Obama and will vote for one of them on Feb 5. If Hillary wins the nomination, I will go out in November and vote for her, but my vote will be tinged with regret.
It is sad that we have to define somebody by their religion. Even so, the rumour that Obama is a Muslim smacks of Rovian smear tactics by his opponents. To reassure you about Obama’s faith here is a link to a piece by conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan
It is a long article and here is a relevant excerpt for those who question his religious credentials –
“One Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called “The Audacity of Hope.” And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, he would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.’
As a non-christian myself, I find it amazing that people could have such antipathy towards others based solely on their religion without considering the form that religion has taken in them. There are evangelical Christians who are quite okay with bombing a country even though this goes completely against the loving and forgiving principles of their religion, there are Muslims who grieve deeply over the foolishness of the extremist factions of their religion.
Let us try and see the man for who he is and the causes he espouses..let’s try to have a little hope.
If you are optimizing a multivariate problem here, let me throw another variable in the hopper. What about involvement with the ethnic Indian community? HRC has been on the India caucus. BOB has had no contact with desis and refers to her as the ‘Senator from Punjab’. While this may be a reflection of desi community’s support of HRC, name calling for her association with an ethnic community doesn’t sit well with me. Ofcourse WJC wasn’t any better when he played the race card in SC, which I am sure was with HRC’s consent. Being a desi and putting my self-centered hat on, I wonder if HRC comes out ahead in this comparison?