With the race for the Democratic nomination a virtual tie, Democratic voters need to think long and hard about who they want to be their nominee in the 2008 presidential election. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is both better qualified and better positioned than her Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), to be president of the United States.
Obama says that he is running for president now because he has not yet been tainted by the politics of Washington. He criticizes Clinton as a Washington insider, arguing that somehow her knowledge of the inner workings of U.S. politics will impede her capacity to be President. Now, we all know Washington is no Utopia; the city is rife with corruption, scandals and partisan politics predominantly run by lobbyists. And although governors, who serve as executives of state governments, can claim that their experience outside of Washington will serve as an asset for the presidency, I find it hard to believe that Obama will be able to reform Washington with just his state senate experience.
Clinton’s experience in Washington is her strongest asset. She knows the ins and outs of Washington and knows how to reach across the aisle to get legislation passed. As First Lady she worked with Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Her work in the Senate to provide federal aid to New York after September 11, 2001 earned her praise from five-term Senator John Warner (R-Va.). And her ability to jumpstart the economy of upstate New York by promoting investment led to her Senate re-election with 69 percent of the vote.
The candidates’ stump speeches reveal which one focuses on style, and which focuses on substance. When Clinton speaks, she breaks down her policies: how she will fund universal healthcare, how she will withdraw troops from Iraq and how she will rejuvenate the economy. Obama, meanwhile, likes to indirectly compare himself to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., throwing around works like “hope” and “change” while hardly addressing his policies. Obama leaves out the details because they are shoddy at best. Take his “universal” healthcare plan, for instance. Not only is Obama’s healthcare plan not universal, leaving about 15 million people uninsured, but according to the acclaimed economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Obama’s plan will cost nearly twice as much as Clinton’s for every newly insured person.
My main argument, however, is not about experience, but electability. Simply put, if Barack Obama becomes the Democrat nominee, the Democrats will likely lose the election in November. The Republicans know that Hillary Clinton is their most formidable opponent, and they rejoice in the fact that she is exhausting her resources in a primary battle. The Republicans are cautious not to speak negatively of Barack Obama, as he is their candidate of choice for the Democratic nomination. The same kind of politics took place during the 2004 Democratic primaries. The charming, Southern senator from North Carolina was pounced on time and time again by the Republican establishment, while the liberal senator from Massachusetts, who put people to sleep with his stump speeches, was able to move up the Democratic ranks.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, Barack Obama has skeletons in his closet, as all politicians do, and just because the media has not taken the time to focus on them does not mean that the Republicans will not either. His voting record will be taken apart and inconsistencies will be put on display (he recently told a crowd in Idaho that he supports the Second Amendment, even though he supported a complete ban on hand guns when running for State Senate in Illinois). His dealings with the Exelon Corporation, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, rival Vice-President Cheney’s relationship with Halliburton. When these issues are combined with the fact that Obama has never faced a credible Republican opponent or the Republican attack machine, his current poll numbers seem increasingly less likely to hold up after the Republicans get going. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has withstood GOP attacks for the last 15 years. Those attacks are already factored into her ratings, where she remains competitive against the likely Republican nominee Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).
When all is said and done, Democrats need a nominee who can win a national election and who can tackle the country’s toughest challenges. Come November 2008, we need to elect a president who can put the country back on track and who will unite the country through her actions and not just her rhetoric. America is ready for change, and Hillary Clinton is ready to lead.