Daily Archives: January 31, 2008

The January 31st Democratic Debate

After playing some pool, I went back upstairs to watch the Democratic debate, the first one featuring just Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. On my way back to my room, I saw that there were a lot of people in the common area watching the debate on television. I decided to watch it with them, a diverse group of college students, both men and women.

Every time Clinton was talking, the room erupted into conversation. She would begin speaking, and then start rambling. We would then start chattering with people next to us. She could not keep our interest. Was it a case of our pre-decided dislike of Clinton, or was it that she failed to communicate with those college students sitting there?

By itself, this would not be that important. College students not paying attention to political conversation is not very surprising. Yet when Obama spoke, the room was quieter. And even if the people didn’t agree with everything he said, they were listening. The contrast was startling.

Now I return to that question. Was it Clinton, or was it us?

Contrast Clinton and Obama on how one brings about health care reform. Clinton talked about a coalition of business, labor, and doctors. Obama wanted to enlist the American people.

It wasn’t us.

Clinton only cares about the American people insofar as getting their vote. Obama wants to bring the people back into the process; he wants to restore faith in government. What a wonderfully radical idea. Obama wins because he wants to communicate with us.

Maybe Clinton held her own in the eyes of the pundits. I tried listening over the din of conversation. She said some effective things. But in that room — in that room full of young people — she lost.

Clinton’s performance was worst when she talked about Iraq. Every time a catfight broke out in a previous debate, I kept waiting for Obama to play the trump card. Clinton voted for the war, and she refuses to call it a mistake. Today, he finally hammered that point and hammered it hard.

Her vote for the war is a sign of a serious lack of judgment. Now, everyone makes mistakes. But on an issue so large and so important, and when the time constraints aren’t debilitating, one should not make that mistake. Moreover, she was privy to more intelligence information than others were. She had the opportunity to grill the generals. She (and other Democrats) were given a position of responsibility, and they failed to live up to that responsibility. Clinton made an egregious error.

Her inability to call it an error, though, is an even more damning argument against her candidacy. It reveals the inner workings of her mind. She says if she knew what she knows now, she would not have made the same vote. That tells us that she thinks the mistake was in the information she received, not in her judgment. However, Obama had the same information — no, even less — and he came to the right conclusion. On the stage, Obama articulated the position well. The United States has limited resources and cannot afford preemptive warfare. The war in Iraq has distracted us Afghanistan and strengthened al Qaeda. The information was out there. The ability to make the right decision on Iraq was out there. Clinton did not make the right decision. It was a result of faulty judgment. Furthermore, she does not recognize that she made an error. She makes the excuse that no one thought Bush was so obsessed with war, but she should have realized the disastrous consequences of such a war. She should not have authorized military force in that form. In this instance, she cannot blame Bush; she can only blame herself. That she doesn’t says her judgment is still faulty.

If you want change, don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. She will bring this same faulty judgment to the White House. That she voted for the war in Iraq is damning enough, but that she refuses to recognize it as a mistake disqualifies her for the presidency.