In the early days/weeks/months of this primary season, I often said that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would be good presidents, and I would vote for whichever one won the nomination. While this is still true, my opinion of Mrs. Clinton has gone way downhill as a result of the campaign she has waged. In her zeal to be the nominee (and ultimately, the President) Mrs. Clinton has increasingly waged a dirty campaign against Mr. Obama, most recently painting him as an elitist and no friend of the fabled white, blue-collar working class of America. Big Dog Bill has shown on the campaign trail what a jerk he really is, and Hillary's use of innuendo to malign and undermine Mr. Obama and his wife is striking in its nastiness. How ironic that these now upper-class multi-millionaires can get by as working class posers.
There has always been something about Hillary that has bothered me (no, it's not latent sexism on my part), which has been difficult for me to put a finger on. I think it is her political ambition which, based on the campaign she's waged, seems to have no bounds and appears to be more important than the good of the country. Clinton and Obama are both politicians, of course, and each is driven by ambition. But in a recent column, Joe Conason made a statement that had me enthusiastically nodding my head in agreement: "The historic prize [a black president] is almost within the grasp of one of the most talented politicians America has ever seen." I tend to see Hillary Clinton as an old-style politician, and I dread another Clinton administration - yes, including having Bill in the White House again as First Husband and Meddler-in-Chief.
Barack Obama is from a younger generation, and I believe he has a very different political and world view than Hillary Clinton. Is he a miracle worker? No. Anyone who gets the job can only do as much as the system will allow him or her to do. But I'm willing to give Obama a chance, and hope that he will be able to move this country forward. I'm convinced that another Clinton presidency will only be more of the same old business-as-usual.
Obama's speech on racism, by the way, was for me one of the most important political speeches in our nation's history. If you've only heard the sound bytes, you're doing yourself a great disservice, and you should find the speech in its entirity on You Tube and watch it. Obama wrote the speech, and felt that it was important enough to say, no matter what his "handlers" urged. This is the kind of person I want as president. Obama is a person who does not run away from and try to cover up controversy; he has repeatedly addressed it head-on and honestly.
The New York Times columnist Frank Rich has a very important must-read column about race in politics this season. He clearly points out the free pass given to John McCain by the press by which the men of faith tied to the presumptive Republican nominee get no air time, while the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is the focus of a media blitz. The Revs. Hagee, Falwell and Robertson, all with ties to McCain, have made outrageous public pronouncements about such things as the reasons for 9/11 (to punish abortionists, feminists, gays and A.C.L.U. lawyers) and Hurricane Katrina (god punishing New Orleans for its sins, specifically a planned gay rights parade), and bashing the Roman Church as "the Great Whore" that drinks Jewish blood. But this double standard, Rich points out, goes beyond the media to the Republican Party itself that has not a single African-American among its 247 elected senators and representatives.
Rich points out that the U.S. Census Bureau data shows that white people will be a minority in the U.S.A. within three or four decades, the result of a surging Latino population. I think that this is the subliminal fear within the white working class that the Clintons are trying to tap in to, using "elitism" as a code word for racism.
Barack Obama, in my opinion, is our best hope, if there is any, for rescuing America. The eight years of Cheney-Bush have wrought tremendous harm to America internally and world-wide (read the excellent column by Tom Friedman in todays NY Times about the decline of America). By taking on racism openly and bluntly, Obama has demonstrated what kind of leader he will be - and we in the U.S.A. are in desperate need of leadership in a very different world than the political world view of the Clintons.
It's unfortunate, in a way, that the Democratic Party nomination process has gone on so long with no apparent winner. The real battle has not yet begun - McCain vs. Whoever - which is a proxy for regression vs. progress. The United States is a post-industrial nation in a world becoming increasing dominated by new powers (China, India, Brazil, Venezuela - to name a few) that we have too long ignored. Barack Obama is the only candidate left standing who has the world view, balanced thinking, intellect and understanding of reality to change the course of this country in an attempt to keep us relevant in a new world.
[note to readers: unfortunately, my links to New York Times columns won't open for you unless you have an account with the Times - sorry about that]