Sunday, February 3, 2008

Clinton or Obama: More

It is early Sunday morning in California. I have had discussions with family members from Missouri, Colorado and California. All of them are supporting Obama. Their reasons have nothing to do with policies or positions on issues. Their concerns about Clinton run more to history and her style, variables over which she has little control. Her past experience (Senate) and experiences (spouse of Bill Clinton) are part of who she is today and who she will be tomorrow. Her work in the Senate has been impressive; she has served New York and the country well. She works hard and has been effective working across the aisle. All this would serve her and us well. However, she is also Bill Clinton's spouse. The more active he is in her campaign, the more important that fact becomes. I do not believe that she would be controlled or even unduly influenced by him. She is quite strong and able to make her own way, as she clearly has in the Senate.

The problem, I think, is that his presence recalls his history and people's reaction, especially Democrats' reactions. First, as my sister pointed out, she is angry at Bill Clinton for having wasted an opportunity to make significant changes in our country because of his personal moral choices and the ensuing debacle. That alone would make anyone angry. Hilary cannot change that association or history. She is caught in a situation, not of her own making. Further there is nothing she can do about it. Dumping Bill in any way would not actually change anything.

Second, as my daughter in law in California, pointed out. Clinton would not be able to attract thebest and brightest in the Democrat constituency because of anger about Bill. They still smart from how they were misled, how they believed and supported Bill even as he was lying and manipulating them. This breach of trust has not been healed and seems likely not be healed. The quality of a presidency is due in large part of the quality of those the president can attract to serve in the administration. We have been ill served by the ideological litmus tests of the current administration. We would be further ill served by the failure to attract the very best talent possible. I think this anger and resentment lies behind the endorsements by Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Obama, on the other hand, would be more likely to attract the brightest and the best in a campaign to change the government and its relationship to its people.

I believe the above is true. Perhaps that is why I began by leaning toward Richardson and then a bit to Edwards. I had a sense that Clinton might not be the strongest candidate. For some reason, however, I never moved toward Obama even after it became clear that Richardson and Edwards were non-factors. The truth is I have a hard time trusting Obama. For me, he is not charismatic. Perhaps I distrust charisma as a basis for choice. But without any clear policy differences, it is reasonable, albeit uncomfortable, for me to make a choice based on style, history, charisma, and the ever slippery political calculation about who would win against likely Republican candidates. It is ironic that in a race where many say we should have politics as usual the final choice becomes essentially a political choice rather than one about policies and positions.

My brother and sister are convinced that Clinton would lose to McCain who they believe will be the Republican nominee. I do not share their certainty but do share their concern.

So with my decision due by the end of the day, I am now leaning toward Obama. I am not ecstatic about it and find a troubling lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. Perhaps that is a function of my frustration of finally having to apply political considerations to arrive at my final decision.

More later.

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