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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The Clinton-Obama conundrum

    The field for the Democratic presidential nomination, already loaded with big-name talent and star power in Barack Obama and John Edwards, just got a lot more crowded.

    On Saturday, the 200-pound gorilla entered the room: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the favorite to take the Democratic nomination, declared her candidacy.

    Let’s get the historical importance of this announcement out of the way: Never before in American history have the two front runners for a party’s presidential nomination been a woman and a black man.

    Both are hugely viable presidential candidates. And both offer Democratic primary voters something of a conundrum.

    Obama is eloquent, exciting, telegenic, relaxed, and focused. He has sex appeal; he has no experience.

    Hillary has experience. She is disciplined, well-known, determined, and smart. She has a presidential resumǸ; she has a lot of baggage.

    Obama, the offspring of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, has a compelling personal story of achievement over adversity. He was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. He is a man of letters, penning excellent and thoughtful books. His most recent, “”The Audacity of Hope,”” is still number one on the New York Times hardcover non-fiction bestsellers list.

    Hillary is politically savvy. During her 2000 run for a New York senate seat, many Democrats close to her doubted she could win. But she ran a well-financed, businesslike campaign. In her 2006 senatorial reelection, no serious Republican contender dared challenge her, and she coasted to victory with 67 percent of the vote.

    She has developed a reputation in the Senate for being prepared and well-informed. She has co-sponsored legislation with Republican colleagues and has staked out her ground as a centrist Democrat despite her liberal predilections.

    Sure enough, Obama’s voting record is more liberal than Hillary’s. But he is also comfortable quoting from The Bible, calling his gradual embrace of organized religion “”a choice, not an epiphany.”” Obama consistently infuses his words with religious imagery, not out of political expediency, but rather, a deep reverence for how spirituality has shaped this world.

    In an interview with Men’s Vogue, he contends, “”Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.

    “”So to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public-policy debates is a practical absurdity.””

    Hillary also has the baggage that comes with her marriage to former president Bill Clinton and his late ’90s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Despite near-universal name recognition, Hillary only commands the support of some 40 percent of American voters. Some can’t forgive her liberalism. Others can’t forgive her refusal to divorce a philandering husband.

    Some liberals can’t even forgive her willingness to reach out to Republicans.

    For the next few months, the Democratic field for the highest office will be dominated by the interplay between these two fascinating candidates. Obama will offer the nation something alluring and exotic in his repudiation of the middle-aged white-guy presidential standard. Clinton will offer the nation something less alluring and exotic by “”only”” being a white woman, but what she lacks in intrigue, she makes up with substance.

    The policy prerogatives of both candidates will be critical. Right now, they are making the same noises: energy independence, solving the Iraq debacle, restoring American credibility abroad, and so on.

    Having only been in the Senate for two years, Obama has the blessing and curse of not touching the big issues facing America today. On global warming, he recently introduced legislation to push for subsidization of coal-to-liquid fuels conversion – worrisome because coal-based fuels burn dirtier than conventional petrol.

    His policy prescriptions for social security reform, the war in Iraq, tax reform and education are less than familiar.

    Hillary has the experience, but she also has a Senate voting record. Lest we forget: Hillary did vote to authorize the Iraq War in 2003.

    A conundrum it is. And it very well may allow a dark-horse candidate to surprise everyone. Al Gore, anyone?

    Matt Stone is a senior majoring in international studies and economics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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