A Baker’s Dozen Reasons Why Obama is Best
[This post compares Obama to Hillary Clinton as of February 2008. For an updated (10-08) comparison of Obama to McCain, click here.]1. Obama can keep us safe. He understands foreign cultures, and he can think “outside the box.” As Vietnam and Iraq both proved, domestic-style “triangulation” spells defeat in war.
2. Obama has good judgment. On the last decade’s most important issues—health care, Iraq, Iran, and Al Qaeda in Pakistan—Obama was right and Hillary was wrong. Good intentions and noble effort—even over “35 years”—are not enough.
3. Obama can win. Super Tuesday proved what we already knew. Obama appeals to independents, nonaligned voters, and moderate Republicans. Conservatives respect him for his consistency on issues, his understanding of economics, and his political courage. Hillary appeals only to our Democratic “base.”
4. Obama will build a new Democratic majority. FDR created a Democratic majority for two generations. He did so by finding an alternative—regulated free markets—to the false choice between the laissez faire capitalism of the Gilded Age and the socialism/Communism then threatening to engulf the world. Barack Obama provides an alternative to our sterile discord between right and left dating back to the 1960s. The country hungers for a new direction.
5. Obama understands economics. Paul Krugman notwithstanding, no government edict ever solved a real economic problem. That’s the lesson learned from Nixon’s and Carter’s failed price controls, the failure of welfare until Bill fixed it, and the universal failure of Communism in the last century. As FDR proved, the way to fix problems in a free market is to understand how free markets work and then make small, intelligent adjustments. Passing a law to mandate an economic result went out with the Soviet Union. Obama understands this; Hillary does not.
6. Obama is smarter than Hillary. He predicted the precise consequences of our invading Iraq. He said that “an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda.” He also identified Al Qaeda in Pakistan as our single most dangerous foreign threat. Hillary did neither. Obama made a health-care proposal that will solve our most pressing problem (millions of people who can’t get or can’t afford insurance) with the least political resistance. Hillary proposed solving a non-problem (forcing people who don’t want insurance to take it) in a way that will create strong political headwinds.
7. Only Obama offers real change. His foreign policy will elevate dialogue and cooperation over reflexive unilateral use of American power. His domestic policy will focus on understanding and adjusting the free market, not trying to command it as King Canute tried to command the tides. He will put the sterile debate between neoconservatives and sixties liberals behind us. Yet in all things he holds dear our most fundamental liberal values: civil rights, respect for individuals, diversity, pluralism, and freedom of choice. You can agree or disagree with his new directions, but you can’t truthfully deny that he is the only harbinger of real change.
8. Obama promises open and transparent government. The dirty secret of our age is that our own Executive Branch has become far too powerful and secretive. Obama has promised to conduct health-care negotiations on C-SPAN. Hillary conceived her failed 1993 health-care proposals in secret. More than once, she has suggested that foreign policy discussions should be left to experts in secret. If you want to see the Internet and other electronic media used to open up and build democracy, Obama is your choice.
9. Obama will stop the “culture wars.” He will do so with new policies and just by being who he is. He has the gifts of perspective and genuine empathy. Hillary does not. Hillary would exacerbate the culture wars because she is a Clinton and because she carries all the Boomers’ excess baggage.
10. Obama will promote unity and equal opportunity. Hillary and Bill risked inflaming racial discord just to win the primaries. They are not racists. But for their own ambitions they put at risk the Democrats’ half-century wager on racial harmony. In contrast, Obama personifies racial harmony just by being who he is. He is half black and half white, and he rarely mentions race unless asked. His person and his politics are where we want to be.
11. Obama has virtue. Hillary does not. Running against an honorable, plain-speaking, politically and physically courageous war hero like John McCain, Hillary will lose, and rightly so. Obama has a chance to beat McCain because he also has virtue. He’s honest, thoughtful, wise, understated, politically courageous, and focused on real issues. If Obama and McCain are the two parties’ candidates, we will have the cleanest, most substantive and most uplifting general election campaign in half a century. That alone will help heal our wounds.
12. Obama represents the future, not the past. He personifies human dignity, equal opportunity, openness, transparency, and globalism. Like it or not, these things are here to stay. Hillary personifies the last century’s left-right divisions, domestic parochialism, and culture wars.
13. Obama has youth and energy. Huge, pluralistic countries don’t do well under aging leadership. Russia and China have cast off their aging bureaucrats. They now have young, brilliant, dynamic leaders capable of solving the enormous problems of big, complex, multi-ethnic states in a globalizing twenty-first century. We, too, need a young, brilliant, dynamic leader, or we might be left behind.