clinton / obama could clean up the bush mess

Posted on February 1, 2008

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“It did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush,” Senator Hillary Clinton quipped, in what must had been the highlight of tonight’s Democratic debate between her and Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

They were the only two left standing after John Edwards wisely concluded that he had no hope and dropped out of the Democratic presidential contest two days ago.

So should we go for inspiration or a sure hand at the wheel?

The striking sense one took away from the debate was how eerily similar the two candidates were in their views and positions, despite how hard they tried to draw distinctions between each other.

Sure, they came up with differences on Iraq and universal health care plans but ultimately, they are both tax-and-spend liberals who have more in common than they would like to admit.

In contrast to the earlier debates, both were cordial to each other at this one. There were the soft smiles, the almost-embrace after the debate ended and the mutual compliments generously sprinkled throughout the debate.

(New York Times photo)

But you could also say both were bland and cautious in their approaches, stepping back from the heated sniping of the last debate in South Carolina where sparks flew as both traded accusations about their past.

So while the Republican hopefuls, especially John McCain and Mitt Romney, went at each other in the debate the night before, Clinton and Obama were the epitome of congeniality.

No doubt their handlers had cautioned them that the voting public is too sensitive to handle the shock of seeing candidates getting feisty, so please play nice.

Not that they could really fool anyone.

Both put up acts of civility that were worthy of the venue where the debate was staged – after all, Kodak Theater in Los Angeles is the home of the Academy Awards ceremony every year.

So both presidential hopefuls tried to stick to policy instead.

But look beneath the surface of comradeship and bantering and you would detect the tension that still exists between both candidates.

“Well, actually, I co-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform in 2004, before Barack came to the Senate,” she argued.

“The only point I would make is, Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political,” he sniped back at her. Politely, of course.

Which boils down to this question – as the economy heads towards a meltdown, the Iraq war drags on without success, soldiers get demoralized and more suicidal, the Middle East remains inextricable and Pakistan could still flare up – would you rather have inspirational leadership or a commander-in-chief whose priority is problem-solving?

“You have to, as voters, determine who you think can be the best president, to tackle all those problems on Day One, waiting in the Oval Office, who can be the best nominee for the Democratic Party to be able to withstand whatever they decide to do on the other side of the aisle, and come out victorious.” Clinton insisted.

“We are bringing in a whole generation of new voters, which I think is exciting,” Obama declared. “And part of the task, I believe, of leadership is the hard nuts-and-bolts of getting legislation passed and managing the bureaucracy. But part of it is also being able to call on the American people to reach higher.”

During a night when bad cop Bill was conspicuous for his absence, Hillary came across as knowledgeable, confident and totally in control of the details. Perhaps she should rein her husband in more and show that she can win the nomination and the presidency by herself.

Obama, who is usually full of rhetoric but short on details, did not do too badly either. His supporters would undoubtedly be pleased with his performance tonight.

But it was clear that when it came to a grasp of details and policy plans, Clinton was not only a woman with the plans, she was also specific, well-versed and articulate, even presidential, in her pitch, such as for universal health care.

Now, if only both Clinton and Obama would put aside their rancor and run together on a Clinton/ Obama ticket.

It makes perfect sense – the dream combination of experience and inspiration. Together they would be able to blunt McCain’s advantage with independents, sweep the female, black and latino votes in the general election.

Let’s hope that ticket will be a reality.

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