Looking more closely at Clinton and Obama….or not

In the case of Hillary, it should be easy to examine her history and records. Apparently not.

Hillary Clinton is running for President based in large
part on her experience, especially her eight years as first lady. So it
is revealing that she and her husband don’t want the media and others
to have ready access to the records that might tell us a good deal more
about that 1990s “experience.”

We’re referring to the controversy over records at the William J.
Clinton Presidential Library, which opened in 2004. At the time, Mrs.
Clinton promised that “everything’s going to be available.” More than
three years later, the library that is partly funded by taxpayers has
released less than 1% of its records, and the withheld documents
include two million pages covering Mrs. Clinton’s White House tenure.

What do they have to hide?

The Clinton White House records may well contain
information that would give voters insight into both her political
philosophy and character.

They could relate to her role (if any) in such scandals as
Travelgate and the Marc Rich pardon, plus policy disputes over health
care, welfare reform, and Social Security. The gadfly litigation
outfit, Judicial Watch, has been filing FOIA requests and recently
pried out a few documents related to Mrs. Clinton’s 1993 health-care
task force.

One memo, from a participant with the initials “P.S.,” reads: “I can
think of parallels in wartime, but I have trouble coming up with a
precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized
control over a sector of the economy . . . Is the public really ready
for this? . . . none of us knows whether we can make it work well or at
all . . .” This is all relevant today given that health care is again
her signature domestic policy.

Does the public really understand what we need to be ready for in a(nother) Clinton administration?

And, do people who back Sen. Barack Obama really care to know? Honestly, no.

Many of the voters and pundits who were thrilled by
Obama’s compelling Iowa speech…remain intoxicated, heady with the hope
that he can deliver not just “change” — any candidate running would do
that — but a categorically different kind of change from Clinton or the
Republican candidates. So what explains the magic?

The most obvious explanation is Obama’s stirring oratory, with its
notes of generational change and unity. The key to his seduction,
though, resides not just in what he says but in what remains unsaid.

This is a prevailing sentiment about Sen. Obama, and it’s only growing.

Obama’s allure differs from the infatuations of past
election cycles because it can’t be traced to what he has done or will
do. In his legislative career, Obama has produced few concrete policy
changes, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a rank-and-file fan who can
cite one. Not since 1896 — when another rousing speechmaker, William
Jennings Bryan, sought the White House — has the zeal for a candidate
corresponded so little to a record of hard accomplishment. But merely
asking if Obama has done enough for us to expect he’d be a good
president misses the point, because that measures the past rather than
imagining the future.

Imagining the future is the fuel that propels his campaign so powerfully forward.

Inspiring and exhilarating as it is, Obamamania allows us to sidestep the hardest challenges, at least for now.

And Americans who follow him are giving that kind of break to no one else. Nor are the media. NBC’s Brian Williams used his blog to defend a fellow NBC reporter’s remarks about the allure of covering Obama.

During my day with the Obama campaign, I took Lee Cowan
aside for a brief interview. Lee covers Obama for us, and we’re lucky
to have him on our roster… he is one of the very best in the business.
In the interview, which you can see right here, Lee admits “…it’s
almost hard to remain objective…” Lee was talking about the swirl of
excitement that has hit the Obama campaign after Iowa — the crowds, the
hoopla — all of it.

His rallies are a phenomenon, easy enough to pick up just in
watching them on tv. He really is, as Peggy Noonan put it in a WSJ
column, “classy” with “an unruffled manner and an appeal on the stump”
that makes everyone believe that everything he says is possible.

But what he says is large and sweeping and inspiring….rhetoric. When
all the balloons fall and the dust clears and the business is at hand
and the war looms, then what?

At one point, some of the media were talking about that.

On the premier issue of the day, the war in Iraq, Obama has called for a gradual withdrawal of American troops.

But in a speech last November he left openings for a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq.

He specified a number of conditions under which the withdrawal could
be halted or delayed, for example “if the parties in Iraq reach an
effective political arrangement that stabilizes the situation and they
offer us a clear and compelling rationale for maintaining certain troop
levels” and “if at any point U.S. commanders believe that a further
reduction would put American troops in danger.”

And he made it clear that, for him, leaving Iraq did not mean leaving northern Iraq, the Kurdish region.

“Drawing down our troops in Iraq will allow us to redeploy
additional troops to Northern Iraq and elsewhere in the region as an
over-the-horizon force,” he said.

He said it was important to “consolidate gains in Northern Iraq,
reassure allies in the Gulf, allow our troops to strike directly at
al-Qaida wherever it may exist, and demonstrate to international
terrorist organizations that they have not driven us from the region.”

Lately, he has talked about a more precipitous withdrawal, though no one is pressing him on his policy goals right now.

Or on questions about his unwillingness to protect infants born alive after attempted abortion,
if he indeed believes all human persons are deserving of dignity and
rights. And supporters of Barack Obama know in their hearts he believes that, right?


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