3 Presidential Candidates: March 31, 2008

What Is Their Big Appeal to Voters —
As Talkers, Thinkers and Achievers?

By Harry Kelber

(The Second of Five Articles)

To New York Senator Hillary Clinton, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barrack Obama of Illinois, is just a naïve, inexperienced politician with a silver tongue, a Pied Piper who would lead the country to disaster if he became president.

She compares him with herself‹a tough pragmatist, thoroughly familiar with the ways of the political world, who will start working on America’s many problems the moment she steps into the White House on Day One. There is no question that she is smart, feisty, energetic and, at least publicly, very self-confident.

In her description of Senator Obama, there is a touch of envy that shows through the scorn. She concedes his eloquence, his ability to captivate an audience, but his skills, however flashy, are inferior to hers, which include knowledge and experience in dealing with domestic and foreign affairs.

Is Senator Clinton being accurate about Obama’s limitations? How important are words and speeches in the presidential campaigns? When Senator Obama can get overflow crowds to listen to his views on our society and inspire them with hope, isn’t that quite an achievement? Obama’s words do turn into action: he gets a million people, most of them of modest means, to contribute to his campaign.

Senator Obama has made political speech-making an art form. His visions about a unified America, where social justice is available to all people, may sound like snake oil to the cynical, but they can also serve as a mobilizing force for progressive change.

Senator Clinton gave a good account of her debating skills in the 20 or so times she met with other presidential aspirants and sometimes with Senator Obama alone. She came well-prepared to the debates and was able to handle embarrassing questions deftly. In some of her speeches, she tends to act as her own cheerleader although she regards herself as an achiever, there is actually not much of a record to support her claim, except for her work with children. Her 1993 effort at creating a national health insurance plan ended in disaster.

Senator Obama can point to small achievements in his three years as a community organizer and eight years in the Illinois State Legislature, but that is not much of a record to rely on in dealing with the many complicated problems around the world.

While Hillary and Obama are engaging in harsh attacks on each other as they fight for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, Senator John McCain of Arizona, nominated as the Republican Party presidential candidate, has been using the precious time to sharpen his foreign policy views and bone up on his knowledge of domestic affairs, where he has admitted he is not well-informed.

McCain is not as sharp a debater as either Clinton or Obama, and his homey speaking and delivery style, with his frequent reference to the audience as “my friends,” doesn’t add excitement to his message. His unique asset is as a proclaimed war hero, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He firmly believes that the United States must stay in Iraq until it achieves victory, a view at odds with that of the American people, as well as his two Democratic rivals.

In the course of the campaign, Obama, the artful speech maker has managed to use his talents to attain a commanding lead in the delegate vote, number of states won and the total votes cast. Senator Clinton, the tough pragmatist, needs a group of almost impossible victories to attain the nomination.

Senator McCain, whose campaign was regarded as all but dead eight months ago, has moved up as a potential winner in the race for president of the United States.


In my March 24 article on the three presidential candidates, I said: ”For a woman whose every move has been chronicled, there is no public evidence that Senator Clinton ever expressed sympathy for striking workers, or appeared on a picket line or ever mentioned what she thought about unions.”

Diligent researchers, Clinton supporters, have unearthed two instances when she did appear on a picket line: (1) in support of Verizon workers in Albany and (2) backing a local of the International Union of Operating Engineers in a dispute with a Buffalo, N.Y. hotel.

Both actions took place in July 2000, when Hillary Clinton, transplanted from Illinois, was seeking to become U.S. Senator representing New York State.

Article 3: “The Leadership Question” will be posted Monday, April 7, 2008. Visit our web site: http://www.laboredcator.org .