3 Presidential Candidates: April 7, 2008

The Three Presidential Candidates
Display Different Leadership Styles

By Harry Kelber

(The Third of Five Articles)

In recent polls, a significant majority of Americans agree that the country is moving in the wrong direction, and there is a growing sentiment for change — in national leadership, policies and goals.

Fortunately, we are in the midst of a presidential election, where virtually every aspect of foreign and domestic affairs is being debated by candidates, affording all of us an education in how Congress and the White House have been functioning. .

But if change is essential for our future, what kind of changes are the three remaining presidential hopefuls talking about? How does each of the candidates propose to deal with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What will they do about the economic crisis that has caused tens of thousands of people to lose their homes and jobs?

One of these three candidates will be elected president of the United States on Nov. 4, 2008. They are: Senator Hillary Clinton of New York; Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator John McCain of Arizona. Which of the three candidates can you trust the most to carry out the pledges they made if they win the White House? Which one has the political skill, the iron will to fight off powerful opposition, and the clear vision of the goals America must achieve to regain its status as the world’s greatest democracy?

So here are some observations about each of them. They are based mostly on evidence that is easily available. You can reject or accept them, either in whole or in part. We’ll start with Senator Obama.

Senator Barack Obama

In a little more than two years, Obama has projected himself from a newly-elected U.S. Senator to become the front-runner for the Democratic Party presidential candidate. That is a remarkable achievement, especially since he started out with limited resources and supporters.

He proved to be an eloquent speaker in the debates against a half dozen eminent members of Congress, where he was the only African-American candidate to emerge still in the race.

His organizing skills, honed during three years as a community organizer, helped him wins primaries and caucuses, even in states with a large white population. He outmatched Senator Clinton’s elite fund-raisers by gaining a million contributors to his campaign, most of them in small donations.

He attracted a larger and more enthusiastic crowds at his campaign rallies than other candidates. His appeal for change, hope and unity resonated with audiences everywhere he spoke. Undoubtedly, some of his appeal was the result of the anger and frustration that most Americans felt about the Bush administration.

Since his campaign featured him as a “unifier,” he was constrained from indulging in negative attacks against opponents, and found himself on the defensive when he was subjected to unfair accusations.

Obama’s finest moment came when his campaign seemed imperiled by his association with the incendiary remarks of his pastor. Obama made his famous speech on race relations, which not only defended his attitude, but called for a frank dialogue on race by both black and white people.

The speech earned Obama tributes even from the conservative media and Senator Clinton. The speech salvaged Obama’s campaign, which otherwise might have been crippled.

Obama has two major difficulties. If he wins the Democratic nomination, can he win in the 2008 election? Race is still a factor in our country. There is no doubt that Senator Obama can do well in a debate with McCain, but are Americans ready to have an African-American as their president?

The other question: if elected, does he have the experience in both domestic and foreign affairs to deal with the complex problems that await him?

Senator Hillary Clinton

Senator Clinton is a smart, politically astute woman, who has spent many fruitful years working in behalf of the nation’s children. She started out with a huge constituency — the feminist movement — who see their chance, for the first time, of electing a woman as U.S. president.

Clinton has a wealth of political experience, gained while being the First Lady for eight years in Arkansas as Bill Clinton’s wife and another eight years as First Lady when Bill was president. She has traveled to some 80 countries over these 16 years, meeting their leaders, visiting their institutions and learning about their achievements as well as their problems

While her critics debate about what she actually accomplished abroad, there is no question that her trips provided her with a sound education in foreign affairs. Her one official government job, to develop a universal health insurance plan, ended in failure.

Senator Clinton’s career was aided by Bill, who arranged with Democratic Party politicians to have her run for U.S. Senator from New York, although she was a resident of Illinois. The long-term plan was to use the Senator position to launch her campaign for the U.S. presidency.

By 2007, her campaign for the presidency was blossoming. She was leading her possible rivals by 20 percentage points. Her advisers didn’t take the nascent candidacy of Senator Obama seriously. At best, he would win a couple of states where blacks wee the majority, they thought.

Senator Clinton has a top-down leadership style. She knows the Beltway cold. And while she picked up the notion of “change” after Senator Obama popularized it, she is not going to mobilize an army of supporters to promote change.

She has an indomitable spirit. She fights back when things look dark, as she did in New Hampshire, Texas and Ohio.

At public meetings, large crowds give her hearty applause, even when she acts as her own cheer leader, and brags what she will do on Day 1 when she steps into the Oval Office. She is a fighter and will hurl negative statements and damaging comments at Obama if that is the way to win the prize.

As to her electability, she has a pile of negatives (Whitewater, “travelgate,” the Lewinsky affair, etc.), which Republicans will drag out against her, as well as some of her actions in recent years.

Would she be a good president if elected? Well, she’ll have Bill in the White House. It probably won’t be great, no better than the Clinton presidency of 1996-2000, which was far from spectacular.

Senator John McCain

Senator McCain has made progress in the war in Iraq the centerpiece of his campaign strategy, at a time when a substantial majority of Americans want us to find ways to leave the country. He believes that the United States must remain in Iraq until it wins victory, no matter how long it takes.

Senator McCain is regarded as a war hero. He spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, after his naval aircraft was shot down. He has ready-made converts to his candidacy from the military and white men who believe that leaving Iraq now would be a bitter defeat for the United States, and they question the patriotism of those who would “cut and run.”

McCain enthusiastically supported the “surge” and says those extra 30,000 troops are responsible for the drop in violence and the improved stability of the Iraqi government. He dismisses the fiasco of the six-day battle for Basra by Iraqi- trained troops as a minor event in the overall military campaign against the insurgents.

McCain admits he knows very little about domestic affairs. He generally follows the conservative policies of President Bush, especially the need to cut taxes of the wealthy. He would hardly be a “friend of labor.” No more than one or two unions have endorsed his candidacy.

Curiously, despite his support of conservative policies, he still has a problem with some far-right evangelists, which probably will be settled the closer we come to Election Day. His chances of winning the presidency depend largely on what happens in Iraq and if the Bush administration launches a military attack on Iran..

He is not inclined to help home owners who face foreclosures. He has no clear plan on health insurance, while he believes we have the best medical system in the world. It is hard to see McCain having a friendlier attitude toward organized labor. He’ll probably act like President Bush, who unlike past presidents, never invited top leaders to the White House.

How would McCain be as the president? There possibly would be a greater chance of using the military to respond to critical foreign policy problems. As for domestic policies, he would be strongly influenced by market forces and have friendly relations with major companies.

Article 4: “Campaign Behavior” will be posted Monday, April 14, 2008. Visit our web site: http://www.laboredcator.org .