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IS OBAMA TOO WEAK TO BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT?

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In the aftermath of the Pennsylvania primary on last Tuesday, we hear many people express the sentiment or concern that Barack Obama may just not have enough fight in him for us to safely entrust him with the mighty job as the next President of the United States.  This point is in fact used practically as the sole argument now by the Clinton camp, to claim that Obama is too weak to be elected as President, and that Hillary Clinton alone is a tough and resilient enough candidate who can do all the tough things our next President will inevitably be bound to do.  That point is understandable coming from the Clinton camp, as they hardly have any real argument for claiming that she, not Obama, should get the support of the Democrats.  But it is significant, to say the least, that the same or similar sentiment begins to be aired by the staunch supporters of Obama.   

Such sentiment is in part a reflection of their frustration caused by the fact that the Obama campaign has to date failed to close the deal, but it also reflects their frustration that Mr. Obama has failed to even make a more aggressive, and potentially more decisive, campaign, which many of his supporters feel he could have waged without falling into the gutter of the “old dirty” politics.   I, too, agree that there may be some legitimate concern that Obama may not be enough of a fighter worthy of becoming our president.  When Mr. Obama's own supporters begin to feel frustrated because he does not throw any real punches that they feel he should throw, there may be some problem with the candidate.  In contrast, there seems to be no doubt among most people in both camps that Hillary Clinton has enough fight in her, and that she can be a real fighter, as she has shown time and again.   

Even if we accept all of this, however, I doubt that it makes Hillary Clinton better qualified to become our next President.  The reason is easy and straightforward: Clinton is not acceptable not because she may not be strong enough, not intelligent enough, etc., but principally because she is not trustworthy and seems to lack any real commitment to anything except for her getting power.  And if there is one thing history teaches us, it is that the power hungry people are the most dangerous and do not make good leaders, especially in a democratic society.  One notable example, needless to say, was Richard Nixon’s presidency.       

The way Hillary (and Bill) Clinton has been changing her stand on major issues, such as the war, civil rights, torture, health care, foreign trade, environment, just about everything, during the last decade and a half or so, and the timing of her changing positions do not seem to have any rhyme or reason, except, primarily, for political calculations.  For example, she now makes extremely bold promises (more so than anyone else) to bring our troops home if she is elected.  I have been strongly opposed to the Iraq war from day -100 but her such aggressive promise now to bring our troops home actually scares me.  Although the war was wrong and misguided in terms of promoting the best interests of our country and was an illegal war under international law, to boot, once we have invaded the country and have created the mess we have already created, it cannot be that easy to extricate ourselves from the war, as she proclaims she would do.  Her most recent promise about the war actually sounds like a hollow promise that she makes only to please the voters right now, and probably will have no bearing at all to what she might actually do if and when she is elected.   

Take another example: her strong suit, health care reform.  She had, under Bill Clinton's administration, eight full years to work on the health care reform but failed to deliver anything.  Is there any reason for us to expect that she would be more successful if she is elected this time around?  I don't think so.  If anything, during the last 10 years or so, she appears to have become much chummier with the health insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies, and has now become the largest recipient of the lobbyists’ money representing these industries, according to the general press reportsUnder these circumstances, it is extremely difficult to expect that she would do better now than before.  I think that, if she is elected, she either will do nothing to bring any meaningful reform in national health care system or will create a real mangled system, analogous to the Medicare drug plan that the Bush administration recently created, which was written entirely by the industry.  Obama, if elected, is far more likely to make a meaningful first step in the right direction of a good, comprehensive health care system for the country, with a bipartisan coalition that he may be able to create for such purposes.   Taking the first step in the right direction, which can then be improved, is far better than creating a horror which will be difficult to unwind or amend.    

Also, who is not scared by Hillary Clinton’s most recent pronouncement that she would “obliterate” Syria, if Syria attacks, etc?  Again, as the largest recipient of the money from AIPAC and basically aligned with the neo-cons in military matters, her hawkish position in the Middle East has been well known for a long time.  But her recent remark is totally gratuitous and is a serious indication of her mindset, akin to Barry Goldwater’s infamous remark about the use of the atomic bomb some forty years or so ago.  That single remark by Goldwater really contributed, at least in a small but not insignificant measure, to sinking his campaign, and I don’t know why Clinton’s remark about using the nuclear bomb to obliterate Syria is not doing that to her campaign.  I seriously wonder whether McCain or Clinton would be the more of a hawk, as opposed to a cool, hardheaded, coldly deliberative and most resistant to trigger-happy, commander-in-chief, in respect of the present and potential future wars involving our country.  I think I may even detect a little bit of gender bias in the press coverage in this area, not against her, but in favor of her, tolerating her seriously misguided statements more easily by treating them as silly, but essentially benign “bravado”.   

Should we talk also about Hillary Clinton’s stand on NAFTA?  NAFTA is one of the very major policy accomplishments of the Bill Clinton’s administration.  While claiming herself to have played such a major role in that administration to call herself “co-president” and to run her campaign with the major theme of “experience” based on that alleged co-presidency, she now talks as if she had been dead opposed to NAFTA from the beginning, like Ralph Nader or some union leaders.  Apart form the merit or demerit of such a position, and also even apart from Mark Penn’s and Bill Clinton’s scandalous personal involvements in the proposed trade agreement with Columbia, her posture now on NAFTA is disgraceful, to say the least, and totally untrustworthy as an indication of what she might, or might not, do in this area if she is elected.   

These are only but a few conspicuous areas.  We can go on and on and on . . ..   All of this suggests that whatever Hillary Clinton may now pronounce as her policy or position on any issue has most likely no real bearing to anything that she ever did in the past or ever will, or may, do in the future, as it would be intended solely and exclusively to please her audience at that particular time.   

For that reason, I would say that, in her case, her so-called resilience and her apparently inexhaustible fighting spirit are precisely what we do not want to see in our next President.  In contrast, Obama has shown some measure of timidity and reluctance to attack Clinton, another candidate of his own party, during his primary campaign, maybe for fear of alienating other Democratic voters whose support he will desperately need in the general election, and, possibly, also for fear of engaging in the same old dirty politics.  If this shows his potentially weak character and his potentially indecisive mindset, would that be a serious enough problem to require us, the Obama supporters, to reconsider our continuing support of his candidacy?   

I would say, Absolutely Not!  For our choice in this year’s election is between candidates who represent the corrupt status quo and an acquiescence in lawlessness and violation of our sacred Constitution, on one hand, and a candidate, on the other, who, for the first time in many decades, represents a genuine hope for a new kind of politics.  Although he may not be nominated by the Democratic Party and may not be elected in the general election, and although he may not be able to deliver nearly everything that his supporters will or may wish him to deliver as President, I think he is the only real hope that we have in this year’s election for a new kind of leadership in our government.  This prospect, however remote at this point, is so exciting and so intoxicating enough to energize millions of young and old voters to be actively engaged in his campaign.  This is no time to have a reservation about Mr. Obama’s candidacy, but it is time only to work for the success of this new politics through November, and, beyond, to provide the Obama presidency our continuing support so that he can successfully carry out his policies.  Moreover, isn’t it refreshing to see a politician who is deficient in this precise way?  Doesn’t it tend to show that he is a thinking and feeling machine, and not a robot that will do everything and anything mindlessly to attain one single goal of being elected that it is pre-programmed to do?        

 

Nathan Nahm is a retired New York lawyer, with a strong interest in issues relating to individual ethics, individual liberty, human rights, peace and war, economic fairness and social justice.
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