Obama and Clinton on the Issues
Several commenters were taken aback by my suggestion in the Barack Obama’s Cult of Personality post that Obama was running a personality-driven campaign on a “vision for leadership that’s remarkably short on specifics.”
There’s no question that Obama has put out issues papers and that one can get a sense of what he wants to do on various matters of public policy. My point is simply that his appeal based more on charisma and energy and “hope” and “change” than on ideology or policy vision.
My colleague Joe Synder earlier mentioned to me the differences in the Clinton and Obama websites on an unrelated matter of site design. But the sites are an excellent starting point for this.
Look at the splash pages:
Obama’s site is uncluttered and more powerful. But you have to click to get beyond “Change We Can Believe In.” Let’s do that, though, to get to what might be more fairly called the “true” home page:
The entire page is devoted to feel-good news releases and the like. Clinton’s site, by contrast, is all about promoting speeches, issue blogs, and the like. True, there’s an “ISSUES” button in the top navbar, as there is on Clinton’s site. But, rather clearly, the issues are de-emphasized.
Let’s turn now to the ISSUES pages. It’s not that hard to make two clicks to get there, after all. Both sites have thumbnail images and hyperlinks to issue papers with a short blurb summarizing the candidate’s views. Both sets of summaries, frankly, are platitudinous. That’s not surprising. But, even so, Clinton’s at least makes reference to legislation and public policy-making; Obama’s just emphasizes hope. She points to laws passed or programs proposed whereas his talks mostly about reaching out and finding common ground. Hers is policy wonk; his blue skies and rainbows.
“I…believe that every American has the right to affordable health care. I believe that the millions of Americans who can’t take their children to a doctor when they get sick have that right…We now face an opportunity – and an obligation – to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s health care debates. It’s time to bring together businesses, the medical community, and members of both parties around a comprehensive solution to this crisis, and it’s time to let the drug and insurance industries know that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair.”
Nearly 47 million Americans — including 9 million children — don’t have health insurance. America is ready for universal health care. Hillary has the vision and the experience to make it a reality. This is a battle Hillary has fought before — and she has the scars to prove it. She knows better than anyone how to fight and build the political support to get the job done.
The choices we make about energy touch nearly every aspect of our lives. Our economy, our national security, our health, and the future of our planet are all at stake as we make a choice between energy independence and dependence on foreign sources of oil. Hillary has proposed an Apollo Project-like program dedicated to achieving energy independence.
Senator Obama has been a leader in the Senate in pushing for a comprehensive national energy policy and has introduced a number of bills to get us closer to the goal of energy independence. By putting aside partisan battles, he has found common ground on CAFE, renewable fuels, and clean coal.
Barack Obama has played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform. Obama believes the immigration issue has been exploited by politicians to divide the nation rather than find real solutions. This divisiveness has allowed the illegal immigration problem to worsen, with borders that are less secure than ever and an economy that depends on millions of workers living in the shadows.
Our immigration system is in crisis. The laws we currently have on the books are inadequate and no longer serve our best interests. As a nation, we place a premium on compassion, respect, and policies that help families, but our immigration laws don’t reflect that. Hillary has consistently called for comprehensive immigration reform that respects our immigrant heritage and honors the rule of law.
The differences are subtle, to be sure. Both are vague at the top level — which is where the lion’s share of voters stay — and force a drill down to get to specific proposals. But Obama’s message is mostly, “Trust me, I know how to build consensus.” Hers is, “I’ve got a plan and the experience to make it happen.”
Clearly, his message is more resonant. But it’s an ephemeral one.