Monday, January 21, 2008

Haven't We Heard This Voice Before?

Frank Rich's column a week ago made some very good points about the contrast between Senators Clinton and Obama:

As Mrs. Clinton would say, let's have a reality check. The exit poll of those who voted on Tuesday — not to be confused with the pre-primary polls that misfired — showed that Democrats are still looking for change (54 percent) over experience (19 percent) and that they overwhelmingly associate Mr. Obama with the former and Mrs. Clinton with the latter. By change, they don't mean merely a tuneup. As the Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey of both Democrats and Republicans found last month, the percentage of voters who favor "small adjustments" in America (24) or "moderate corrections" (29) is swamped by the 46 percent who seek "major reforms" and a "brand-new" approach...

However unpredictable the race as a whole may be, the vision thing still seems central to the Democrats' change sweepstakes. Whether you regard it as inspirational or pablum, Mr. Obama's vision has been consistent since the 2004 convention speech that introduced him to the country well before his presidential candidacy: a hopeful reconciliation of red and blue Americans joined in a united effort to address and heal the domestic and international cancers that have metastasized during the bitter partisanship of the Bush-Rove years...

In Mrs. Clinton's down-to-earth micropolitics, polls often seem to play the leadership role. That leaves her indecisive when one potential market is pitched against another. Witness her equivocation over Iraq, driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and even Cubs vs. Yankees. Add to this habitual triangulation the ugly campaigning of the men around her — Mr. Penn's sleazy invocation of "cocaine" on MSNBC, Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" rant falsifying Mr. Obama's record on Iraq — and you don't have change. You have the acrimonious 1990s that the Republicans are dying to refight, because that's the only real tactic they have.

January 13, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

Haven't We Heard This Voice Before?

SHE had me at "Well, that hurts my feelings."

One cliché about Hillary Clinton is true. For whatever reason — and it's no crime — the spontaneous, outgoing person who impresses those who meet her offstage often evaporates when she steps into the public spotlight. But in the crucial debate before the New Hampshire primary, the private Clinton popped out for the first time in the 2008 campaign. She parried a male inquisitor's questioning of her likability by being, of all things, likable.


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