Friday, February 1, 2008

I Stand Corrected: Clinton And Obama Were Both Pretty Inspiring

I wrote a piece last week that in part lamented, after the Democrats' South Carolina mudwrestling match, that there won't be an inspirational leader emerge for the party this year. On Thursday night, from Los Angeles, I saw enough to change my mind.

With John Edwards' departure from the race, it was Hillary vs. Barack, direct from LA, mano-a-mano. Both decided to take the high road and kept it all on a very dignified level. And I came away from the two hours feeling sincerely proud that one of these two will be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.


I was sad about Edwards dropping out -- he was conspicuous in his absence Thursday night. He had two big campaign problems. One was that, when it comes to class warfare, he not only needed to take the gloves off, but to put the brass knucks on as well. A few truly "audacious" statements about the fatcats might not have gotten him any more money, but media reactions might have kept him in the running. He played it too careful. The second thing was that he needed to wear more jeans and flannel shirts, get cheaper haircuts and maybe even grow a goatee. Hollywood and Washington differ in that, in the latter, it's possible to be a bit too pretty. (On the GOP side, I think Mitt Romney may be discovering that.)

Back to the two Dems left standing -- they both stood pretty tall Thursday night. "Scoring" for a winner, I would have awarded Obama a close decision. I thought he scored the most telling points during the discussion of the Iraq war, which he can claim to have opposed from its very mendacious start, in contrast to Clinton.

But Hillary easily scored her share of debating points, and made me chuckle musing that it took one Clinton to clean up after one Bush, and that now it may take another Clinton to clean up after yet another Bush. She said flatly that she would try to return federal income tax rates to where they were before GWB took office -- you know, back when what's-his-name was president, and the national debt was about half what it is now.

Obama had a similar moment when he was asked about the predictable GOP effort to label either of them as liberal "tax-and-spend" Democrats. He quickly responded that he didn't think the Republicans will be in a position to argue for their record of fiscal responsibility, having added $4-5 trillion to the national debt in a short time. He pointed out that apparent GOP front-runner John McCain, years ago, opposed the notion of cutting taxes repeatedly at a time when the nation was going to war. But now he's for making those tax cuts permanent. So much for the "Straight Talk Express."

Clinton also scored well when asked about Romney's remarks that since neither of the Democratic front-runners have ever run a business, neither should feel qualified to be CEO of the USA. George W. Bush, she pointed out, ran as the M.B.A. and CEO for America. "And look what we got," she added, to laughter and applause. "I'm not too happy with that."

Anyway, I was proud of, and for, both candidates Thursday night. The problem now is deciding which one I will vote for. Yes, they each have problems, but consider the alternatives. I would now be happy with either Clinton or Obama, warts and all. I don't think the country could end up a net loser with one scenario or the other.