This is one area where I very, very strongly prefer Obama.
I am opposed to the Bush Doctrine of unilateralism and preemptive war. I feel the Bush administration's foreign policy mistakes have cost us goodwill around the world, stifled international cooperation, damaged our nation's image as a moral global leader. I believe these policies have made our country less safe from terrorism, the very opposite of the goal they were supposedly intended to accomplish.
I believe the only way the next president can to even begin to repair the damage done by the current administration will be to dedicate himself or herself publicly and firmly to a renewed focus on diplomacy and peaceful negotiation.
I know that Hillary Clinton would almost certainly craft a much more effective foreign policy plan than President Bush. But I believe Barack Obama's vision of foreign policy coincides much more perfectly with my personal opinions and ideals.
Barack Obama has stated repeatedly, in public, that, if elected president, he would be willing to speak personally with any other world leader without preconditions. On his website he states:
- The Problem: The United States is trapped by the Bush-Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to talk to leaders we don't like. Not talking doesn't make us look tough – it makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership. On challenges ranging from terrorism to disease, nuclear weapons to climate change, we cannot make progress unless we can draw on strong international support.
- Talk to our Foes and Friends: Obama is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe. He will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead. And if America is willing to come to the table, the world will be more willing to rally behind American leadership to deal with challenges like terrorism, and Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs.
We are not going to help solve the world's problems, or our own, by taking our ball and going home when someone else says something that upsets us.
I believe it takes much more courage to talk to your enemies than it does to snub them.
Hillary Clinton has come out publicly against Barack Obama's diplomacy plans. During the final Democratic Primary debate that aired recently on CNN, she said, "I don't think the president should put the prestige of the presidency on the line in the first year to have meetings without preconditions with five of the worst dictators in the world."
I don't honestly see how simply speaking with a dictator would put the "prestige of the presidency" on the line. Getting chummy with a dictator? Playing golf with him? Going out to the local country club for drinks?
Setting up lucrative oil deals with dictators while turning a blind eye to egregious human rights violations by the ruling regime?
Sure. That puts the prestige of the presidency on the line.
But, talking to a dictator? Looking him in the eye, and saying, "We don't agree with your policies, and if you want to trade with us, or cooperate with us on deals to boost access to energy supplies or fight terrorism, you'll have to stop doing these things we disagree with first." That doesn't sound to me like something that would put the prestige of the presidency on the line. That, to me, sounds like good leadership.
There is also, of course, the oft-discussed question of Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize the Iraq war, and her initial (however reluctant) support of the invasion.
In the same ten-day span in October 2002, Hillary Clinton gave this speech, while Barack Obama gave this one.
Obama has been consistently opposed to the war in Iraq since before it began. A majority of the nation now believes he was right.
Now, the fact is, Barack Obama was not in the United States Senate when the resolution giving President Bush the authority to go to war. We don't know how he would have voted on it, had he been there, in the same environment as Hillary Clinton. Maybe he would have been more influenced by party pressure, if he'd already been a national-level Senator. Maybe she had seen some (falsified) intelligence Obama hadn't. Maybe she had been offered some (false) assurances from the President that he didn't know about.
For those reasons, I would be willing to cut Senator Clinton some slack on this issue (as I did Senator John Edwards, before he left the race). For those reasons I would be willing to cut her some slack on this issue, if she had ever admitted, even once, in the years since that vote, that that vote was a mistake.
But not only has she not admitted that her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, she has officially stated that she will never apologize for that vote, or admit it was a mistake.
I understand why a powerful woman seeking the highest political office in the nation, an office which has never been held by a woman before, would be reluctant to say she had made a mistake. Trust me. I am a woman. I pay attention to things. I know how a powerful professional woman's every move is constantly being scrutinized by hateful people just waiting for the perfect moment to tear her down. So I think I understand why Senator Clinton made this decision.
But I disagree with it.
I think one of the highest hallmarks of integrity in leadership is the ability of a leader to admit he or she has made a mistake.
And, frankly, I have spent the last seven years living under an administration chock full of leaders who habitually refuse to admit mistakes. And I am sick of it. Sick, sick, sick of it.
This isn't the sort of little mistake you can just let slide, either.
This mistake helped to start a war that has lasted for more than five years. This mistake has cost billions of dollars, thousands of American lives, and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, some of them innocent. This mistake has helped to ruin the economy of one country, and has left another in chaos and bloody civil war.*
This was not a minor mistake.
*Now, before any conservative friends jump down my throat, of COURSE I think Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator and of COURSE I think the world is better off without men like him in power. And of course I support our troops. And of course I am a patriot. I still think this was the wrong war at the wrong time. I think we should have finished the job in Afghanistan and then focused on capturing Bin Laden. And THEN we could have thought about doing something about Iraq, but ONLY with international cooperation, because it is frankly not our business to go forcing our idea of democracy on other countries that haven't even attacked us without international consensus and support. You're not gonna change my mind on this, so let's just agree to disagree, okay?
Frankly I am concerned that neither one of the Democratic frontrunners has proposed a truly workable health care solution.
In my opinion, neither one of them has actually proposed universal health care as part of their platform. The only truly "universal" healthcare system, in my view, would be a single-payer , tax-supported system that covered everyone in the nation and offered every single participant the exact same options and the exact same standard of care.
This is not what Barack Obama is proposing. This is not what Hillary Clinton is proposing, either.
What both Democratic candidates are proposing (and this is what John Edwards proposed, too, before he left the race) is a sort of cobbled-together Frankenstein system that, yes, will probably give a lot more people access to health insurance, but also does a great deal to protect the interests of existing for-profit health insurance corporations.
The sort of system both Clinton and Obama propose is actually very similar to the system that Governor Mitt Romney helped to implement in Massachusetts in 2006.
Yes, that's right: the two Democratic presidential contenders are putting forth a plan that is pretty much based on a plan implemented by a Republican Governor who is now also running for President. Who has sort of changed his tune on health care since he joined the presidential race.
(This is one of the reasons there are some Republicans out there saying Mitt Romney is not a true conservative. This is also one of the reasons there are Democrats out there saying Clinton and Obama aren't true liberals. I suspect it's probably closer to the truth to say that a lot of Republicans out there do want serious health care reform, but they are afraid to run on it.)
In the Massachusetts plan, the state offers residents without health insurance the ability to buy into a state-subsidized insurance plan. Residents who meet certain income qualifications can receive free or reduced-cost health insurance under the plan. People who already have health insurance through their employers get to keep it. And the new law put a lot more pressure on employers to provide their employees with health insurance.
But health insurance, even the state-subsidized insurance, is still mostly provided under for-profit, private health insurance companies. The same health insurance companies that have been roundly criticized for decades for balking on covering needed health services, and reneging on payment of legitimate claims. The same companies that have been stiffing both doctors and patients for decades in the name of almighty dollar.
And, state residents who don't buy into the program, either because they don't want to join it, or because they feel they can't afford it and yet still can't qualify for sufficient subsidies, have to pay a stiff fine for refusing to join. In many cases, the fine they residents are forced to pay is almost equal to what it would have cost them to purchase subsidized insurance.
Now, many people have praised the Massachusetts health care program as a brave and good first step toward solving a problem the federal government has refused to address on the state level. And I agree that it's good that some states are starting to take real action in trying to sort out the health care mess.
But the Massachusetts program has also garnered a lot of criticism since its inception, and most of that criticism has been leveled at the fines some citizens are being charged for not joining the plan. These fines have been disproportionately affecting lower-middle income families, many of whom say they still can't afford insurance even under the subsidized plan, and independent contractors-- people such as artists, musicians, writers, carpenters, plumbers, independent childcare workers, etc.-- who may earn enough income on paper to disqualify them for subsidies, but can't find affordable individual insurance, and aren't protected by an employer plan.
Because of the disproportionate effects of this fine on contractors, lower-middle-class workers and families, Barack Obama has stated that his health care plan will not mandate that all adults MUST purchase coverage. He has specifically cited the problems in Massachusetts, saying he does not want to punish working people for not being able to afford insurance, but instead wants to focus first on making insurance affordable to everyone. He has also said, however, that he will mandate that all children are covered.
Hillary Clinton has attacked this aspect of Barack Obama's plan, stating that his refusal to force everyone to participate will leave many Americans still not covered, and will interfere with his ability to negotiate with the insurance companies to drive down costs.
This is the most major difference between their two health plans.
I can see both sides of this argument, and to tell you the truth, I'm really not sure who is right. I'm not satisfied with either plan.
I know a lot of conservatives are wary of the idea of a health plan totally controlled by the government, and I think that some of their fears are justified. People DO wait longer for non-emergency diagnostic tests and surgery in Canada. Our government DOES have a history of mucking up its responsibilities to its citizens with piles of bureaucratic red tape. I still personally prefer the idea of a single-payer not-for-profit government health insurance system, though, primarily because our government is fundamentally accountable to its constituents.
The goal of a government plan would always, at least theoretically, be to provide the most people with the best health care at the lowest cost.
The fundamental goal of a privately run, for-profit insurance plan will ALWAYS be to make the insurance corporation and its shareholders money.
I respect both Senators for trying hard to come up with a good first-step solution to the health care crisis. But I do fear that we may end up with a worst-of-both-worlds scenario, having to slog through government bureaucracy AND corporate greed just to get to the doctor's office. I hope it doesn't happen that way. But it could.
So I don't really see a clear winner here. I think they both have the best of intentions, but they're working in the context of a system that is already so royally screwed up it will be very hard to fix.
Technology and the Internet
Barack Obama has stated, both in public and on his website, that he will appoint the nation's first Chief Technology Officer to oversee new developments in science, technology, and the internet. The Technology section on his website has 4,917 words.
The comparable Innovation section on Hillary Clinton's website has 1,624 words.
They both have some good ideas on this subject, but Barack Obama has presented a much more comprehensive picture on how he plans to deal with the internet and emerging technologies, and, as a blogger and a person who is very active on the internet, I appreciate the seriousness with which he has treated this subject during his campaign.
Help for Working Families
Both Clinton and Obama have proposed strengthening the Family and Medical Leave act
in similar ways. Both plan to help working parents by mandating that every worker in the nation have access to seven paid sick days. Both want to expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Both want to encourage employers to provide workers with flexible scheduling options that allow them to spend more time with their families. Both want to expand early childhood education programs and make childcare more affordable.
They're both pretty awesome on this front. I'd take the happily take the policies of either (or both, on the oft mentioned "Democratic Dream Ticket") in this area.
I'm strongly pro-Obama on Foreign policy. A little disappointed in general on health care. I'm pro-Obama on technology policy, and pro-both candidates on programs to help working families.
So, from a policy standpoint, Obama is the clear winner for me. This is not to say I don't think Clinton also has some great policy plans. But when I look at it objectively, Obama is the candidate more aligned with my goals.