A reader writes
I'd propose that for a brief moment we look past all the debates about who said what, and what claims and criticisms are fair, and ask the real question that I think everyone should be asking Senator Obama: How in practical terms, through what policy initiatives will he fundamentally change the way things work in Washington?
I will admit to being a Clinton supporter, but not a big fan of the classic, negative skirmish that they are now engaged in. I would like to think we could have an honest, competitive campaign without this potentially divisive mess. I can relate to their frustrations though -- which her supporters have felt for a long time -- regarding the feel-good rhetoric that seems to be the basis of his claim to the presidency. In all the private debates I have with Obama supporters, most come down to issues of character and the need to change how the country is governed.
But how exactly? Is he suggesting campaign finance reform at a level we've not yet seen and which the Supreme Court is likely to throw out? Exactly what types of lobbying reform is he proposing -- how is he going to 'split the baby' when it comes to denying access to various organizations in favor of reducing overall influence? Is he proposing term limits and what's his answer to the reality that in some cases it seems to increase special interest influence rather than diminish it? If he can't or won't answer these questions, is it because he doesn't know, or can't afford the political risk?
The policy initiatives are all there. Most of them are very very close to what Clinton is proposing. And that's why it is not irrelevant to concentrate on character and the ability to marshall broad support across the country and across the party aisle. The fight between Clinton and Obama is a fight between methods, not policies. Her method is base-centric partisan warfare with Rovian tactics and an ability to withstand the worst the GOP can throw at her. His method is outside this box, attempting to use reason and rhetoric to forge a consensus for change.
What the Clintons are saying, I think, is that this approach to politics cannot work. Appealing to reason and our better angels is a false hope. So let's get back to the warfare. That's their message and it's imbued in their campaign. And that's the choice.