Thursday, December 14, 2006
Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton: A Study in Contrasts.
Or: Dont Let the Hype Fool You: The Little Lady Wont be Rolled.
By Thomas F. Roeser
[A column from The Wanderer, the nations oldest national Catholic weekly with some later addendums.]
CHICAGOIllinois is truly in the catbird seat for the presidency as the nation looks to 2008 to pick its next leader. Two rivals for the Democratic nomination are from Illinois. One is Sen. Barack Hussein Obama (D-IL), the 45-year-old wunderkind darling of the Left who is being portrayed by the national media as a tabula rasa, a completely clean slate on which his adherents wish to portray a youthful candidate separated from old-hat baby boomer issues. The other is Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) who had been the Lefts odds-on favorite for the nomination but has alienated its more frenetic members with her vote endorsing the Iraq War. Clinton was a life-long Illinoisan who lived just a few blocks from this writers home in Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb.
For now, political junkies are riveted to the Obama-Clinton contest. Yes, his middle name is Hussein the same as the Iraq dictator, just as his surname, Obama, led Sen. Ted Kennedy to sputter and call him Senator Osama bin Lad--, I mean Obama. To mention this is to be criticized by the Left as a craven creature of McCarthyism which has invented the notion that Limbaugh first played on the surnames: wrong, it was Kennedy who was too close to Happy Hour. The Left loves Obama because he has been a critic of the Iraq War. Born in Hawaii to a mother he described in his memoirs as white as milk and a father he pictured as black as coal, Obama has pictured himself as the ideal moderate to solve any lingering bad feelings for racial turmoil of a generation ago.
In his latest book, The Audacity of Hope which some critics unkindly term the audacity of hype, he writes: I am new enough on the national political scene on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. In his dreams. When his record is divulged in a national campaign, voters will discover that this is not so.
Tall, six-feet-four, soft-spoken, genuinely modest with a 400 kilowatt smile and beguilingly flappy ears which has caused admirers to compare him to Bambi, he is undeniably brilliant. He won scholarships to Harvard, became its first black Law Review president and professor of law at the University of Chicago.
Although demonstrative liberalism or radicalism is not his game, when you scratch him just lightly he shows up as a hard-core Fabian socialist that puts him in the same radical front line trench as Howard Dean. On my ABC radio show he always continued to say to callers you have a point and conservatives make a good case here but always came down inflexibly with the Left.
On one issue of particular interest to Catholics he is terrifyingly extreme: and that is the issue of abortion. Political realities dictate that all serious Democratic presidential candidates must be pro-aborts and, in most cases, supporters of partial birth abortion. Obama goes all of them one betteror worse. Some years ago, a Chicago nurse named Jill Stanek while working in a hospital that sanctioned abortions, discovered a horrifying sight some years ago: a living, breathing baby survivor of a botched abortion who was left to die in a dirty used laundry room of the hospital. Stanek fought for the baby to be saved, was ordered not to give it any assistance or nutrition. She fought that bravely, did what she could and held the baby tenderly until it died in her arms.
The tragedy inflamed her. Before this happened she was pro-life but not an activist. Now, she assailed the hospital publicly, wrote articles about the issue and called the case hospital-assisted infanticide. She was suspended and ultimately fired by the hospital. She has since become one of the leading evangelical Protestant pro-life leaders in the nation. At her urging, State Sen. Peter Roskam (now elected to the House to succeed retiring Henry Hyde) introduced a Born Alive Protection Act in the legislature. Stanek repeatedly testified before a state Senate committee headed by who else? The so-called moderate Obama who has respect for everybodys opinion.
Not this time. The legislation would provide all possible means of continuance of life in cases of botched abortionsan obvious point worth supporting for one who sees himself as a moderate. Obama fought Born Alive with all his strength behind the scenes.
He refused to endorse the legislation to save the lives of children maimed and suffering due to botched abortion infanticide. He voted against it in the legislature. In the U. S. Senate race, when Alan Keyes brought it up he obfuscated with liberal rhetoric about a womans choice.. His cold dispassion for human life is at great variance with his projected humanitarianismfor AIDS sufferers, for the poor, the homeless, for all those in Africa. Nor is he alone in his disrespect for life. His wife, a lawyer and highly paid vice president-community relations of the University of Chicago hospitals, wrote a letter circulated by Planned Parenthood against the partial birth abortion ban.
In Stanek, the supposedly soft-spoken, thoughtful, ever-open-to-all-options Obama has a critic determined to bring his true left-wing credentials to the fore. She is a very visible critic, speaking from the standpoint of a veteran nurse who worked in hospital delivery rooms. She has moved now into Internet commentary where she is a regular columnist for World Net Daily. Stanek got the Born Alive bill passed by the Congress in 2002 and she was invited to attend its signing by President Bush. But she will always remember Obama and where he stood.
Last week she wrote a column on the Internet that is sure to dog Obama as he continues to portray himself as a moderatefor far from being such, he is a hard-core supporter of eugenics identical to the doctrine endorsed by Margaret Sanger who frankly espoused the same population-cleansing views as did the later Adolf Hitler. She is on to Obama. He wants to fight AIDS but supports gay rights despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control cite as the number one cause of the spread of the disease in the U. S,--47%--is male-to-male sexual contact which Obama is loathe to criticize. The number two cause is injection drug use. As state senator, Obama voted to make hypodermic needles easily accessible coupled with deregulation on how they would be disposed.
Stanek points out the third leading causes of AIDS is heterosexual sex (17%) but Obama disavows abstinence education, stating in a speech that I unequivocally disagree with it and endorsed instead more condomsthis despite the fact that condom failure rate for sperm is 20%. HIV virus is much smaller than sperm. With a mild, shy and unprepossessing air, Obama has told a gay newspaper that he would vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. You cant tell Jill Stanek or any pro-lifer this man is a moderate.
Obamas leftism is not just with social policy. He has a 100% ADA voting record (Sen. Kennedys is 95% for the same period). While he expresses admiration for the Gang of 14, the group of moderates of both parties who last year worked out ground-rules to avoid explosive confrontations over judicial nominations, Obama refused to join them. He voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts, one of only 22 senators to do so. While he stresses the need for free trade, he voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement.
Strange for an acknowledged scholar, he has allowed The Audacity of Hope, to contain outrageous misstatements of fact that would be challenged in a Government: 101 poly sci course. Outrageous charge number one is that of the nations $9 trillion national debt the bulk is a direct result of the Presidents tax cuts. But the tax cuts which stimulated the economy have involved less than a tenth of that amount. Elsewhere he argues that the Bush administration has been stingy on funding for the National Institutes of Healthbut the NIH has grown by 40% or $8 billion since Bush came into office. These gross misstatements will get him into deep trouble when he is finally examined as a candidate on the national stage.
Despite this record, the Chicago Tribune editorially urges him to run for presidentwhich shows how seriously the newspaper takes its own prior issue positions, if not on social policy on economics. It is a dreary fraud of a newspaper as it does not know what it believes.
Hillary Clinton, feminist and pro-abort, until recently has been typified as the hardest of hard-liners on so-called reproductive rights but her advisers see ways she can kept a repository of the Left and still distinguish herself in many ways from Obama. She has not taken a definitive stand on the born alive question. Her political strategy has been to wrap up the Democratic Left and edge to the center as she has on the Iraq War. She has recently attempted a move to encourage conciliation between pro-aborts and pro-lifers which has come to naught. But political observers, recognizing her as the shrewdest of the shrewd, would not be surprised if, in a furious tussle for the nomination with Obama, she uses born alive as a wedge issue, casting him as a vile eugenics supporter while she would cleave to the old safe and rare terminology on abortion.
Clinton herself has displayed a wondrous facility for political opportunism in this state of her birth where duplicity is seen as a political virtue. She was born Hillary Rodham to a family where her father, a small businessman, was a hard-shell supporter of Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. In that year, Hillary was going to Maine Township high school, located in Park Ridge, a suburb that was then an electoral crown jewel of Illinois conservatism. She was a classmate of Penny Pullen (both straight A students), Pullen becoming the foremost pro-life supporter in the Illinois General Assembly.
Both were captivating Goldwater girls as teen-agers, decked out with bows and buttons testifying to their adulation of the Arizona senator. Their teacher was Paul Carlson, a personal friend of this reporter, who has just retired after fifty years of teaching political science at Maine Township high. He came up with the idea of having an assembly in which the students would hear advocacy speeches for the two presidential candidates of the yearGoldwater and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Penny Pullen and her pal Hillary Rodham both sped to Carlsons office to win the nod for making the speech idolizing Goldwater. Pullen arrived first and got the assignment. As Carlson describes it, Hillary Rodham was dismayed, indeed angered to the point of tears that she had lost the honor by split-seconds. She said in near-tantrum: But I do want to make the speech! Carlson said, well, Hillary, you cannot. You lost fair and square. But--. Then he dismissed the notion. She said, butwhat? He said, well, I was going to say that there is an opening for someone to make an advocacy speech in behalf of Lyndon Johnson, but, of course, you wouldnt be interested in that since youre so passionate about Goldwater. She said: Ill take it! He said: Hillary, how can you? Youre a Goldwater girl! Youre wearing his buttons and all. Hillary said: I said Ill take it. Somebody has to do it and Ill do the best job I can!
Did she ever. A few days later, Carlson was stunned to see Hillary at the rostrum making a pitch for Lyndon Johnson with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a devotee. Seemingly in a few days she had mastered all the speaking points, pounding the message home with dynamic gestures. Goldwater won hands down in that school but Carlson believes the experience of advocating Johnson generated a zest for combat and competitiveness ranked foremost with Hillary Rodham. There were other later factors: a liberal Methodist minister in town and an ivy league educationbut the pro-LBJ speech came first.
When she was First Lady she invited the entire class to Washington and Carlson reminded her of that event. She smiled prettily and allowed as possibly it was the beginning point of her move to the Democratic party. Since then it is a tribute to her that she has always been available to Carlson (who is a robust conservative) in any activity where he needs her help. He was present on the day the corner street on which he old house is located was changed to Rodham Place as many of her old class, still residents in a suburb that has gone somewhat limousine liberal, cheered. It so happened I couldnt make it.
My own experience with Hillary Rodham Clinton came much later but is indelibly etched in my mind. She had long ago moved from Park Ridge, had gone to Wellesley and Yale law school and had married Bill Clinton, serving as First Lady of Arkansas and a law partner at Little Rocks most prestigious firm. It was 1992 and Governor Clinton was in New Hampshire, campaigning in the presidential primary against a field of Democratic contenders. I was there with a colleague covering the primary for a radio outlet in Chicago.
We had interviewed just about the whole field of Democratic candidates with only Bill Clinton remaining. He was due to speak at a small high school in the suburbs of Manchester. It was snowing fiercely, so hard that as we drove we could hardly see the highway. When we pulled in to the school parking lot, a curtain of snow made the high school almost invisible. We raced through the snow that had built up almost to our knees to a side door of the high school, hoping it was unlocked.
It was. We trooped like two snowmen exuding slush into what turned out to be backstage and I bumped headlong into Bill and Hillary Clinton who were awaiting Governor Clintons introduction to the crowd. As my snow-drenched overcoat and overshoes dripped water all over the pair, I pulled off my cap to be gripped by the steely eyes of a woman who was definitely not amused. But Bill Clinton was. He helped us brush the snow off our overcoats and even took our coats and helped us hang them up as we stamped our feet to get rid of the snow.
As he was so doing, Hillary said, Billpay attention youre going on just a few minutes. These people and she looked frostily at me, these people can take care of themselves.
No-no, said Bill Clinton. I wont go on for a few minutes yet. Where are you from, fellas?
I said hopefully: Well, Mrs. Clinton will be interested to know that I am from her hometown of Park Ridge, Illinois and in fact live only two blocks from her parents house.
She said nothing, peeking through the curtain to see how the emcee was coming along with the introduction.
But Bill Clinton was fascinated. He said, No kidding! Hey, Hillary, hes from Park Ridge!
She said in a flat voice as she kept looking out at the audience, speaking almost to herself, so I heard.
Bill Clinton enthused, Now, let me see! Ive been to Hillarys house a good number of times, when we were dating and shortly after we were married. She lived on a corner of Wisner street as I recall.
Yes, I said and I ticked off the intersection where she had lived and my own.
Wow! he whooped boyishly, isnt that something! Did you go to Maine Township high school too?
I was about to respond when she interrupted: Bill, for Gods sake pay attention, hes getting to your introduction right now!
He winked at me as one husband would to another and said Ill see you guys later and sauntered onstage where, completely relaxed, he engaged the crowd with a lively talk in his unprepossessing corn-pone accent. I had never seen a politicianand this includes Ronald Reaganso completely, un-theatrically, at home with an audience to the point where they joyfully wanted to help him when he got his New Hampshire geography wrong. As a matter of fact, for one who remembered the name of the street in an Illinois suburb where his wife lived, I found it amusing that he just happened to stumbleand allow the crowd to help himin trying to name the next town where he would be speaking. I went back to Chicago and told my wife that, never mind how I disagreed with him, I had just seen the next president.
But the difference between Bill and Hillary was as night and day. She does not have his folky-ness or attractiveness. When he speaks seriously, he projects earnestness; she gets angry and shrill. He is always engaging; when she is at ease, she is cold. I remember the interview he gave us afterward while his wife, ignoring us, huddled with some staffers. That was and is the difference between the Clintonshe always contagiously interested in people around him, she, with great control, managing a hemorrhoidal grimace now and then while you could tell she was 10,000 miles away while her mind was calculating, calculating: and you noticed it.
Obama is not so much like Bill Clinton as Bambi with a privately sneaky side. But Hillary has grit which he has not, the unbounded competitive determination to use whatever weapon she can to win while he has a tendency to rest on his Hollywood aura the kind that pictures him with forefinger stuck into his cheek as to represent deep vision. If and when the two come to grips in the presidential campaign, I will have to agree that Obama has the charm but Hillary Rodham Clinton has the toughness of spirit and grit that may well in the end determine that she will best him. It wont take long for someone to point out the errors such as are contained in his book. It takes a kind of dogged, humorless prosecutor.
That wont be Hillary: shes too smart to alienate the black bloc. She will look up at the sky like Saint Joan on our holy cards as the flames licked her toes from the pyre. But as Saint Hillary raises her eyes to heaven, the truth about Bambi will out, never fear. And the media will be astounded that the rains will have come just in time to put out the conflagration.