2008 Inspiration Vs. Substance
posted by January 16 at 15:07 PMon
Last night’s debate reminded me, once again, of the thing that worries me most about Obama: He just isn’t substantive. I get why people like Obama, but I don’t get why progressives seem so convinced he’ll represent their interests; on nearly every issue, Hillary’s record is as or more progressive than Obama’s promises.
On the environment: Clinton voted for higher fuel efficiency standards for SUVs (S 517, 2002) and against using Yucca Mountain, NV, as a repository for spent nuclear and high-level radioactive waste. Obama, meanwhile, has been in favor of expanding nuclear energy. And, dude, he voted for the 2005 energy bill—which, as Clinton has pointed out, was “larded with all kinds of special interest breaks, giveaways to the oil companies.” Oh, and let’s not forget that he criticized a mining reform bill as too tough—on the mining industry. As for proposals: Clinton’s climate plan (like Obama’s) includes a cap-and-trade system, aiming for 80% emission reductions from 1990 levels by 2050, that auctions 100% of pollution credits. But her plan would get most of its reductions from efficiency, rather than pie-in-the-sky notions like “clean coal” (which Obama has supported) and corn-based ethanol (whose use Obama has said he wants to increase dramatically.) Clinton wants to adopt an ambitious fuel-efficiency goal of 55mpg by 2030, new green building standards and incentives, a federal program to finance home efficiency projects, incentives for smart grid technology, and a phaseout of incandescent light bulbs. She would fund training for so-called “green-collar” jobs, and she would invest in green energy and efficiency by rescinding tax breaks given to oil companies. She would make permanent the tax credit for solar and wind production. And she would create a National Energy Council along the lines of the National Security Council. No, her plan isn’t perfect—like all the leading Ds, she buys into the notion of increasing “home-grown biofuels” and she wouldn’t do much to help developing nations reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions—but on the whole, I think it’s the better plan of the two.
On foreign policy: Some liberals can’t forgive Hillary for voting for the war. Fine. But let me point out a few more votes she’s taken in the many years since: the Iraq Troop Reduction Act (written by Clinton); legislation preventing funding for military action in Iran that (cosponsored by Clinton); a bill requiring the Pentagon to prepare to redeploy troops currently in Iraq. Moreover, on Iraq War-related bills, her record and Obama’s are virtually identical.
On health care: Only Clinton’s plan would provide universal mandatory health insurance. Obama supporters have argued that Clinton’s plan would “force” people to buy health insurance, including people who couldn’t afford it. That’s wrong on two counts. First, it’s wrong rhetorically: A mandate merely ensures that coverage is actually universal. Without a mandate, healthy people could stay out of the system until they get sick, forcing everyone who did the right thing and bought insurance to subsidize the latecomers’ bad behavior. That’s not universal health insurance, and it won’t work. Second, it’s wrong literally: Clinton’s plan would subsidize health care for low-income people by rolling back Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy. Everyone would get health care; no one would be left behind. Plus, her plan would crack down on insurance companies that waste millions on CEO salaries, lawyer fees, and marketing.
On choice: Clinton has a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. She has worked to expend family planning services abroad, and has consistently spoken out against right-wing attacks on women’s access to reproductive health care. She opposed the nominations of Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court, arguing they represented the worst threat to Roe v. Wade in history. She opposed the “partial birth abortion” bill; the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which was designed to define a fetus as a person; the Child Custody Protection Act, which would have made it illegal to take a young woman across state lines for an abortion; and the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would impose new national parental notice requirements on young women. She co-sponsored legislation to repeal the global gag rule, which has led to clinic closures and elimination of family planning services worldwide, particularly in poor and rural areas. She and Patty Murray led the effort to make “Plan B” emergency contraception available over the counter. She led the fight for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, introducing legislation that would have funded comprehensive sex ed. She introduced the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act to ensure that rape victims get necessary medical care, including Plan B, and the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act, to ensure that servicewomen have access to Plan B. She supports the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act, which requires insurers who pay for drugs to cover contraception. Her top priorities include providing paid leave for new parents and caregivers, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to include 13 million new workers, and ending discrimination against pregnancy workers. I’m not saying Obama wouldn’t take many or all of the same positions; it’s a matter of leadership and priorities. Hillary has made reproductive health and freedom a priority in a way that Obama hasn’t.
On gay rights: Hillary scored 89 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2006 scorecard—the same as Barack Obama. She voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman and could have prevented recognition of civil unions and domestic partnership benefits. Yes, she opposes gay marriage, favoring supports civil unions—but then, so does Obama. In her own words, “I believe in full equality of benefits, nothing left out. From my perspective there is a greater likelihood of us getting to that point in civil unions or domestic partnerships and that is my very considered assessment.”
I’m leaving out a lot of issues here, obviously—the economy, Social Security, and education, for example. For info on those and other issues, check out Hillary’s and Obama’s issue pages. Overall, though, it’s worth noting that Hillary has a 95.8 percent lifetime progressive record from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.
I know people are inspired by Obama. As a friend said last night, “he has such a nice smile.” But smiles are one thing, policies another. (And I haven’t even gone into experience, electability, or symbolic value—three more areas where I think Hillary knocks Obama out of the water). Either Hillary or Obama would move this country in the right direction; I’m just convinced that Hillary would do more, and faster, than the good-looking young guy with the steep learning curve.