Sunday, March 30, 2008

Joan Walsh on endorsements, and the lack thereof

Joan Walsh -

...But now two months have passed since Edwards dropped out -- tempus fugit! -- and still no endorsement. Why? According to a Democratic strategist unaligned with any campaign but with knowledge of the situation gleaned from all three camps, the answer is simple: Obama blew it. Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards's imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.'...

Clearly, I favor Obama, but this is part of the picture, worthy of consideration. Hillary has her strengths--she is bright, articulate, and knows the issues well. I prefer her variant on health care with mandated coverage to Obama's current variant, although I think too much has been made of the difference by Krugman and Hillary's campaign--and I believe that both plans (and Edwards' as well) are substantially inferior to a single-payer "Medicare for All" approach (to which I hope theirs might ultimately lead, even if it sadly can't seem to gain traction in today's enfeebled politics).

I am also sympathetic to Edwards' eloquent focus on poverty and the two Americas. I think Obama gets that in his gut, and will act on it if elected--but I can understand a tactical political judgment (not equally applicable to Hillary, or to Edwards) not to give it centrality in his campaign. This may be Obama's equivalent to Hillary's stress on military toughness, somewhat undermined by her misadventures on the Bosnian (fantasy) battlefields.

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