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A diverse Democratic field line up for the White House race.
By Daryl Moore
It’s hard not to get excited about the Democratic primary for President. Clinton. Obama. Edwards. Richardson. Biden. Vilsak. Dodd. Kucinik. What a lineup.
What’s exciting is that the Democratic primary actually looks like the face of America. A woman, an African American, a Hispanic, and several white men. And while it is true that Clinton is not the first woman to ever run (see Shirley Chisholm, Elizabeth Dole), and Obama is not the first African American to ever run (see Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton), they are the first to run who have a real shot at winning the Democratic nomination and perhaps the White House. And Bill Richardson is the first Hispanic candidate to ever mount a serious effort to become the so-called leader of the free world.
Who knows how this will all shake out? It will be interesting to watch and see whether the country is ready for a female Commander in Chief. It seems odd to me that anyone would think Hillary Clinton isn’t tough enough to wage a war. Undoubtedly, she is a polarizing figure. Everyone either really likes her or really hates her. Mention her name, and no one is lukewarm in his or her response. But whatever anyone says about Clinton, she is no wilting flower. She will raise gazillions of dollars. She is smart and disciplined. She is experienced. She saw and learned a lot in her eight years in the White House, and that, together with her time in the Senate and on the armed services committee, makes her more qualified than the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Personally, I like her. She doesn’t offend or scare me as she does so many others. I think she would do a fine job—if she were elected. But I don’t think she’s electable. And I don’t think that’s because America is not ready for a female president. I just don’t think America is ready for a female president like Hillary Clinton. She simply comes with too much baggage. From her famed 60 Minutes interview, to the health-care debacle, to standing by her man when she said she wouldn’t, has acquired a long and public trail of offenses that too many people cannot forgive, or forget. Still, she is the 600-pound gorilla in the Democratic primary, and it will be interesting to see if anyone can take her out.
Obama is the anti-Hillary. He has a thin résumé, having served only two years in the Senate. He is a daunting intellect (former editor of the Harvard Law Review ) and an outstanding orator. He has achieved rock-star status in the Democratic Party almost overnight. Unlike Clinton, he doesn’t seem to offend or scare anyone. He’s not polarizing. He doesn’t have a long or a public history of offending anyone. Any baggage that he has, he outlined himself in one of his two best-selling books, admitting that he smoked pot and did “a little blow.” But he immunized himself from attacks and questions in the process.
Obama isn’t strident or provocative on the stump. On the contrary, every time he talks he sounds like he is giving a pep talk or a motivational speech. People are flocking to his candidacy and lining up to get a closer look. But how long Obama will enjoy the love affair he is currently having with the press and the public is the big question. It’s only a matter of time before the new wears off.
Sometime during the next 12 months, his pep talks will have to turn into policy speeches. His qualifications will be compared to those of Clinton, John Edwards, and the others. And he will be forced to convince people that his two years in the Senate is enough to prepare him for the presidency.
I don’t think he will be able to pull it off. And I don’t think his race will cost him the nomination. If he had Colin Powell’s résumé to go with his own charisma, he would be unbeatable. But he doesn’t.
Bill Richardson is like neither Clinton nor Obama. He doesn’t have Clinton’s negatives, but he doesn’t have Obama’s star quality either. He does have a résumé full of accomplishments and qualifications. He has been a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, secretary of energy, and the governor of New Mexico. He also has an interesting story. He was born to an American father and a Mexican mother, and he grew up in Mexico City before moving to New England. He will be the first truly bilingual candidate to campaign for president to a growing number of Hispanic voters. Still, it’s hard to imagine that he can leapfrog over Clinton or Obama or take out Edwards.
Whatever happens, this is a great time to be a Democrat. We have a woman, an African American, and a Hispanic who all make outstanding candidates. Any of them could actually become the 43rd president of the United States, if only they can make it out of the Democratic primary.
On the other side of the race, the Republicans have their usual diversity: John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Sam Brownback, and perhaps Chuck Hagel. The first three are running to the right in an attempt to placate the fundamentalists who control the Republican primary. McCain is politicking to Jerry Falwell. Romney is running from his record on gay rights. Giuliani is running from his record on abortion. Brownback doesn’t have to run to the far right because he is a fundamentalist. Hagel has spent the last three months attacking the president on Iraq and sounding more like a Democrat than a Republican.
Like I said, it’s a good time to be a Democrat. I only wish there were a gay or lesbian person in the mix. One of these days. . .
Writing from the liberal side, Houston attorney Daryl Moore has a general practice and is board certified in civil appellate law.