A Progressive's Guide to the 2008 Hawai`i Democratic Caucuses
February 14, 2008
By now, even people with just the vaguest understanding of government and politics know that for the first time since Reconstruction, the upcoming Hawai'i Democratic Party caucuses will actually matter in the race to be President of the United States. Who will get the nod? Will it be U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D, New York)? Or will it be U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D, Illinois)?
For progressives (okay, liberals), this is a thorny question. Former U.S. Senator John Edwards and current Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich had been the favorites of those who want the next president to stand for worker rights and against corporate interests, predatory lenders and the whole military-industrial complex, and they both dropped out of the race months ago.
At press time, Clinton and Obama are in a dead heat, with neither anywhere near winning the 2,025 delegates that are actually needed to win the Democratic Party nomination. While the Hawai'i party has just 20 delegates up for grabs on Feb. 19, neither candidate can afford to ignore them (see "So You Want to Caucus…" for details on the strange and mystical process of caucusing).
So here's our no-nonsense, no-frills, fact-based, non-filtered, no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-it-is, balls-to-the-wall look at Clinton and Obama:
Born Hillary Rodham on Oct. 26, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, she graduated from the ultra-elite Wellesley College and then the I-guess-it's-still-elite Yale Law School (where she met future husband Bill). Active in the Children's Defense Fund, Clinton was one of only two female staffers working on House Judiciary Committee effort to impeach President Richard Nixon. She joined the Little Rock-based Rose Law Firm in 1976, eventually becoming a powerful partner. As First Lady when husband Bill became president in 1992, she led the controversial and ultimately fruitless effort to bring about health care reform. In 2000, she moved to New York and got herself elected to U.S. Senate.
Clinton is an effective legislator. The Atlantic reported in November 2006 that she was so good at crossing the aisle that Karl Rove apparently ordered Republican senators to stop cooperating with her (they ignored him). She is pro-choice and the only candidate currently advocating truly universal healthcare.
According to the environmental watchdog site Grist.org, Clinton wants to tax Big Oil's "excess profits," then use the money to invest in "clean energy technologies." She wants to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. She also opposes dumping nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
From 1986 to 1992, Clinton sat on the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart, even then one of the largest and most anti-union companies in the world. Her seat did not exist before she joined the board, and wasn't filled when she left to focus full-time on husband Bill's presidential run. What exactly Clinton did while a member of the board remains largely mysterious, though we do know that the company itself grew ten-fold during her tenure. According to the May 24, 2000 Village Voice story "Wal-Mart's First Lady," the company grew from 21,600 employees to 279,000 during the 1980's, with sales rising from $1.2 billion to an astonishing $25.8 billion.
More recently, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton went out of her way to help New Hampshire-based International Paper, Inc. burn tires. In 2005, the company asked for permission to conduct a two-week test in which it would help save its electricity bills by burning tires. Clinton, who could have easily ignored the request (not her constituency), instead lobbied reluctant New Hampshire officials to approve the test. They did, and the resulting burning emitted so many toxic chemicals that officials called off the test after three days.
A few million dollars' worth of Clinton's campaign contributions have come from big Wall Street brokerage firms like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs—firms known for pushing a pro-corporate, anti-worker agenda in Washington.
As has been pointed out incessantly, Clinton voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. Though these days, she insists that President Bush "misled" her on what he intended to do in Iraq with congressional authorization for war. "When I spoke at the time of the vote I made it very clear that this was not a vote for preemptive war," she said in the November 2006 issue of The Atlantic. "[T]his was a vote, I thought, that would enable diplomacy to succeed because we would have a unified front between the president and our Congress to go to the Security Council to try to get the inspectors back in. Obviously we now know, in retrospect, that the president and vice president and his team probably didn't intend for the inspectors to do their work."
While Clinton today says she opposes the war and wants it to end, her plan doesn't envision the last troops leaving until 2013, which is five years past "now"–the general public's preferred end date.
In March 2006 she voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act. And in February 2007, Clinton reportedly told members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that Iran was a "threat" and that "in dealing with this threat... no option can be taken off the table."
Born Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Barack Obama grew up in Hawai'i and Indonesia. He graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, he eventually served eight years. In 2004, he got himself elected to the U.S. Senate, representing Illinois.
As he's fond of mentioning, in 2002 Obama publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq. "I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences," he said in Chicago in October 2002. "I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda."
Obama wants to slash greenhouse gas emissions, increase fuel economy standards and the percentage of American electricity that comes from renewable sources and wants all new buildings in the nation "carbon neutral" by 2030. He opposes oil drilling in ANWR and has, according to Grist.org, "voiced support for labeling genetically modified foods."
Obama is also an inspired public speaker, preferring to appeal to voters' hopes, rather than bludgeon them with fear.
Obama enjoys close ties to agribusiness, especially Illinois-based firms like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Aventine Renewable Energy. He's a tireless advocate for ethanol, which is very profitable to both firms. In an age when the words "appearance of impropriety" have been repeated to the point of cliché, Obama traveled free on ADM corporate plans twice in his first year in office, according to a November 2006 story in Harper's. The completely predictable bad publicity surrounding those flights led Obama to issue an office-ban on accepting free travel from corporations.
He also voted for the Bush Administration's reprehensible 2005 energy bill, which was packed with tax breaks for Big Oil as well as "billions in subsidies to ethanol producers," according to Harper's.
Obama also likes nuclear power. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, so far he's accepted $220,267 from corporate officers with Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear power plant operator.
Like Clinton, Obama has also taken millions of dollars in campaign contributions from big Wall Street banks and brokerage houses.
Obama opposes the war in Iraq, but doesn't want to pull the troops out until 2010, and even then would leave thousands of "advisers" in place to "train" the Iraqi army.
One hallmark of contemporary politics is that it's no longer enough for a presidential candidate to say merely that he or she would only use the military to defend the U.S. or its allies. These days, candidates—even the so-called "liberal" ones—have to show how tough they are by committing to attack anyone, even our allies.
Thus, last August Obama said he'd bomb Pakistan—a U.S. ally—if he had "actionable intelligence" (a phrase President Bush has used many times to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) on the location of Al Qaeda terrorists. He has also called Iran a "major threat" and said that he'd consider "surgical air strikes" against that country if he deemed them necessary.
Anyone have a coin? Heads it's Clinton, tails it's Obama… MTW
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