Thursday, March 06, 2008

Barack and Hillary

Barack and Hillary have taken off the gloves and begun the slugfest that will determine the Democratic nominee for President. It promises to be a tough fight and watching it from a distance, as I am here in Germany, the difference between the press coverage from just two weeks ago and what has been generated in the last 24 hours is striking. Clinton is being portrayed as the reliable, determined fighter and Obama as the wunderkind who has lost some of his glitter. The implication seems to be that “glitter” may have been all there was to Obama in the first place. What a difference a day makes.

Watching the elections from abroad one doesn’t have the opportunity to follow the moment-to-moment coverage on TV, or watch the debates live. The election is something I tune into once a day, reading an editorial here or there, watching the highlights of a debate, checking in but not riding the waves in real time as one does at home. I rarely comment on politics here, this blog is much more about observations on life with HH in Old World but this election is a fascinating story – a black man and a white woman both with significant qualifications are competing for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Who would have thought it possible? And this election will have an impact on those of us who live abroad, as it certainly will for the folks at home. John McCain, the Republican nominee, seems to be a good and decent man, his position on Iraq notwithstanding, and he will be a formidable opponent for whoever becomes the Democratic nominee. But the promise of another four or eight years of the same approach to Foreign Policy that has characterized the Bush years isn’t very appetizing.

My concern is how bloodied and battered the Democratic nominee will be once that decision is made. A good deal of McCain’s work may be done for him before he has to lift a glove. It’s impossible to wage an election without drawing distinctions between your positions and those of your opponent, but given the fact that the two Democratic candidates differ only marginally in their platforms, the race could easily devolve into the old politics of mud- slinging and tit-for-tat attacks. Of course there can be no contest without conflict, so by its very nature the campaign will continue to generate a good deal of tough talk from both sides, but one can hope that both Clinton and Obama will keep their heads and resist the temptation to take the campaign into the gutter – the stakes are too high. McCain has promised a clean campaign and it would be refreshing to see a general election in which two strong candidates actually engage in a serious debate over the issues and leave the mud-slinging to the radio talk shows.