Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who Wears the Empty Suit?

I don't know why I do this, but I have been finding myself arguing with Clinton supporters over at the Huffington Post. The way I see it everyone has the right to campaign for their particular candidate and debate who would be a better president. The Clinton supporters do not debate they just repeat the same old mantras over and over.

They like calling him an "empty suit" without defining what that means to them and backing up what makes him an empty suit compared to Hillary. Of course it is also the mantra of the right (see graphic I found on the right), but whether it is from the right or the left, they are wrong. They have nothing to back up the claim of an empty suit.

Obama supporters start talking about Obama's experience in working for a civil rights firm working on the behalf of communities to get the state of Illinois to implement Federal Law to help the poor to vote. While working at this firm that is known for working to protect family planning clinics from violence, Obama worked on defending a whistleblower who was exposing corruption and waste. He also taught constitutional law, so he clearly understands the constitution and the bill of rights which given the experience of the past 8 years, is sorely needed.

Then he was a community organizer is so often glossed over and even dismissed. It takes a lot of skills to motivate communities to get together and work toward a goal when they are not getting paid. You have to be able to recognize strengths and weaknesses of your volunteers and give them manageable goals so they can get a sense of accomplishment. You need to be incredibly organized and be able think tactically on a small to non-existent budget. If you doubt that these are skill sets just anyone can have try organizing a large community to get things done and come back and let me know how that went. In one of her most stunningly politically tone deaf moments, Hillary told the country that MLK and JFK wouldn't have gotten anywhere with civil rights without LBJ -- suggesting that experienced politicos are better change agents than those who organize and inspire mass movements.

"“Dr King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.” - Hillary Clinton

While factually true, it had the effect of coming off really insensitive to the legacies of both MLK and JFK. It was clear that Clinton did not care how that would make african-americans feel. The political calculation thought it was more important to dismiss her opponents strengths by diminishing the roles of two great men. This is along with Bill Clinton's comments about Obama being just another Jesse Jackson. These comments were unnecessary and made some feel that these comments were being used to remind whites in SC that Obama was black just like Jesse Jackson. The effect was that the Caroline and Edward Kennedy endorse Obama and african-americans have another reason to look at Obama over a candidate they long known and trusted. Bill Clinton who made her candidacy appealing all of the sudden seemed that he no longer had the magic that made him so loved. I say it was poor judgment and she deserved to lose.

The bottom line is that Obama's experience with grassroots organizing is exactly what makes him a formidable candidate against Clinton and Mccain. He understands what motivates and unites people to donate, to volunteer, to vote, to get out and reach out to people on his behalf and on the behalf of the movement his candidacy spawned.

During his eight years in the Illinois Senate he sponsored 823 bills. The bulk of the bills he introduced at this time had to do with health care and public health. In 1999, he sponsored an Illinois constitutional amendment that would establish a right to universal health care coverage. It didn't pass, but in 2003 he passed a number of measures that would extend health care coverage for those just above the poverty line.

In 2004, Obama passed a bill that would establish a commission to develop a plan for providing universal health care in Illinois. He also sponsored a bill that voted on after he left office but did not pass that would permit embryonic stem cell research. Other legislation he sponsored dealt with poverty, crime, civil rights, ethics, the environment, infrastructure and public works, death penalty reform, gun control, military and veterans affairs, and immigration. We also know from state reproductive and women's rights advocates that Obama played a substantial role in protecting women's rights. This is not the work of an empty suit by any imagination.

While he has been in the US Senate he has authored the Coburn-Obama Government Transparency Act of 2006 (became law), The Lugar-Obama Nuclear Non-proliferation and Conventional Weapons Threat Reduction Act, (became law), The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, passed the Senate,The 2007 Government Ethics Bill (was blocked by republicans with a poison pill of a presidential line item veto by GOP senate leaders--headed by Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.) ethics advocates were disappointed by Mccain and Collins who joined other opponents to block), (became law), The Protection Against Excessive Executive Compensation Bill, (In committee), and many more.

In the 110th Congress he sponsored 113 bills. In the 109th congress Obama sponsored 152 bills: S. 3475-A bill to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans. (6/7/2006), S. 3554- A bill to establish an alternative diesel standard, and for other purposes. (6/21/2006), S. 3627 - A bill to prohibit the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy from selling, distributing, or transferring elemental mercury, to prohibit the export of elemental mercury, and for other purposes. (6/29/2006), S. 3631 - A bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to phase out the use of mercury in the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda, and for other purposes. (7/11/2006) S. 3694 A bill to increase fuel economy standards for automobiles, and for other purposes.(7/19/2006), S. 3822 -A bill to improve access to and appropriate utilization of valid, reliable and accurate molecular genetic tests by all populations thus helping to secure the promise of personalized medicine for all Americans. (8/3/2007), S. 3969 - A bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to assess and reduce the levels of lead found in child-occupied facilities in the United States, and for other purposes., (9/28/2007), S. 3988 - A bill to amend title 10 and 38, United States Code, to improve benefits and services for members of the Armed Forces, veterans of the Global War on Terrorism, and other veterans, to require reports on the effects of the Global War on Terrorism, and for other purposes. (9/28/2007), S. 4069 -A bill to prohibit deceptive practices in Federal elections., (11/16/2006) S. 4102- A bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit the use of telecommunications devices for the purposes of preventing or obstructing the broadcast or exchange of election-related information.(12/7/2007), S. AMDT.159.S.CON.18 -To prevent and, if necessary, respond to an international outbreak of the avian flu.3/15/2005, S. AMDT. 390.HR.1268- To provide meal and telephone benefits for members of the Armed Forces who are recuperating from injuries incurred on active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. (4/13/2005) .

Obama sponsored and passed S.2125 : A bill to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Orrin Hatch and Obama got a bill signed by the president to clarify the treatment of certain charitable contributions under title 11, United States Code.

There are several versions of a comparison of US Senate records between Clinton and Obama. I have not seen a real comprehensive and unbiased side-by-side analysis of both candidates legislative records. The problem is that not all sponsored legislation is equal and co-authoring can be extensive or just be a casual inclusion on the bill with little action. All I can say is that the bills that he has worked on are for the most part very substantive.

I think I have said before that if the democrats really were serious on running and competing on experience they would have picked Biden, Dodd, or Richardson. The Democrats decided to go with the relatively less experienced female and African-American. I really don't think that Clinton can compete with Mccain on experience.

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