It’s high time to really and critically examine the common charges levied against the two Democratic presidential candidates. What I aim to show is that these common charges are baseless. First, let’s start with Hillary.
1) She’s too much of a policy-wonk
First of all, why is being a policy-wonk such a bad thing? Do we want someone like Bush, whose contempt for getting down the nuts and bolts of policy-making is well-known publicly? What is wrong with having a president that can talk shop with people who will actually make the laws that regulate people’s lives?
2) She’s not charismatic enough
This is an extension of the first criticism. People say that because Hillary is so caught up in the nuts and bolts of it all, she doesn’t have the charisma to charm and coax lawmakers. But does charisma really help? Has it been proven empirically? Ultimately it is not charisma that matters; what matters if which party controls Congress. People keep forgetting that in reality, it is Congress that does the bulk of the policy-making work.
3) She’s too crafty
People criticize Hillary for being too crafty, for acting too much like a politician. But isn’t the president a politician also? Politics, whatever it might be, does include a technical element: the craft of statesmanship.
4) She has no core principles of her own:
People say that Hillary lives her life according to polls. Well, Bush, whatever else he is, is a man of his principles. I do not agree with his policies, but I believe that he really does mean what he says. So I ask: what is wrong with having a president that is willing to change his/her mind when new facts are known, or when a change of mind is necessary?
5) She’s too divisive
People point to the contentious Clinton legacy in the ’90s to argue that Hillary, by virtue of being a Clinton, is too divisive. But this is essentially akin to saying that somehow Hillary is to blame for what Bill did. To paraphrase the Bible, why should the sins of the husband be visited upon the wife?
1) He is all style, no substance:
People criticize Obama for being too rhetorical and not offering enough technical details of proposed policies. What do people want exactly? White papers? No, they don’t want that at all. And it is really unrealistic to expect presidential candidates to come up with white papers, since no candidate is knowledgeable enough on all policy areas given the complexities of modern life. That is what a cabinet is for: technical advisers with expert knowledge that come up with the nuts and bolts.
2) He has no grasp of policy details:
Is it even possible for a candidate to grasp, down to the last detail, every possible issue in every policy area? People seem to forget that Obama used to be a law school professor, and trust me, you don’t become a law school professor for being dumb. Presidents go through on the job training just like everyone else.
3) His supporters are annoying:
This criticism never made any sense to me. Who gives a shit what his supporters do? This is the kind of reasoning that says that as soon as someone or something becomes popular, it must be bad. Totally fallacious.
4) He is developing a cult of personality:
This is akin to saying that he is too charismatic. And what is wrong with being charismatic, provided that charisma is used to promote some good? This kind of criticism makes it seem like Obama is some kind of demagogue, but surely no sane person can say that with a straight face. He’s not out inciting violence, or telling people to kill Jews, or stoking nationalist sentiments. So really, this criticism just doesn’t hold.
So what does it come down to really? What it comes down to is that both candidates can make good presidents, and that there is really very little that separates them in reality. So why does the media, and each candidate’s respective supporters, have to make a mountain of a mole hill? Hillary is not some cold-blooded, overly-ambitious political hack who’s willing to do anything to get power, and neither Obama a pretty vase that is empty on the inside. They are both smart people who will in all likelihood do a much better job than Bush did.