Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I like Hillary and I like Obama. Both are smart. But have demonstrated since their early adulthood that they care about the issues that I care about. Neither of them has any red flags that warn me off of them.

But I've favored Hillary all along. 

Obama's speeches are things of wonder, not question. He is capable of addressing issue and bring them to the nation that Hillary is not, and I don't just mean race. He is a big issue, ideals and principals guys. That is his nature, and some of his many gifts make him perhaps uniquely able to discuss them in ways that resonate with many Americans. (We'll see whether or not it is most Americans come the general election.) I don't think that he is just about speeches. He understands the legislative process. He has a sense of how to work with people. He is capable of discussing policy, no question.

But for some reason, I've favored Hillary all along. No knock on Obama, whom I find inspiring on many levels. My favor for one does not have to come at the expense of the other. In fact, I voted for Obama because at the time I felt that he was a better match up again John McCain.

But I've favored Hillary all along. 

Without getting into each of the candidates strengths and weaknesses, I want to explain why. In fact, I don't think that it is about their general strengths and weaknesses. They are each a great candidate. They simply are different candidates. I don't think that one is definitively better than the other. Either would make a great president. Either can beat John McCain -- I'm now not so sure which would be a better match up. I've thought a lot about each of their strengths and weakness, but I don't think that that has really made a difference.

So, why have I favored Hillary all along? These are not reasons that I am necessarily proud of, but I am not ashamed of them either. They exist in the context in which I like both of them, and would happily support either of them. These are the results that I think I have uncovered in myself.

First, I feel like I know her better. Obviously, I've known her longer. I was in college when Bill ran for president and I really liked her then. After Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, Hillary was exciting to me. She was the kind of woman I respected. She was more like my Mom, in that she was a well-educated professional with her own career. She did not pretend to take a backseat to her husband, despite his political successes. She was interesting, smart  and opinionated, even sarcastic. She was a real feminist, and was portrayed as a radical liberal. Every one of these things was good. (I must admit, though, she is not as liberal as she was painted, as not as liberal as my ideal president would be.)

I could only hope that I might marry so well. I don't mean that I wanted to marry her, but certainly I wanted someone with every one of those traits. 

Through the years, I've learned more about her. She was bookish and strong, clearly awkward during during formative years. She never was fashionable, even when she tried. But that didn't diminish her at all, as she demanded to be evaluated on entirely different standards. I learned how thoughtful she was, how she she consciously came to liberalism and the Democratic party. She could have been one of my friend in high school or college. 

Perhaps she was too aggressive or pushy for that. We might have clashed and fought. Maybe we couldn't have been friends, but I'd like to think that that was the of person I wanted as my friend. And even if my pushiness and her aggressiveness wouldn't have mixed well, that didn't mean that she wasn't suitable to lead. In fact, her aggressiveness might even make her more suitable to lead.

I just like her. Always have. Probably always will. 

Furthermore, there's something about the abuse that she had taken all these years, not just during this campaign. Sure, Chris Matthews has been horrendous. But when she was first lady she was a huge target of the right. Even when Bill was running for president she was a huge target. Even when Bill was governor of Arkansas, she was a huge target, this feminist from up north. I'm sympathetic to that. I feel for her. Perhaps that shouldn't matter, but I think that it does. I know that years of experience a target of ad hominem politically motivated attacks really shouldn't be a qualification for presidents of the United States, but if I am being honest I've got to admit that it has resonated within me.

On the other hand, there is Obama. He's handsome. He's smooth. He's is, quite simply, more cool than I ever could be. He's arrogant - which I like - and he pulls it off with panache. Second City has a great line about him, "He's just the right amount of black." I think that that cool he's got is part of what they are referring to -- though clearly not the only part. 

I was never the cool kid. Moreover, I never wanted to be the cool kid, or hang out with the cool kids. I wasn't in love with the homecoming queen, and I wasn't impressed with my high school's quarter back. Did I reject all of this because I knew I couldn't be a part of it? I don't think so, but who can really be sure? Regardless, I was one of the smart kids and I was happy to be one of the smart kids. I never looked enviously as the other groups, be it in high school, college or since. 

Perhaps Obama was one of the smart kids. I mean, he was smart enough to be in that group. But he projects that he was always one of the cool kids. And I always felt like they were more about style than substance. 

I think that Hillary's near tears in New Hampshire is relevant here. Obama wouldn't have that moment, not publicly. It's not his style. He is an incredible public speaker and have an amazing presence about it. He's one of those guys who never seems to be working hard, even when he is. But in that moment, Hillary genuinely showed her frustration. She was at ropes' end. She'd been working hard for decades for these causes that matter to her, getting more and more immersed over time (i.e. from being first lady of Arkansas while being a partner at a law firm, to being full time first lady of the U.S., to being a full time senator). She's been working her ass off, and it actually is hard work. She was sure that she was what America needs, and people weren't listening. She was frustrated. She was tired. She might even have been a touch despondent. What more did she have to do?

I've had moments like that, when I look back on all my efforts and feel like people just aren't listening, are making my work harder than it need to be, when I feel that something important is not going to get done properly, despite everything that I have done for it. Passionate people everywhere have had those moments.

Does Obama have those moments. It's hard to think that he doesn't. But we'd never see them. That's not who is he is. He doesn't project as a grinder who gets things done. Rather, he's the leader, the rock star. 

Look, this isn't about which would be a better president. This is not about the most important strengths of each candidate, or their important weaknesses. They add up in my head to be just about comparable, though different.  This is not about who had a tougher childhood, who faced more barriers to their success, who was touched more by MLK's death, who had had tougher odds to overcome, who is smarter, who is a harder worker, who is more liberal or anything like that. This is about why, despite my conscious and rational conviction that these two candidates are both great, just different, that I have consistently favored Hillary all along. 

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