Friday, April 4, 2008

Generalities Without Content

Generalities Without Content
By Jerome Grossman

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer the voters the same agenda: their positions on issues are quite similar and match the Democratic Congressional stands. As long as their centrist positions differ from the right wing conservative positions of the discredited Bush administration, they can rally enough Democrats and Independents for victory in November.

This situation gives a significant edge to Obama, whose personality, charisma and oratorical skills completely overshadow Clinton. Hillary compensates by producing details of the issues, acting as the smartest girl in the class, but not offering new approaches to old problems. For example, she could break the impasse on health care by offering a single-payer government-run system including every American, a system used by virtually every industrial nation. But Hillary would rather offer an improved version of the current system, staying within the Democratic consensus.

Supporters of Barack Obama praise him for his foreign policy. In The American Prospect magazine, April 2008, the entire front cover blazes in multicolor with the message, "The Obama Doctrine, Barack Obama's challenge to the foreign policy establishment."

Some challenge. The article offers "the most sweeping liberal critique in decades." Examples offered: dignity promotion, enlightened global leadership, freedom from want, freedom from fear, elimination of misery, promotion of liberty, justice, and prosperity. The only specific policy listed is the destruction of Al Qaeda as though that is all that is necessary to achieve these worthy objectives.

Across the 50 states, more than 100 candidates ran for president although only 18 of them were selected by the presidential commission to appear on the televised debates. They represented a wide spectrum of parties and views. It is fair to say that virtually every candidate would agree with the generalities, the bromides attributed to the Obama campaign. Do these motherhood goals constitute a foreign policy challenging the establishment?

An authentic challenge to the foreign policy establishment would be to advocate specific changes to accomplish the stated objectives. The devil is in the details. The credibility of any program is in the “how to.” Please, beloved candidates, tell the American voters what you will actually do. The people are fed up with generalities without content.

Offering bromides without policy is an insult to the voters and a failure of democracy, one of the reasons why 81% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. One of the candidates should break this logjam by offering credible specifics. From the history of politics, we know that person will be the one running behind the others. But if that doesn't happen, it is the responsibility of the media to stir the pot, to demand relevant answers. Where are they?


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