Monday, December 17, 2007

What Does This Say About Us?

Image credit: Associated Press

While researching another issue, I ran across this in the New York Times:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized personally to Senator Barack Obama on Thursday for a top adviser’s public suggestion that Republicans would go after Mr. Obama for his youthful drug use.


William Shaheen, a co-chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s national and New Hampshire campaigns, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the Republicans would probably go after Mr. Obama for having used marijuana and cocaine, indiscretions that he wrote about himself. Mr. Shaheen went on to suggest that Republicans would probably also question whether Mr. Obama ever shared drugs with others or was a dealer.


Mrs. Clinton, a Democrat from New York, apologized to Mr. Obama on Thursday morning when they ran into each other at Reagan National Airport in Washington as they were both headed to Iowa for the last Democratic debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Later in the day, Mr. Shaheen announced that he had quit the campaign.

Apologies From the Heart (of Darkness?)

As anyone who's read this blog for a while knows, I'm not a big fan of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. One might say, in fact, that there are at least a couple of people I'd rather see win the nomination. But what this says about us as voters, or about politicians' attitudes about us, is rather fascinating.

A short version of this question is "Are we really that stupid?"

Barack Obama didn't have the most ideal childhood. His father wasn't around very much, his mother seemingly a driven professional, and for a while young Barack was raised by his grandparents. I'm sure he had abandonment issues, at least on occasion. And while I can't cite statistics, my own experience would suggest that casual use of drugs was rather common among folks of our generation. That Obama was savvy and tough enough to avoid becoming a drug addict or a casualty is one of the few things that recommend him as a candidate.

What's more, Obama has admitted his use of drugs already. It's not going to have much potential as blackmail.

Why then do politicians think this is important? Is it really true that most voters don't remember what they or their acquaintances did when they were young? Why aren't we focusing a bit more on the character issues that matter, like whom these two candidates (and the others) are beholden to, and whether they've done their previous political jobs well and honestly?

Maybe the answer to those questions isn't something they want to contemplate.

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