To: The New York Times Editor
A Plea to our Electorate: Seize Today
I am a Hillary Clinton supporter largely for the reasons expressed in The NY Times editorial. Barack Obama is a fine candidate, just not as ready. If the Republicans nominate John McCain, although it will at least restore some of my lost faith in a country that elected our current President, his time has passed. The race is clearly a case of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Before I explain, let’s review some of the bidding.
We as a nation need to be realistic and accept full responsibility for our choices. Politicians give the electorate what they want, not something conjured up by special interests, Washington insiders or ideologues. Admittedly, we too often have been enablers of these various constituents, ceding our accountability to them. But it’s not some external force responsible for our nation’s political polarization; we are the culprits. The newest avatar of this tendency to blame others is the notion of a messianic leader who will propel us into a new political paradigm. Invoking the legacy of JFK without a complete appreciation for the turbulent 60’s and 70’s that followed the ephemeral Camelot period is plainly naïve and misguided.
On the Democratic side, the media has failed miserably in any public- service vetting of the candidates. More interested in entertainment, they have created a hero/villain story line where experience and political savvy assume a dark art tone. Moreover, apparently in an effort to side step any racist overtones, they are more than willingly frolicking in the fields of misogyny. In that context, a known quantity is an important quality, particularly given the complicated world in which we live. In other words, nuts and bolts competence stemming from valuable experience should trump any overly idealistic expectation of change.
Our image of leadership is tarnished. It’s also stuck on a cult of personality. Hopefully, we’ve learned our downward- spiraling lesson of electing an individual who pledged allegiance to a narrow-minded ideology and appealed to some ordinary- citizen, frontier craving. Let’s please not measure the candidates on a personality scale this time—they’re all likeable enough. Ideas and substance should matter more. We need leaders who are extraordinary individuals, able to tackle a challenging economy as well as adversaries abroad. That means a talented person who has a deep and abiding political commitment, such as health care and the welfare of our nation’s children, and the strength of character to prevail in both the legislative and diplomatic arenas.
Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for today’s world. John McCain is yesterday’s politician and Barack Obama is tomorrow’s guy. Proven ability and competence to navigate the political process in the crucible of public attention is what we need. With her experience in the 60’s and 70’s of building coalitions, we should trust her with the state of our current economy, have confidence in her ability to harvest results from disparate interests. On the foreign policy front, she will strike the perfect balance in dealing with both America’s allies and adversaries in a strong and reasonable fashion. I trust her the most to sit across the table from Putin, for example, and serve best America’s overall interests. On the other hand, John McCain appears trapped in many of the failed policies of the past. And Barack Obama appears to be a capable leader without deep political experience.
For all of us, the choice should be clear. I would urge all Americans, and particularly Democrats, to support today’s leading candidate—Hillary Clinton.
R. Lee Pell
New York, New York
January 31, 2008