Five Things Indiana Voters Should Know Before the Primary

Voters in Indiana have received a barrage of campaign statements and posturing over the past few weeks, as their role in this Democratic Primary is becoming central to the future of the 2008 election. But among all of that information, there are five important facts (not opinions, guesses, or ruminations…100% demonstrable facts) that all Hoosiers should know:

1. Hillary Clinton supports NAFTA

Policy wise, Hillary Clinton is out of step with 90% of working middle class Americans.  Despite her current claim that she never backed it, Clinton’s support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (which made outsourcing US jobs a no-brainer for corporations who care more about their bottom line than their employees) is well-documented.  In his book Take This Job and Ship It, Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota cited NAFTA as one of the key pieces of legislation still burdening American workers today.  And Clinton knew that workers would be hurt, disregarding the vociferous objections of their unions. In her own memoir, Living History, Clinton wrote, “although unpopular with the Unions, expanding trade opportunities was an important goal of the Administration,” even at the expense of thousands of American jobs.  On multiple occasions, she’s given speeches praising both the trade deal and its primary architects, putting it on par with other “successes” of the Clinton White House, like the Brady Bill. To this day, her closest and most visible advisor, Bill Clinton, continues to defend NAFTA and the effect it has had on the American economy.  The San Francisco Chronicle said Clinton’s stance on NAFTA was “clearly a flip-flop.”  You have to ask yourslef, would Hillary Clinton honestly work to undo one of the most “important victories,” as she herself called it, of her husband’s White House?

Then consider the fact that Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist until a few weeks ago, when he was demoted to “top adviser,” attended meetings in South America with the express goal of expanding free trade to some of the nations there.

And look at the state in question: Indiana is one of the most important manufacturing states in the entire country. The Calumet region in northwestern Indiana is the single largest producer of steel in the United States. The Hoosier State also produces an incredible amount of transportation equipment, and is a mainstay of the American mining and pharmaceutical industries. It is these manufacturing jobs that suffer most under trade agreements that put American workers at a serious disadvantage to those in foreign countries. And because history is the best indicator of what’s to come, it’s safe to say that there is a strong likelihood that Hillary Clinton will espouse policies that sell the Indiana worker short, along with all the other laborers across the country.

Contrast that against Obama, who supports fair trade, rejects free trade and the burden it places on the American job market, and calls for an immediate restructuring of the plan in place.

2. The Bosnia Lie Was More than Just A Punchline for Latenight TV

It’s not just getting caught telling a little white lie on the campaign trail. It goes far beyond that. What Hillary did with her Bosnia tale was beyond forgivable. She told a story about her own heroism – and foreign policy “experience” – that she knew to be false. But she thought she could get away with it. It raises questions about her integrity in other areas that very well may have a large impact on the shape of this nation in the next four years (i.e., NAFTA, immigration, and the war).

But beyond that, Clinton’s slip-up was an all-too-vivid reminder of the dishonesty that plagued an otherwise effective White House during the 1990s. It was a White House that- for all it’s successes with balancing the federal budget, peace in foreign policy, and domestic civil liberties- denied accountability to the bitter end. From “I never smoked marijuana,” to “I did, but I never inhaled.” From “I never had sexual relations with that woman,” to “I did, in fact hace an inappropriate relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.” It made their utter denial of wrongdoing in the Whitewater deal that much harder to accept. And now, with Hillary’s talking about a return to the greatness of those days, one has to consider the deceit that comes with it.

And certainly, with moments like the Bosnia speech, Hillary is giving us every reason to believe that it’s a valid concern.

Plus, imagine what would happen if John McCain- like it or not, a real war hero who sacrificed his body and put his life on the line in defense of our country- gets a hold of Clinton and her tall tale. He will make a mockery of the patriotism of the Democratic Party, contrasting someone who has given his all against someone who has merely lied about it.

3. Hillary Clinton is NOT the More Experienced Candidate

It’s hard to figure exactly what Hillary Clinton means when she touts her “35 years of experience.” She’s been in elective office for seven. That leaves the other four-fifths of her accounting up for debate.

“First Lady” is a ceremonial title. In fact, the official capacity of the presidential spouse is “hostess of the White House.” That hardly screams ‘hands on training.”

Hillary Clinton spent eight years as First Lady of the United States after spending another stint as First Lady of a Southern state before that. But guess what: so did Laura Bush, and it’s difficult to see how that constitutes presidential pedigree. Simply being along for the ride does not qualify as experience. There were many, many individuals- like Leon Panetta, or Erskine Bowles- whose involvement in the Clinton White House far exceeded that of Mrs. Clinton. They were key ingredients in policy decisions every single day. Not one of them has considered his time there fodder for a White House bid. Where do you draw the line? Chelsea was there, too. Is she the next Clinton candidate?

Compare Clinton’s seven years in real office to Obama’s eleven (8 in the Illinois State Senate, three in the U.S. Senate). That’s over a decade of making policy, gathering support, and enacting law. And don’t be fooled into thinking that state government is somehow the minor leagues of legislating- it’s grittier, harder, and more hands-on than anything on the federal level. It just doesn’t come with the national notoriety.

Clinton was more than a presidential sidekick, but not by much. She never served in any official capacity whatsoever until Bill left Washington. To convolute that stint into “35 years of experience” is simply dishonest…but we already covered that.

4. Hillary Clinton is NOT more likely to win in November

Don’t believe the hype. Hillary Clinton is not more likely than Barack Obama to win in November.

In 2004, there were sixteen states that were decided by margins of victory of 9% or less (there were actually 19, but I’ve subtracted those states whose primaries have either not been held or certified).  Of those, the 16 most competitive states of the most recent election, Obama has won the primaries in 10 of them, as compared to just 6 for Clinton.

And if you tabulate the number of electoral votes attributable to each of those states, it’s more good news for Obama.  His 10 primary victories count for 82 electoral votes.  Clinton’s count for 70.  Mind you, this is including Hillary’s “big-state wins” in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Look at Clinton’s margins of victory on the states that she did win: 3 points in New Hampshire.  6 points in Nevada.  1 point in New Mexico.  Even in the states she won, she never did it by a whole lot.  Compare that to Obama, who’s won more than a few blowouts.  On average, Clinton’s average margin of victory in those most competitive of states was 6.7%.  Obama’s total is more than triple that, at 20.7%.  Remember his 29-point victory in Virginia, or his 34% wins in Minnesota and Colorado, both of which are among the top 16 in 2004.

The fact is, Obama opens up new electoral markets, presenting the possibility of victory in the South in a way that neither of the last two Democratic presidential candidates could even hope for.

5. Hillary’s flip-flops on the war and immigrant drivers’ licenses were more than just slip-ups.

Example 1: In the run-up to the Texas Democratic Primary, Bill Clinton made an interesting (albeit completely false) assertion: he claimed to have opposed the Iraq War from the outset. He vehemently denied ever backing the plan, maintaining that he was in the right all along. But his claim brought up another question: if that was the right side to be on all along, why wasn’t Hillary against the war, too?

At least John Edwards had the decency to outright apologize for his vote in favor of the war, calling it the biggest mistake of his career. Hillary maintains that she made the right decision.

Example 2: In one of the early Democratic presidential debates, Hillary Clinton contradicted herself in a matter of one minute. In the same breath, Clinton both claimed she supported then- New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give illegal immigrants access to drivers’ licenses, and that she opposed it as well. After she got a chance to confer with her advisers on the more politically expedient position, she clarified. It took weeks for her to come back from that slip up. In the meantime, Barack Obama took a stance- one that was unpopular with many, many voters- and stuck to it. That’s principle.

What these two scenarios exemplify is that Hillary Clinton- just as it became apparent during the 1990s that Bill was as well (then pollster Dick Morris had a legendary stranglehold on the president’s ear)- is a slave to the opinion poll. She makes her decisions based on what is popular, not on what is right. And even when the course of events calls her actions into question, her utter hubris prevents her from admitting any wrongdoing, as Edwards did. That’s not leadership.

Indiana voters are going to have a lot to sift through when it comes to deciding who their candidate will be.  But in doing so, it’s important to remember that- as I said before- an individual’s past is a true indicator of their future disposition.  And with Clinton’s history of contradiction and outright dishonesty, there are serious concerns with what her future would mean for this country.

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