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Scott Galindez: Obama vs. Billary

Obama vs. Billary

By Scott Galindez
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 24 January 2008

The race for the Democratic Party nomination for president has increasingly become a three-way race. The problem for John Edwards is he is no longer the third person in the race, Bill Clinton is.

To be fair, Edwards was the big winner in Monday night's debate in South Carolina, but most observers think it is too late to save his campaign.

When I talked to Latino voters in Nevada who supported Hillary, they all talked about Bill Clinton's record, not Hillary's. Except for the exchange in Monday night's debate, the strongest attacks against Obama have come from the former president, not his opponent.

In Nevada, Hillary was able to deny any connection to a lawsuit to prevent shift workers from voting on the strip, while Bill blew up at a reporter while defending the lawsuit. It was Bill that tried to claim Obama has not opposed the war from the beginning, based on his votes for funding, votes he has in common with Hillary, who now claims to oppose the war despite the same votes. It was Bill that claimed that Obama said he agreed with the ideas of Ronald Reagan when he clearly didn't.

As the race moves to South Carolina, Hillary is staying away until Friday night, one day before the primary, while Bill Clinton is crisscrossing the state on her behalf.

This has led Obama to state that sometimes he doesn't know who he is running against, Bill or Hillary.

The Obama campaign began a "truth squad" in South Carolina to respond to negative criticism. Involved in the effort was former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

People in South Carolina "don't want to see this backbiting, bitter give-and-take that we're beginning to see more and more of, especially from the Clinton campaign. It's wrong. Everybody knows it's wrong and it's got to stop," Daschle told reporters on a conference call. "Ultimately, it's going to divide us. And it's going to have a huge effect, a lasting effect if it doesn't stop soon."

Asked about Bill Clinton's actions, Daschle said, "It's not presidential. It's not in keeping with the image of a former president."

I am also puzzled as to why poor people think Bill Clinton was good for them. Clinton's domestic agenda was first announced as a gigantic jobs-creation program coupled with a determined effort to guarantee health care for all. The truth is, his focus on eliminating the budget deficit meant he did very little for the poor and working people in America. While he was much better than Reagan or Bush, there was definitely room for improvement.

Clinton's small gestures toward social democracy did not come close to what was needed in a nation where one-fourth of the children lived in poverty; where homeless people lived on the streets in every major city; where women could not look for work for lack of child care; where the air, the water were deteriorating dangerously.

More than being merely inadequate to the needs of America's millions of truly disadvantaged citizens, the Clinton administration actually attacked the disproportionately non-white poor in numerous interrelated ways. Clinton signed a punitive welfare reform bill that ended the federal government's guarantee of financial help to impoverished families with dependent children. He also scored points with conservatives by taking welfare benefits away from legal as well as illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, Clinton increased economic insecurity in poor and working-class American communities by signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA destroyed tens of thousands of American industrial jobs by tearing down long-established regulatory barriers to the movement of corporate capital and commodities across the US-Mexican border.

Clinton claimed "the era of big government is over."

O.K., Bill Clinton is not running for president, but since so many seem to be voting for him and not Hillary, I thought I'd remind them NAFTA and welfare reform were on his watch.


Scott Galindez is Truthout's Washington, DC Bureau Chief.

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