Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 23, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

CLINTON vs. OBAMA....THE RECORD....In the Guardian today, Elana Schor reports that although Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have almost identical voting records in the Senate, they aren't quite identical. Here's a nickel summary:

  1. Cheney energy bill: Obama for, Clinton against.

  2. Cluster bomb ban: Obama for, Clinton against.

  3. Pat Leahy's refugee amendment: Obama for, Clinton against.

  4. Gun confiscation during emergencies: Obama against, Clinton for.

  5. Confirmation of interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne: Obama for, Clinton against.

  6. Confirmation of Army chief of staff George Casey: Obama for, Clinton against.

  7. Lobbying reform: Obama for, Clinton against.

In terms of supporting conventional liberal policies, I suppose you'd give Clinton the advantage on 1, 4, 5, and 6. Obama gets the nod on 2, 3, and 7. It's pretty thin gruel, though. Aside from the energy bill, their other differences are fairly modest. Still, your mileage may vary depending on which issues matter most to you. Read the whole thing here.

Kevin Drum 12:09 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Posted by: mhr on January 23, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

How do people rank these issues in terms of importance?

Energy bill
Refugee amendment
Cluster bomb ban
Lobbying
Gun confiscation
Kempthorne
Army Chief of Staff

Kempthorne and Casey might suck, but anyone Bush is going to appoint is gonna suck.

I don't know the details of the gun confiscation thing. It's probably some narrow policy that is reasonable. It might be so narrow as to be unnecessary. It sounds like the kind of bill that exists so pro- and anti- gun control groups can keep raising money on their issue.

I'd be curious why Obama voted on the energy bill. Probably has something to do with Illinois coal businesses liking the legislation or ethanol issues.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on January 23, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Useful list. Hmmm.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 23, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Yawn !

Booooring !

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." - H. L. Mencken

Posted by: daCascadian on January 23, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Um...how is Clinton opposed to lobbying reform? She voted for it.

Here's the vote tally for the final vote on S.1: http://www.opencongress.org/roll_call/show/1753

Posted by: Paul on January 23, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Gun confiscation during emergencies?! without doing any research that might endanger the spirit of the internet, I'd have to give that one to Obama.

Posted by: Boronx on January 23, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Clinton vote for and Obama against the appointments of Roberts and Alito? If so, isn't the record you cited partial in a way that distorts?

Posted by: Steve S. on January 23, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

[silly partisan]But you don't get it, KD. The candidate I favor is perfect and the other one is sooo eevil that I'll probably cast a write-in vote for Dubya next November.[/silly partisan]

Let's not let facts get in the way of tearing our party asunder from within, please?

Posted by: howie on January 23, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, the gun confiscation thing is really bad for Clinton. It's a stupid, fascist rule, and could hurt her in the West.

I'm not sure if Casey is much of an issue.

Posted by: Boronx on January 23, 2008 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Let me just be the first to mention how utterly, mind-blowingly pathetic it is that a U.K. paper has to do this.

If we just had a functioning press in this country ...

Posted by: Mark D on January 23, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

In terms of supporting conventional liberal policies,

If you, like me are more interested in personal freedom and a sane foreign policy than in promoting economic parity, then its no contest.

Conventional liberal just isn't adequate.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on January 23, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think that trying to maximize one's decision between Clinton and Obama with this kind of subtle difference will drive liberals mad, KD. Humans don't, can't, process information at that level of detail. Sooner or later some emotion-driven heuristic (FEAR! LOVE!) is going to take over, usually of the "I identify with so-and-so" kind--and everything after that will be post-hoc rationalizing: She's a woman. He's young and inspirational.

In 2004, Democrats thought that all the details would make a difference, but John Kerry was swift-boated. Howard Dean was dumped for a scream. Bush supporters voted for their man even though they didn't know what his policies were.

Sooner or later, imho, most Americans go with their gut.


Posted by: PTate in MN on January 23, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

What about the Bankruptcy bill?

Posted by: s9 on January 23, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Sooner or later some emotion-driven heuristic

Like - every time somebody says something rude about Obama (particularly calling hime naive), I seem to like him better?


Posted by: Paul Dirks on January 23, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Obama and Clinton both voted against Alito and Roberts.

Posted by: Sean on January 23, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Is this a pro-Edwards post?

Posted by: Brojo on January 23, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Good for Sen. Obama on the confiscation bill. Seizing guns for no good reason is incredibly stupid policy. And no, a hurricane is not a good reason.

Posted by: Brian on January 23, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Sooner or later, imho, most Americans go with their gut.

Yes, but not all policy votes are created equal.

In particular, if I was a Democratic strategist for rural areas nation-wide and the South in particular, I would stay awake nights worrying about the following:

Gun confiscation during emergencies: Obama against, Clinton for.

As a liberal who wants the right to defend myself against the secret army of Dick Cheney clones, I find this one very troubling. It would be so easy for the noise machine to position this as "confirming" plans for an authoritarian nanny state. Nevermind the fact that Bush/Cheney was the most authoritarian regime we'd had in years.

Posted by: lobbygow on January 23, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton voted to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Obama missed the vote - he was in New Hampshire. He said he would have opposed it.

Assuming he would have, this is a very significant difference. Clinton's vote - like her vote on the Iraq war - was a NeoCon enabler.

Posted by: mkultra on January 23, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't there a flag burning amendment a while back that Hillary wrapped herself in, as it were?

Posted by: brian on January 23, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Gun confiscation during emergencies: Obama against, Clinton for."

That sounds.... kind of troubling from an authoritarian standpoint.

Posted by: MNPundit on January 23, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Pointless preemptive war: Clinton for, Obama against.

Posted by: PTS on January 23, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't there a flag burning amendment a while back that Hillary wrapped herself in, as it were?

Please tell me no. I cannot vote for her if that's true.

I could have turned a blind eye to the gun confiscation, but there is simply NO EXCUSE for a flag burning amendment of any kind. Hillary is beginning to sound like either a pure political opportunist or the ubernanny that the right wing noise machine is incessantly "warning" us about.

For God's sake Hillary - a flag burning amendment?!

Of course, if it was merely an effort to reduce pollution, I might be inclined to forgive.

Posted by: lobbygow on January 23, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

How many times does it have to be pointed out that Hillary did not vote for the bankruptcy bill? She missed the vote because Bill Clinton was undergoing heart surgery that day.

This list supports my own feeling about the candidates. There is very little daylight between their positions on any issue.

Posted by: Rob Mac on January 23, 2008 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Finally! Good post, good things to see, the article goes into more detail. And the judges thing is something to look into as well, but I like seeing this stuff to mull over.

Let's see more of this! More in depth analysis of their policy proposals and policy stands. The boring stuff is the good stuff, IMO.

Posted by: drosz on January 23, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Hillary was for an amendment against flag burning. Not to over look her stances on bankruptcy, Backing the Repubs on Iraq and Iran, Republican (Karl Rove) style of slash and burn politics and health care and insurance pandering. Top it off with her taking away guns during emergencies (Like that couldn't be easily manufactured), she sounds like a well reasoned president. Just what our country needs, another polarizing ass to take us further from most American's ideals

Posted by: Mike in Chicago on January 23, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Clinton voted nay on the constitutional amendment on flag burning. http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=2&vote=00189

She did vote for and co-sponsored the Durbin bill that would make it illegal to burn a flag with the primary intention being to incite an imminent breach of the peace or to intimidate.

Guess what, so did Obama. http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=2&vote=00188

This sort of distortion is why I'm not likely to vote for Obama.

Posted by: SJ on January 23, 2008 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's easier to execute a Liberal or Progressive voting record from both Illinois and New York than it is from North Carolina.

Wanna bet that if Obama or Clinton were from NC their voting record would be nearly identical to Edwards?

If you want authenticity go to DisneyLand. If you want a great president look at their character, their history of success and what they're proposing. We've seen enough garbage on Clinton and we're beginning to see it on Obama.

John Edwards -- A record of great success and a campaign platform of policies we need!

Posted by: MarkH on January 23, 2008 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

This sort of distortion is why I'm not likely to vote for Obama.

Wait. Did I miss something? Did Obama recently lie about Hillary's flag burning amendment voting record?

C'mon man. Not everyone who has problems with Hillary is a wingnut or an Obama supporter.

She did vote for and co-sponsored the Durbin bill that would make it illegal to burn a flag with the primary intention being to incite an imminent breach of the peace or to intimidate.

The qualifiers mean nothing. This is nothing more than pandering to the jingoists. And shame on Obama if he voted for this dreck as well.

Isn't there already a mechanism for dealing with people whose primary intent is to incite unrest or intimidate others?

Posted by: lobbygow on January 23, 2008 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

The refugee bill trumps for me. I've done asylum law, & the "material support" provision is crazy, wrong--I would even say evil. The Leahy amendment was us straight-up conscience vote: do you do the decent, humane thing, or does all that go out the window when someone uses the word "terrorism"?

Posted by: Katherine on January 23, 2008 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Former President of Chicago NOW, Lorna Brett Howard, tells the story of why she switched from supporting Hillary Clinton to supporting Barack Obama.

Posted by: Lucy on January 24, 2008 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

I'm an NRA Liberal from Texas, so 1 and 4 actually break heavily in Obama's favor for me.

That said, yeah, Hillary and Obama are both OK on their records. In a way, I guess I'm happy that my vote will be determined on "likability" -- because there really isn't anything else for me to vote against them on.

Posted by: Jim D on January 24, 2008 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

1. The energy bill featured big corporate welfare for the ethanol industry. Obama caved to the economic interests of his state.

2. Clinton is a hawk and Obama isn't. We already knew this.

3. No surprise that Obama would be interested in persecuted refugees. I'm not familiar with this amendment, so I don't know why Clinton would have opposed it.

4. Clinton supports state power and Obama supports individual rights. We already knew this. (Personally, I don't see why this is a left-right issue, but I grew up in a rural state where guns are neither right nor left but just normal.)

5 and 6. These votes had no practical significance, since both guys were going to pass anyway. The votes tell us about style, whether a senator prefers conceding a lost battle in order to get along or making a stand to register one's objection. I can see both sides on this.

7. Obama wants to change politics, Hillary wants to work within it. This is the central theme of their campaigns, so this vote tells us nothing new. (In answer to Paul above, Clinton voted against two major amendments giving muscle to the act. This is clearly explained in the story Kevin linked to.)

Posted by: markdlew on January 24, 2008 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

Unless there were two emergency gun confiscation bills, I suspect, you got number 4 backward. If my recollection is correct, Republicans scrambled post-Katrina to issue a bill preventing gun confiscations. At least, that was the impression I got.

Perhaps someone can dig up the text of the bill.

Posted by: buck on January 24, 2008 at 5:28 AM | PERMALINK

The qualifiers mean nothing. This is nothing more than pandering to the jingoists.

I disagree. There's a big difference between amending the Constitution to restrict 1st amendment protections and passing a federal law (not a constitutional amendment) to ban behavior that, as you point out, is probably already illegal. And if distracts the yahoos from messing with the Constitution, it's a plus in my book.

As for the impact of this sort of story on how I vote, I see the two candidates as similar --- it seems to me, though, that thanks to the media, some pretty inaccurate charges have been made by Obama supporters and I'm going to strike back by voting against him in my state's primary.

Also, with respect to the confiscation of guns legislation, what I'm reading is that the objection of Clinton and others was that it was so broadly drafted as to prevent law enforcement from even seizing guns that had been used in previously committed crimes.

Posted by: sj on January 24, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Does this make things clearer? Does flag-burning pose a threat to others usually? Darn, I didn't know that.

It will not be an easy vote, as evidenced by the carefully worded statement issued by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I support federal legislation that would outlaw flag desecration, much like laws that currently prohibit the burning of crosses, but I don't believe a constitutional amendment is the answer," she said, adopting a position similar to the one taken by her husband, former President Clinton, when he was in office.

Her aides said there is no contradiction in being against the flag-burning amendment and for a flag-burning law.

They say she believes a federal law would not trample First Amendment rights because, like laws against cross burnings, it would ban flag desecration that is deemed to pose a threat to others — and not acts of political expression that are protected by the First Amendment.

However, a law like the one proposed by the senator would likely be challenged in courts because Congress has no clear right to outlaw flag burning. That is why supporters of the ban want to add a one-line amendment to the Constitution that says, "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

"US Today

Posted by: nepeta on January 24, 2008 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, let's try that link again:

USA Today

Posted by: nepeta on January 24, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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