Not a dime's worth of difference
By Michael M. Bates
Forty years ago, third-party presidential candidate George Wallace cackled that there wasn't "a dime's worth of difference" between Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Gov. Wallace, who was a stanch Democrat most of his life, could have been describing the distinctions between his party's presidential candidates in 2008.
Democrats may protest, but the reality is they have a choice of candidate, not of platform. Evidence of the similarities between Senators Clinton and Obama abound in the ratings awarded by assorted interest groups. Project Vote Smart compiles many of these evaluations.
Mrs. Clinton was given a 100 percent rating by both NARAL Pro-Choice America (previously conducting its nefarious business under the more straightforward name of the National Abortion Rights Action League) and Planned Parenthood for her 2006 votes. By golly, so was Mr. Obama.
For 2005-2006, the National Right to Life Committee awarded Mr. Obama a zero. Shockingly, that's what Mrs. Clinton was also given.
The National Taxpayers Union evaluated Mr. Obama at 16 percent for 2006. Now here's a major distinction; Mrs. Clinton's rating was 17 percent.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State obsesses over its paranoid delusion that the so-called Religious Right is imposing its theological views on the public by governmental action. This lunacy extends to efforts to limit Christmas celebrations and even banning government workers from using the word Christmas. Barry Lynn, the organization's director, gleefully notes: "The good news is that in December if you say ‘Happy Holidays' you're touching upon an important holiday of almost everyone. You're a little early for Chinese New Year but the truth is you generally hit Ramadan, you hit Hanukkah, you hit Christmas, you even hit the Winter Solstice for pagans."
Winter Solstice for pagans, now there's a burning concern. Given the organization's liberal slant, it's not unexpected that for 2006 it awarded Senator Obama a 100 percent rating. Senator Clinton was also perfect in the group's view.
The duo was also faultless for the 2005-2006 period in the eyes of the National Education Association, a teachers' union devoted to leftist indoctrination and fat salaries, and, for 2006, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.
A few years ago, the "chair" of the Communist Party USA political action committee cited two "progressive organizations" working to push the Democratic Party leftward. They were the Alliance of Retired Americans and the Campaign for America's Future. Both groups conferred 100 percent ratings on Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton in 2006.
Also that year, the two senators racked up identical voting records with the Americans for Democratic Action (95 percent), the Service Employees International Union (94 percent), and the AFL-CIO (93 percent). They didn't do so well with the traditional values crowd; the Family Research Council gave them both zeroes.
Some groups, such as Citizens for Global Solutions, assign letter grades rather than a numeric rating. Until a few years ago, Citizens for Global Solutions was known as the World Federalist Association. Its aim, one-world government, didn't change. The 2007 grade for Barack Obama was an A+. Joining him as class valedictorian was Hillary Clinton.
Both Democratic candidates opposed John Roberts's and Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court and favored more federal money for embryonic stem cell research. Two years ago, they voted for a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico. Now, however, both of them are against it, with the Illinois senator noting that "this is an area where Senator Clinton and I almost entirely agree." What a surprise.
Barack Obama sharply criticizes Hillary Clinton's judgment on some issues - Iraq, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and how they'd implement their socialized medicine schemes come to mind - yet the differences they have even there can be gauged with a micrometer. So it is with almost everything.
To be certain, the candidates differ in some ways. They're not alike in terms of style or emphasis or from whom they swipe their speech material. On policy matters, though, there's not a dime's worth of difference. Somewhere, George Wallace must be smiling.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the February 28, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.