[Viewpoint]Great losses for small gainsIn a seminar recently held in Washington, D.C., I met heavyweight American reporter Thomas Omestad, a senior editor of the weekly magazine U.S. News & World Report.
I asked him, “Who is the Democratic candidate most likely to win power?”
He replied without hesitation, “It is Hillary Clinton.” He also explained that Senator Barack Obama’s pursuit of her was disappointing.
I asked him, “If Hillary becomes the candidate, how likely is it that she will win the presidential election?”
He said, “The probability is very high because the Republican candidates aren’t very competitive. Hillary is likely to win no matter who she goes up against.”
Omestad said Hillary has gotten on more solid ground as the front-runner.
During the first and second quarters this year, she fell behind Obama in campaign fundraising, but overtook him during the third quarter.
While Obama revealed his lack of experience at various discussion meetings, she nurtured her image as the stable candidate.
In addition, she has capitalized on her strong organizational skills and the celebrity of her husband, Bill Clinton, the former U.S. president, to achieve a support rate of higher than 50 percent in the race to win the Democratic nomination, according to The Washington Post on Oct. 3.
Hillary is also ahead of Rudolph Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City and a Republican Party frontrunner.
She leads him by 7 to 8 percent, higher than before.
Hillary is busy trying to keep the upward momentum of her campaign. Her strategy is to collect as many votes as possible, creating a situation in which no other contestant can beat her.
We cannot blame her for that, but the problem is the way she is getting the votes.
If she wins votes by catering to particular groups instead of offering a vision, she may be elected president but will hardly be able to be considered a great leader.
Let’s take the free trade agreement, for example.
In her campaign in Iowa on Oct. 8, Hillary said, “The benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) only went to the wealthy and workers lost their jobs.
“Therefore, Nafta should be adjusted and new free trade agreements should be held back.”
She also went to Detroit,Michigan, the center of the country’s automobile industry, for an event in June hosted by the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, commonly known as the AFL-CIO.
It is the largest federation of unions in the United States.
She said there, “Because the South Korea-United States free trade agreement will harm our automobile industry, I oppose its ratification.”
In a speech to the African business association in 1997, however, Hillary said passionately, “Look at the global village. Aren’t those countries lowering the trade barriers more prosperous than those that do not?”
In the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 1998, Clinton said, “Thanks to Nafta, business activity in the United States has been revitalized.”
She behaved like an evangelist for free trade during the term in office of her husband, Bill Clinton, who realized the importance of Nafta.
But now she has changed. The Washington Post and other news outlets have pointed out that her change in position came about due to votes from the trade unions.
In Iowa, the first gateway to the contest, former U.S. senator and protectionist John Edwards has the upper hand, supported by some hard-line trade unions.
He is eager to brand her as a “free trader, following her husband.” He believes he can turn the tables and win the contest if he beats Hillary to the draw.
Well aware of his calculation, Hillary made a big issue of opposing the free trade agreements to avoid the attacks from Edwards and win over the unions.
But her transformation may cause her to incur a great loss while going after a small gain. A majority of the public might be disappointed with her efforts to try to get in line with the unions.
Hillary should benchmark her husband. Blaming the AFL-CIO for being “roughshod,” Bill Clinton strongly confronted the federation of unions, which had threatened to reject Democratic candidates who supported Nafta.
His firm leadership laid the foundation for launching Nafta, which has been a big help to the North American economy.
What is required of Hillary is such leadership and insight, not opportunistic behavior.
*The writer is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-il