What’s In a Voting Record

Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld conducted a side-by-side comparison of votes cast by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama since Obama joined the Senate in January 2005 and discovered that their records are essentially identical. Max Blumenthal opines in The Nation that “In no way does Sargent and Kleefeld’s study negate the importance of Obama’s oppositon to invading Iraq, but it does add some nuance to an otherwise simplistic debate.”

I think a better thing to say was that the Sargent/Kleefeld study demonstrates what anyone who follows politics for a while will quickly see — voting records don’t tell you all that much about where politicians’ stand. In the contemporary world both parties remain overwhelmingly united on the overwhelming majority of votes; the Democratic leadership tries to outline positions that all its members will support and the GOP leadership tries to outline positions that mainstream Democrats will oppose in an effort to put pressure on a handful of vulnerable members representing “red” areas. What’s more, to really add nuance to the debate, you’d need to produce some example of Obama being less neoconnish than Clinton and I’ve never seen that. Obama appears to have an advisory team drawn disproportionately from the ranks of Iraq War opponents whereas Clinton is the reverse; Obama’s AIPAC speech was somewhat less fanatically devoted to the cause; etc., etc., etc.

Not to level any particular charges at Blumenthal, but it does seem to me that at some point the Clinton camp needs to stop trying to blur the differences between her foreign policy views and Obama’s and, instead, defend her views as better superior to his.