Everything I Needed to Know about Edwards and Obama. . .But Not Clinton. . .I Learned in Kindergarten


Increasingly the Iowa race, on the Democratic side is about the competition between Barack Obama and John Edwards. Not just for which of them might be able to come in first, but which of them might be able to place second, knocking the other, or possibly Senator Clinton, into third and, possibly, out of the race.
The main divide between the two — at least as they present it to the voters — is on which one of them has more fight in them. Edwards calls Obama “too nice” to be president. Obama responds with “I don’t need any lectures on how to bring about change, because I haven’t just talked about it on the campaign trail. I’ve fought for change all my life.”
And so on.
But everything you really need to know about the differences between the two is captured in responses each sent to my five year old daughter, Josie, who wrote letters to all the Democratic presidential candidates asking why democracy is a better form of government than monarchy.
The background on this is that my daughter is going through a serious princess phase leading to endless arguments between us on the relative virtues of republican and democratic versus monarchical forms of government. I have yet to win. And if Mary Queen of Scots, her current obsession, picks up a few delegates in Iowa City Four, don’t be too surprised. . .
Anyway, the Edwards approach is simple and direct and unequivocal: “I believe that democracy. . .is the best system. We, the people, get to have a voice in the decisions” that shape our nation. “I also believe that we cannot take our democracy for granted. We need Americans to actively participate.”
Obama, a bit more nuanced and engaging and inclusive: “Naturally, as an American, I believe democracy is the best. But what you might not know is that this doesn’t have to be an “either-or” question. As it turns out, many of our best friends have BOTH democracy AND monarchy! . . .I encourage you to do more research about different forms of government at school. . .I hope you find this topic as fascinating as
I do”.
With only a day left, we are still waiting to hear back from Hillary.
— Michael Schiffer
Michael Schiffer is The Washington Note’s blogger for the Iowa Caucuses and is a resident of Iowa. He is a program officer in Policy Analysis and Dialogue at the Stanley Foundation based in Muscatine, Iowa — and was previously senior national security adviser and legislative director in the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)


11 comments on “Everything I Needed to Know about Edwards and Obama. . .But Not Clinton. . .I Learned in Kindergarten

  1. Ben Rosengart says:

    How adorable. I like Obama’s answer. Too many people in this country think that “we’re” great just because “we’re America”. I like to see a prominent politician encouraging kids to look around and ask questions about the world. And, Michael, it sounds like you’re schooling your daughter in intellectual give and take, which is a Good Thing.
    Although I like this post, Alan has a point. More substance please, and less fluff. Has Steve or any of the Note-takers read Jeremi Suri’s new book on Henry Kissinger? I’d love to read a foreign-policy expert’s informed take on it.


  2. Linda says:

    Everybody gets so excited these days. We all make errors in spelling when typing on-line, and there is no spell check when posting, i.e., Brennan, it’s “immature” not “imature.” And I apologize for even beginning to play “gotcha” on that one as you are, as I, an early and serious reader of TWN.
    Those of us with children and grandchildren try to teach them early about a lot of things (And if you haven’t observed any 4-5 year olds lately, they are quite awesome as many who are bright, but far from unusually so, and who aren’t being pushed can print and read and have all kinds of “knowledge” because they are so curious.) They can print, read, have amazing computer literacy, and know things that interest them including electrons, history, biology–just a tiny bit–so why not politics too?
    But the important thing is that we are looking for the candidate who is most likely to turn this country around into one that will be a better place for our children and grandchildren. So I listened carefully last night to all three front runners’ final big rally speeches. I ended up with Obama as my first choice, and Edwards a very close second. I don’t think Edwards or Clinton can attract independents and Republicans. I think Obama can.
    And I think we all can agree that it does matter who is President. The biggest applause line in Obama’s speech is when he says that George Bush won’t be on the ticket in 2008!! Or Obama’s cousin, Dick Cheney.


  3. Alan says:

    Our politics is now a matter of how trivial one can be. So wait for Hillary and judge her by the fact that she did or did not respond to a 5 year old bright kiddo. Something is happening to the Washington Note. Too many posts with too little substance. Looks like too many have gone off to Nevada and Lake Tahoe. Gee: these folks do get around and run into one another in the best spots.
    I have been away and was last engaged during the Bolton affairs. Now it is Is Obama like Kennedy and other fatuous subjects.
    By any objective standard the Iowa caucus is the least democratic way to elect a candidate. And least representative of the American population at large. So let’s not over do it.


  4. Pat says:

    I think it’s stupid to be thrusting children into the race anyway. Those kids who were “reporters” were interviewed on CNN and couldn’t even remember anything they asked anybody…..this was put up by teachers and parents for photo ops….


  5. Demforchange says:

    That’s a nice little aside. I like both of those guys. It would do my heart joy to see them both finish ahead of Clinton. Don’t expect to hear anything back, Chelsea wouldn’t even talk to a little kid last week.
    Her question was a pretty tough one to dodge. “Would your dad make a good first man?”


  6. Steve Clemons says:

    Dafletcha — good catch. I was just posting Michael’s piece and he sent from the field. No spell check in headlines.
    On behalf of Michael, I thank everyone’s constructive criticism….always very important….particulary from S Brennan, who has been reading from day one.
    best, Steve Clemons


  7. S Brennan says:

    Ironically Michael Schiffer,
    This is one of the most imature posts I have read on this site…and I have been reading and posting since the begining.
    Ease your sails, your sheeted way too tight to make windward progress.


  8. dafletcha says:

    Unfortunately, you didn’t learn how to spell ‘Kindergarten’.


  9. Hedley Lamarr says:

    Please don’t make us think that coming in third in the bizarre, unrepresentative Iowa caucuses will knock anyone out of the race.


  10. karenk says:

    Hey I’m impressed that a 5 year old even knows Mary Queen of Scots! And writing to politicians/having political arguments with Dad already-wow-she’s gonna be a fun teenager!!


  11. anon says:

    Mary, Queen of Scots if you please. She was not in the garden chemical business as best I can recall 🙂 Elizabeth I had her head off for political schemes with the continental Catholic kings.


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