The Burlington Hawk Eye

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Time to decide
In Hillary Clinton, Democrats get the experience and tenacity needed now.

The stakes are incredibly high. The next president of the United States will inherit a seeming endless war in Iraq and a growing divide in this country between the haves and have nots.

Too many Americans lack access to affordable health care. America's school districts are tethered to a questionable education policy that is No Child Left Behind. We refer to it as too-few-children-allowed-to-excel because it's a one-size-fits-all policy when school districts across the country are vastly different, from district to district, facing unique challenges that the bureaucrats in Washington will never see or completely understand.

They need to be unleashed from those restraints so more resources can be applied to the classroom.

Most Americans don't fully comprehend the complexities of the immigration problem, instead ceding to the notion that hordes of citizens from Mexico and Central American are sneaking across our border in the dark of night solely to steal our jobs and infect our schools with drugs and gangs.

The nation's economy is headed toward an unstoppable recession, if you believe three former Treasury secretaries.

The plate will be full for the next occupant of the Oval Office, and it's a job that will have to start even before the inaugural balls are over.

Of the impressive group of Democratic candidates, the one who rises above the others at this moment in the nation's history is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

We weren't afforded a chance to see up close any of the Republican candidates. They've ignored their party faithful in southeast Iowa. Still, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is the most honest and candid, and the Republicans' best chance to work with the Democrats in Congress.

While we don't agree with him on most issues, McCain's vast experience sets him apart from the GOP field. He knows war, and understands the human cost and toll it takes. He'd be the best Republican in the field to inherit what the Bush administration will leave behind.

We met with each of the Democrats, four in our office -- Clinton, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and U.S. Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden -- and had extensive telephone interviews with Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards.

We were impressed by the depth and experience of Biden and Dodd. Frankly, it's surprising their poll numbers remain in single digits. So, they're banking on what they hope are a large number of undecided Democrats.

Richardson has perhaps the deepest resume as former U.N. ambassador, energy secretary during the Clinton administration and as a U.S. congressmen. Richardson has many fans in southeast Iowa because of his work while energy secretary to win compensation for former Iowa Army Ammunition Plant workers sickened by exposure to cancer-causing agents.

Former Sen. John Edwards' populist themes resonate in working-class middle America but may ultimately be too divisive and confrontational.

And we've liked Sen. Barack Obama since his stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention catapulted him onto the national stage. He will be president one day. It may be sooner rather than later.

Vetted perhaps more than any woman in history, Clinton demonstrates the resiliency and tenacity needed in a president, especially one who will inherit the challenges the current administration will leave behind.

In person, she's calculated yet personable. On issues, she's not a clone of her husband. She's an independent thinker with progressive ideas.

She promises that the days of secret eavesdropping and violations of other civil liberties ends on inauguration day. She promotes a reasonable approach to ending the war in Iraq and developing peace through partnership in the region. She honed her extensive international experience as first lady, traveling to more than 80 countries.

She finds it "galling" that American tax dollars help fund a first-class health-care plan for the wealthy members of Congress, while 47 million Americans go without access to decent health care. We'll take her word that she'll fix that, and that the wealthiest nation in the world will provide access to health care for those of little or modest means.

She sees the federal government as a partner with states and local schools in ensuring quality education.

Can she win? Polls show a dead heat in Iowa, and there are many undecided Democrats. Still, Democrats in the state would be selecting a proven leader with the skill sets necessary for our next president by caucusing for Hillary Clinton.

©2007 The Burlington Hawk Eye.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted by permission (Dale Alison 12/27/07).

All of the major Democratic candidates talked with editor/publisher Steve Delaney, managing editor Dale Alison and editorial writer/columnist Mike Sweet (Biden, Clinton, Dodd and Richardson in person and Edwards and Obama in conference calls).  None of the Republican candidates accepted.  Steve Delaney made the final decision on the endorsement.

The Hawk Eye bills itself as Iowa's oldest newspaper, published since 1837.