Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Northern Ireland

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fought out a very close debate last night in Cleveland, Ohio. It was very substantive. Hillary came across as a bit tetchy, Obama was allowed a great deal of latitude by the moderators, Tim Russert and Brian Williams of NBC. He was allowed free reign, particularly in the latter stages but didn't use that opportunity to great effect. His rambling and pre-prepared close was out of context, out of mood and so just fell flat. The debate was tense and intense. At times I felt myself wishing that NBC had chosen Chris Matthews of Hardball as moderator. That certainly would have put the cat amongst the pigeons and livened things up a bit.

Being British, one comment by Hillary Clinton caught my attention. When she was listing her experience in foreign policy she said: "helping to support the peace process in Northern Ireland." I had one of those comedian style double-take 'What??!!??' moments. Now I am more than happy to be contradicted here, but I do not recall her having any role whatsoever in that process. The Clinton administration had an envoy in NI (not Mrs Clinton...) who had a process rather than instrumental role in the negotiations. The most significant steps in that process have occurred after the Clinton administration.

Her claim, on the face of it , just does not seem to be credible. Her Presidential bid comes down to two things it seems to me: experience and being a 'fighter who gets things done.' Her experience is difficult to discern and I think that McCain, if he decided to go for the jugular, could really show up the lack of transparency of her achievements. What was her, what was not, and in the case of Northern Ireland, is there any substance there at all?

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