In separate statements today, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama commented on the 4,000th U.S. casualty in Iraq. After sending his thoughts and prayers to the families of the deceased, Obama said, “It is past time to end this war that should never have been waged by bringing our troops home, and finally pushing Iraq’s leaders to take responsibility for their future. As we do, we must serve the memory of all who have died as well as they served our country, by providing support for their families, caring for our troops and veterans, and upholding the American values which our fallen heroes exemplified through their service.”
Clinton’s statement was much more political. It said in part, “I recall the great honor of meeting many of our brave men and women who have served our country. In meeting them, I am always struck by how, no matter how great their suffering, no matter how grave their own injuries, they always say the same thing to me: “Promise that you’ll take care of my buddies. They’re still over there. Promise you’ll keep them safe.”I have looked those men and women in the eye. I have made that promise. And I intend to honor it by bringing a responsible end to this war, and bringing our troops home safely.”
It is always fascinating to compare statements from these two side by side. Obama always puts things in very personal and human terms. In contrast, Hillary Clinton stays in the realm of the purely political. A subtle but important contrast can be seen in the above paragraphs. Barack Obama used the pronoun “we,” but Clinton used the pronoun “I” five times and “me” once.
This is one of those little things that reveals a great deal about each of the candidates. For Clinton the campaign is about her. She stands apart from everyone else, but Obama stresses the collective. He isn’t apart from the rest of us. He is one of us. I believe this difference goes a long way in explaining why Obama has connected with Democrats in a way that Clinton can’t.