Clinton to UVA class: ‘Politics is not a game’
Normally, UVA professor and political pundit Larry Sabato is the one teaching the University's Introduction to American Politics class, but today his students belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and her lesson for the day, on the eve of the Virginia Democratic presidential primary, was to take their voting responsibility seriously.
"Politics is not a game," she warned, before an audience that included some 500 students, plus a traveling press corps that included reporters from such far-flung locales as Japan and Italy. "It's not what you see on TV. It's not who's up and who's down, who's in who's out. That's entertainment. There is a deep desire in our country to get back to believing in our politics. I'm running for president because I believe with all my heart that we're up to the task."
Such was the former First Lady's thesis statement for her 70 minute question-and-answer session with the 500 students assembled, who asked Clinton mostly policy-based questions on everything from how she plans to pay for her universal heath care plan ("First of all, I plan to end the war in Iraq, which will save us a lot of money"), to the viability of ethanol as a long-term energy solution ("It isn't the most efficient option, but it's what we have to start"), to her stance on the country's role in the United Nations ("We've got to get the U.N. to function more efficiently, the way it's structured is really an anachronism").
Occasionally, she drew contrasts between herself and her rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (IL). On the issue of health care she said, "Economists say my plan will cover everyone in a way that's smart. That's a big difference between myself and Sen. Obama. Sen. Obama doesn't have a plan for universal heath care." She also took a swipe at the perception of his strong crossover appeal. "We're not going to carry Alaska, or North Dakota, or Idaho," she said referring to three red states in which Obama has defeated her in recent Democratic primaries. Finally, she wondered aloud how Obama would hold up when his past is subjected to the "Republican machine." "There is very little if any new information about me," she said. "It's been out there."
But the moment that seemed to capture students' attention more than any other was when, in response to a question about who was the most influential figure on her political career, she told a story about representing the U.S. at Nelson Mandela's inauguration as president of South Africa. "He said, 'I would like to personally introduce you to three guests of mine,' and it was three of his former jailers," she said. "He was telling us that in order to move forward, you have to give up your hate and you have to learn to forgive."
In previous primaries, exit polls have shown that Obama appeals to college students far more than Clinton does. Will this visit to Mr. Jefferson's university stem that tide in tomorrow's primary? The numbers will have the final word when the polls close tomorrow at 7pm.
–photo by Jay Kuhlmann