[T[here is a great deal I do admire in Hillary Clinton -- and one of the things that simply can't be disputed is her work ethic. I've met her a number of times, usually at receptions -- and each time I decided not to waste the moment with trivial banter but to throw an idea at her or mention a person or issue that would help me understand how real, how informed, or alternatively -- how contrived -- she was.
Every single time she jumped on the issue I brought up and expressed two or three dimensions to the issue that showed she was deeply steeped in this or that policy. In my New America Foundation role, I helped build and support programs as diverse as debates about genetic scientific advancements to family work issues, health care, and wireless spectrum -- not to mention my own core interests in foreign policy, national security/defense issues, and international economic policy. Hillary Clinton and I have had quick encounters that involved her sharing incredibly diverse and serious policy commentary.
On Obama, Clemons raises a point I've never heard raised before about Obama's legislative record. To be sure, it's very brief at four years. What I didn't know is that he actually chairs a committee. If you wonder why you've never seen him in that role, there is a simple answer: Obama has not held a single hearing. Clemons explains:
But I am convinced of something about Hillary Clinton's commitment to use every lever and every aspect of government machinery to push her legislative and policy work that I'm disappointed to say that I can't find as strongly in Barack Obama's profile. My concern has to do with the fact that as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' Subcommittee on Europe, Obama has held zero hearings -- at least that is how the record appears to me.
Compare this to the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe, which is having constant hearings -- or to the Senate Subcommittee's work before Obama became Chair -- or to a comparative commitment of Hillary Clinton on a subcommittee she chairs, and the zero hearing detail is disconcerting . . .
But his not calling any hearings in a Senate Subcommittee he chairs ought to raise some questions that he needs to respond to. His Subcommittee deals with Europe, with NATO, with various related political and security matters -- and he's got the gavel and can set the agenda.
Given the stress NATO is experiencing today on many fronts -- from the question of Europe's evolving security identity, to NATO's deployments in Afghanistan, to the evolving question of how to deal with Russia, Kosovo, and other common challenges -- it seems inconceivable that Senator Obama would not want to highlight important policy concerns by way of hearings.
What I found surprising about Clemons' observation is the fact that in the more than a dozen debates which have taken place between the Democratic candidates during this election season, I don't recall a single question asking Obama what he had done in his role as a committee chairman, or anyone asking him why he hadn't held a single hearing in that role. It's a fact that speaks volumes.