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More Alike Than Different?

More Alike Than Different?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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Last week, at the University of Texas, Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) spent a lot of time talking about health care. As Obama said, the two candidates have a "substantive difference" over how Americans should be covered.

Finally! A "substantive difference."

On today's program, in the first hour, we're on the lookout for more of them. When it comes to the issues — Iraq, the environment, education, and trade, to name just a few —, what sets the two Democratic candidates apart?

Kirk Victor, of the National Journal, will field questions about domestic policy positions. (You can read his article, "A Dime's Worth of Difference," here). And Michael Hirsh, a senior editor at Newsweek, will tackle foreign policy distinctions. Julie Rovner, NPR's health policy correspondent, will join us too. Tell us what issue is the most important to you, and we'll tell you where the candidates stand.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

How do the Senator's differ in their definition of middle class? I own my own business as does my husband...we have three children and are not wealthy, nor are we poor. But by some definitions we're considered upper middle class...we don't buy the newest fancy cars or clothes - but if we are upper middle class then why am I struggling to pay for health care and try to fund retirement accounts?

Sent by Julie Padberg-White | 2:07 PM | 2-25-2008

How do the democratic candidates differ regarding Civil Unions and equal rights for homosexuals?

Sent by Elliott in Portland Oregon | 2:10 PM | 2-25-2008

What are each of their positions on global warming/ environment, etc?

Sent by Janis B | 2:12 PM | 2-25-2008

I find that Senator Obama does not support his comments and his hopes for the United States of America with details.. it is just words. If I were to vote for him I would want more specifics, more answers. I have noticed that even at his rallies he does not fully answer questions

Sent by Linda | 2:12 PM | 2-25-2008

It is a mess there now in Iraq. What do they plan to do to fix the mess we made, and support those there that support us, other than getting our troops like me out?
As well, where do they stand on Gun Control? I believe sane folks should have the right to have them, but as we recently saw in IL those that are only sane by taking drugs should not be allowed to have them.

Sent by Keith | 2:13 PM | 2-25-2008

how will they handle the signing statements and changes made to the constitution

Sent by rob | 2:17 PM | 2-25-2008

I understand that Sen. Clinton's health care plan would require everyone to purchase health insurance of some kind, but I have never heard how she would require the insurance companies to actually pay out on procedures and claims.

How will Sen. Clinton make sure that the insurance companies make good on their end of this deal?

Sent by Gregory | 2:17 PM | 2-25-2008

I was just listening to the program and heard a guest say that neither candidate had mentioned raising taxes as a fix for making social security solvent. This isn't true. Sen. Obama has stated his support for the idea of raising the cap on taxes for individuals earning more than $100,000/yr to make the program solvent.

Sent by Omaya | 2:17 PM | 2-25-2008

Please note that one of your experts has mis-stated B. Obama stand of how to fix Social Security. Obama has proposed lifting the cap on wages that are subject to Social Security to increase revenues.

Sent by Mary Boehme | 2:18 PM | 2-25-2008

How do the candidates differ on education and specifically on NCLB?

Sent by Jane Berkley | 2:24 PM | 2-25-2008

What are the substantial differences between Obama and Clinton regarding illegal immigration? Thank you.

Sent by julia | 2:24 PM | 2-25-2008

If the Clinton plan requires an individual to buy insurance, who regulates what is covered under that policy? Can I go into the insurance business and sell cheap, junk policies for those people who would not buy insurance without a mandate? Who would benefit from this?

Sent by Richard Bellerose | 2:24 PM | 2-25-2008

In dealing with the Arab world, would it be harmful to have a White Woman in charge? would it be more beneficial to have an African American Man in charge of negotiations?

Sent by David Abad | 2:24 PM | 2-25-2008

Regarding the question about Barack Obama voting "present" on certain abortion related legislation in Illinois, I saw an interview with the woman who was the Director of Planned Parenthood (I believe) in Illinois at the time; she said she "asked" Obama to vote that way on the vote (or votes) in question for tactical reasons. That's why he enjoyed a 100% approval by the Abortion rights folks in Illinois, which he wouldn't have otherwise.

Sent by Larry Jines | 2:27 PM | 2-25-2008

It makes my blood boil each time I hear that Senators Clinton and Obama's views on policy issues are basically the same. Given his relative lack of experience, an in-depth analysis will show that Senator Obama has either voted "present" or has plagiarized much of the work that Senator Clinton has put forth, most recently her detailed plan to revitalize the economy.

Sent by Anne Milligan | 2:28 PM | 2-25-2008

Obama & Clinton healthcare plans are the same in essence. Both will be huge tax payer financed subsidies for insurance companies, which cause our problems in the first place. Single-payer, universal is the only logical, just and practial option available. Why do they not have the courage to go that direction?

Sent by Steven Boyer | 2:29 PM | 2-25-2008

Do you think either candidate, if elected, would make a major commitment to addressing our "addiction to oil" and other fossil fuels, such as coal?

Sent by Beth Murray | 2:29 PM | 2-25-2008

Do either Obama or Clinton have any formal education in science?

Sent by David Sebastian | 2:30 PM | 2-25-2008

How do the Democratic candidates differ on US foreign policy in Africa? Specifically, how do they address the genocide in Darfur?

Sent by Heather | 2:30 PM | 2-25-2008

How do the candidates differ on major immigration issues relating to undocumented immigrants living in the US long-termed and short-termed. (ie issuing IDs, claiming residency for college tuition, college degrees earned in the US, ect)

Sent by Angel Hernandez Gomez | 2:31 PM | 2-25-2008

In 2005, the ironically-named Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act passed Congress. It was promoted by banks and credit card companies, which wanted to limit consumers' ability to discharge these mounting debts in bankruptcy. It's a terrible law for families, and was opposed by a broad coalition of consumer, labor, and family organizations.

As a long-time advocate for children and families, Mrs. Clinton first opposed the bill. In 1998, as first lady, she used her syndicated column to say that, while she supported "responsible bankruptcy reform," she opposed provisions of the bill that would force parents to compete with banks collecting credit card debt. In 2000, Mrs. Clinton advocated for her husband's veto of the bill, according to her autobiography and press reports at the time.
While the bill didn't change significantly in the next few years, her position did. When she ran for the Senate from New York -- the heart of the financial industry -- she flipped. During her Senate campaign, she accepted more than $200,000 from the banks and credit card companies that backed the bill. As senator, she voted in favor of the bill in 2001 and again in 2002.
When the bill finally passed in 2005, Clinton was the lone absent senator. But she issued a press release denouncing virtually the same bill she had voted for repeatedly.She said in the recent Las Vegas debate that she voted for it but was glad it didn't pass!
Senator Obama voted against the bill

Sent by Corinne Cooper | 2:31 PM | 2-25-2008

A major difference between the "experience" candidate and the "hope" candidate is the change in process. Process is not well understood. In short, a sound work-process is likely to generate sound situational analysis, sound relevant solution options and workable choices. Without attention to a solid process, solutions run high risk of not being relevant, robust , or bought in to be people left out of the decision making. Barack Obama favors an "open process" with significant input from "average Americans" willing to weigh in. Hilliary's approach seems confined to "business as usual" approaches which clearly don't result in much progress within Washington and don't build the public convergence necessary to change the Washington way. Open processes, public participation, transparency with regard to important national issues and bringing the country into the process is huge!

Sent by Len Allgaier | 2:32 PM | 2-25-2008

There was a gross and startling misstatement regarding their positions on social security. In is patently false that neither has talked about possible solutions. Obama was lambasted by some for conceding that we may need to raise the maximum income cap. The difference may not be so much substance, as the transparency of their thoughts on the matter. Though we can't know that, since Hillary has taken the politically expedient dodge (remind you of anyone) of suggesting someone else figure it out, in her case a commission.

Sent by Dan McCullough | 2:32 PM | 2-25-2008

I am a Minnesotan currently living in Arizona. After the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis last year, I expected to hear much more discussion about infrastructure. What are the candidates saying about the state of our bridges and other national infrastructure issues?

Sent by Andrea Nelson | 2:34 PM | 2-25-2008

What are the candidate's positions on the insane and costly missile defense system that the Bush Administration plans to install in Europe

Sent by John Graves | 2:35 PM | 2-25-2008

Has either candidate given a plan regarding public transportation improvement and overall infrastructure improvement throughout the country?

Sent by Mike Condei | 2:35 PM | 2-25-2008

Do either of the candidates have any leaning at all towards the European style of health care? (No health insurance companies, health care run by government)

Sent by Michael in Grandview Mo | 2:36 PM | 2-25-2008

My question is about food safety. In light of the recent largest beef recall in the history of the country, I was wondering where Senator Obama stood on food safety. I know that Senator Clinton has sponsored the Safe Food Act 2007 that would increase inspections/funding and create a Food Safety Administration, among oter things. Obama has not signed on to this. Does he have a food safety plan?

Sent by Dolores | 2:36 PM | 2-25-2008

I realize that as a professional radio presenter Neal Conan can hardly be expected to use correct grammar. Could he however possibly learn to say "ARE there significant differences" instead of "IS there significant differences?"

Sent by Polly | 2:36 PM | 2-25-2008

What about Darfur? Joe Biden did a great job of discussing solutions while he was in the race. What have Clinton and Obama had to say?

Sent by Erin | 2:36 PM | 2-25-2008

What are Obama and Clinton's stances on animal welfare issues? In particular, would either candidate support inclusion of chickens and other poultry in the Humane Slaughter Act and/or would either candidate support repeal of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act?

Sent by S. Ayers | 2:37 PM | 2-25-2008

We keep hearing that Clinton's Health care plan has subsidies for people that cannot afford insurance, but all I find on her web site is tax credits. Tax credits are very different than subsidies; tax credits cannot cause your refund to be more than you paid in taxes. That could be a problem for the very poor that pay no or very little in taxes. Can someone explain to me if Hillary's plan has any true subsidies or not? Am I missing them on her site?

Sent by Chris Ortolano | 2:38 PM | 2-25-2008

What are the two candidates' positions on funding basic research in science, i.e., funding for NSF, NIH, DOE's research programs? What understanding has either shown for the need for funding basic research?

Sent by Janet from Berkeley, California | 2:40 PM | 2-25-2008

The only candidate who is serious and able to fight the special interest to ensure we end our country's dependency on oil and bring us a single payer health care system is Ralph Nader. He is the one who was truly against the war and strongly supports fighting climate change! If people truly support CHANGE then they should vote against the norm and outside of the two parties that have ruled Washington for the entirety of our country's history. I'm beginning to believe that is the only way to turn our country around. Go Nader!

Sent by Jessica | 2:40 PM | 2-25-2008

I haven't heard Clinton or Obama or maybe more importantly McCain how they feel about supporting Stem Cell Research.

Sent by Darleen | 2:41 PM | 2-25-2008

On the "War on Drugs": it should be noted that in his 2004 Senate campaign, Obama supported eliminating criminal penalties for cannabis use or possession. When the Washington Times brought this up, the Obama campaign first stood by those remarks - then, within 24 hours, changed its story and declared that Obama does not support eliminating criminal penalties for cannabis.

I find this flip-flop very disappointing, and it has made me much less likely to support Obama.

Sent by Tom Swiss | 2:44 PM | 2-25-2008

Why are we not hearing anything about Katrina and New Orleans from any of the candidates?

Sent by Emily Green | 2:45 PM | 2-25-2008

It is a substantiative difference--not a difference in style--that the two candidates differ on their attitudes toward where power comes from in a democracy. Obama's speeches are intended to mobilize citizens to become engaged and active participants in democracy. This is a huge difference and speaks to the differences in the type of leader each is. Those who focus on rhetoric and resume aren't able to see this.

Sent by Roz Greenstein | 2:45 PM | 2-25-2008

The NAFTA issue seems to always put former President Bill Clinton as responsible for its enactment. And, Hillary gets the fallout from her husbands executive action. Is it not correct that NAFTA is a congressional-executive agreement pursued by corporate interest crafted during George H.W. Bush, Canada's Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Carlos Salinas de Gortiari. Why does Obama consistently lays full responsibility at the desk of Bill Clinton rather than directing where it originated?

Sent by Janet | 2:45 PM | 2-25-2008

To answer the man who called about where Obama and Clinton stand on Abortion Rights--It needs to be said that Obama's "present" votes in the Illinois Senate were a much more nuanced response than indicated by your panelists today. According to Obama himself, in the South Carolina debate, such a vote indicated a concern with the particular way the issue at question was framed--in other words, rather than being without opinion or stance, Obama's "present" votes communicated a concern and an interest in further developing legistation on the way to becoming effective policy.

Sent by Anne H. Flash | 2:46 PM | 2-25-2008

I often wonder who checks the fact checkers and "experts." Today's discussion highlights this issue. Your expert stated neither Senator Clinton or Senator Obama has been willing to either change eligibility date or increase the tax. This is blatantly untrue. I have heard Senator Obama in person 4 times this election season. On three of those occasions he was asked about Social Security. In each instance he stated that there would be some adjustment in the rate paid by the most wealthy and always quoted his friend Warren Buffet and his ability to pay more into social security. If my memory serves me correctly the Clinton campaign used this issue to charge Obama with using Republican Talking Points. Please hold your "experts" to a higher standard than they are showing.

Sent by Denis Johansen | 2:48 PM | 2-25-2008

Right now someone commented on their position on China and Taiwan. What about their colonial problem with Puerto Rico. How long PR has to wait to either become a sovereign state or a state of the union.

Sent by Mayra Velez | 2:48 PM | 2-25-2008

"Do either Obama or Clinton have any formal education in science?"
Not unless you consider 'hyperbole" and spin as branches of science.

Sent by Robert | 2:53 PM | 2-25-2008

The question re signing statements and related issues is one that I have heard no one address in this campaign... I think this is an important issue... hopefully we will be able to get ALL the candidates to respond to this issue...

Sent by Mary Helen | 2:54 PM | 2-25-2008

I felt the same way with the extreme coverage of Princess Diana. I really felt her death was caused by the press and their greed covering everything about that poor girl. I also wish the press could allow the stars etc to have a time where they know that they are not liable to be filmed. like a vacation away from the prying lenses.

Sent by Margaret Bird | 2:59 PM | 2-25-2008

I gather that Druge rules Neal's world too, just like Halperin and the others. I thought it totally unnecessary for him to make that comment about today's Drudge picture, which (surprise) is only alleged to have come from the Clinton campaign. Drudge gets to trash both candidates with only one slither.

Sent by ivb | 3:01 PM | 2-25-2008

I want to comment on the gentleman's comment & Mr. Nader's response regarding apartheid in Israel. I think if he visits Israel he will see Arabs, Palestinians, blacks, whites, Asians Jews, Muslims, Christians, South Americans, Europeans, etc.working together in many places in Israel. If he just visits Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem he will find many of those different people sharing hospital rooms and being treated by all of the above different people. Please explain to your listeners what the word apartheid means and that Israel is not a racist or apartheid country.

Sent by Merry Lynne Lincove | 3:29 PM | 2-25-2008

I just turned off my radio because listening to Nader makes me so very angry. Can he really think that man who won the Nobel prize prize for his extraordinary work on climate change would be no different as president than W? Go ahead and run Mr. Nader, independents are too informed to vote for you this time.

Sent by Charlene | 3:43 PM | 2-25-2008

Re: Jane Berkley's question on education and NCLB
The article linked at the top of the page, A Dime's Worth of Difference, succinctly states the differences in education plans, mainly merit pay for teachers.

Sent by KG | 4:09 PM | 2-25-2008

Have either of the candidates placed sustained values on the space program, the hundreds of thousands of people who earn a living from its continuance and the millions more that profit or could not live with out the technology it develops or sustains?

My understanding is that while Obama has proposed supporting technology R & D as well as enhancing the nations communications infrastructure, he has proposed diverting portions of NASA's already beleaguered budget to help international aid programs; where as Hilary was pretty much staying the current course of planned NASA projects and objectives. Can this be clarified?

In 2005 NASA's FY budget economic plan was approx. 16 billion dollars, which was 37 billion less than the department of education's budget and 412 billion less than the military's which didn't even disclose the number of people they actually employed. NASA isn't funded nearly as well as some people would have you believe. How can we expect successes to celebrate when we eliminate their ability to remain competitive and productive with more projects in deferment than accomplished due to congressional whims and hand tieing?

Sent by Michael from Portland, OR | 4:28 PM | 2-25-2008

Where do the candidates stand on the Department of Peace?
Also, in getting the law changed that gives the corporations personhood rights?

Sent by Reatha | 6:52 PM | 2-25-2008