Sacar los trapos al sol

Anoche se realizó en Carolina del Sur el debate entre los candidatos demócratas a la presidencia de EE.UU. Más allá de los temas país que cada uno de ellos trató, es interesante la forma como se enfocó la discusión. Lo más importante: los candidatos permanentemente se sacan sus trapitos al sol. Obama le decía a Clinton que mientras él trabajaba en el servicio público en Chicago, ella lo hacía para la cadena de supermercados Wal-Mart. Ella no quedó atrás y le enrostró su trabajo como abogado para un empresario acusado de fraude al fisco. Pero Obama se había adelantado y el sábado pasado devolvió las donaciones de campaña otorgadas por el personaje cuestionado. Toda esta discusión en un acalorado debate se transmitió por televisión. En Chile, mientras la Contraloría analiza casos de mal uso de los fondos públicos en las asesorías prestadas por miembros de la gran familia concertacionista, nadie hace ni dice nada. Sólo sabemos que hasta el momento ninguno de los personajes involucrados en altos cargos de gobierno ha presentado su renuncia. Si bien los medios, algunos dan a conocer el detalle de los informes de Contraloría, no revisan muy seguido sus archivos para contar el currículum, expertise, aciertos y errores de las personas que hoy son cuestionadas. Por mientras, la Alianza por Chile no llega a un acuerdo para enfocar sus denuncias. Piñera se anota un punto cuando dice que es necesario proponer para alojar, en vez de denunciar para desalojar. El problema es que Piñera puede ser cuestionado de la misma forma como Obama criticó anoche a Clinton.

¿Dónde está la prensa? ¿Quién fiscaliza a personas cuyas caras y "obras" vemos repetidamente hace 20 años? ¿A quién le rinden cuentas? Eso ocurre tanto en la Alianza como en la Concertación. Si bien la calidad de nuestros debates electorales transmitidos por televisión ha mejorado, es de esperar que la prensa tome un rol activo en las próximas elecciones municipales. Con ello, los ciudadanos podrán tomar decisiones informadas y elegir a los mejores para que hagan la pega. Y no a aquellos que realizan ese sacrificio en honor a la patria, y que fácilmente definen como "servicio público".

Por ello, una nota publicada hoy en el New York Times sobre el debate demócrata de ayer en EE.UU.

Arturo Arriagada I.

January 22, 2008 New York Times

Obama and Clinton Tangle at Debate

In the most intense and personal exchange of the presidential campaign, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama assailed each other’s integrity and voting records during a televised debate on Monday in South Carolina, the site of a critical primary in five days.

If the debate was full of memorable moments — Mrs. Clinton accusing Mr. Obama of associating with a “slum landlord,” Mr. Obama saying he felt as if he were running against both Hillary and Bill Clinton, the two candidates talking over each other — the totality of the attacks also laid bare the ill will and competitive ferocity that has been simmering between them for weeks.

“You know, Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote, and that has been a pattern,” Mrs. Clinton said, drawing a chorus of jeers from a crowd at the Palace Theater in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Mr. Obama shot back that Mrs. Clinton was conducting a brand of negative politics that, he suggested throughout the night, she and her husband had perfected: “comb my 4,000 votes in Illinois, choose one, try to present it in the worst possible light.” He added that he had sought to maintain “a certain credibility” in the race.

Both candidates believe the Democratic nomination could be sealed in the next six weeks, and they used this debate, the second-to-last one of the primary season, to unload their best opposition research and sound bites against each other. In some cases, it was the first time the candidates had personally confronted each other on potentially embarrassing points.

As she has never done before, Mrs. Clinton linked Mr. Obama to a longtime fund-raiser, whom she characterized as a slumlord in “inner-city Chicago.”

Mrs. Clinton was referring to Mr. Obama’s ties to Antoin Rezko, a Chicago businessman who was indicted last fall on federal charges of business fraud and influence peddling connected to the administration of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois. Mr. Obama did work for a law firm in Chicago and performed legal work involving Mr. Rezko’s housing developments. On Saturday, Mr. Obama returned more than $40,000 in political contributions that were linked to Mr. Rezko.

And Mr. Obama, who appeared on the verge of losing his temper at times, noted that she was on the board of Wal-Mart while he was working on “the streets” as a Chicago community organizer. Mrs. Clinton was a director of Wal-Mart from 1986 to 1992.

The third Democratic contender, John Edwards, had to fight to speak. He tried to portray himself as the only candidate who was focusing on the real issues, criticizing the others for squabbling among themselves when health care and other issues go unresolved. At the same time, he tried make an appeal for his own electability in November against a Republican candidate like John McCain, saying he could “go every place” in the country to campaign.

Mr. Edwards, the winner of the South Carolina primary in 2004, also slashed into his leading rival in the state, Mr. Obama, by portraying him as weak-willed for voting “present” — rather than yea or nay — on scores of bills as an Illinois state senator.

For the most part, the sparring focused on the major issues in the primary contest, from the candidates’ plans on the economy and universal health care to their past and current positions on the Iraq war and free trade. Yet at the same time, the subtext of the attacks dwelled on honesty and accountability, with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama repeatedly implying that voters could not trust the opponent’s words.

Mr. Obama was as heated and intense as he has been at any debate over the last year. At times, he appeared angry and close to expressing it at Mrs. Clinton — and also at her husband, Bill Clinton, whom Mr. Obama criticized frequently during the debate for what he said were distortions of his views and record by the former president.

“I’m her e,” Mrs. Clinton said, “not my husband.”

Mr. Obama snapped, “I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes.” At several other points, he used the phrase “Senator Clinton and President Clinton” to re-enforce his view that he is facing off against a decades-old Clinton machine.

Mr. Clinton was neither onstage nor in the audience, but he played a central role in the debate. Asked whether he had crossed the line as a former president, Mrs. Clinton smiled and raised the names of both of her rivals’ wives.

“This campaign is not about our spouses, it’s about us. Michelle and Elizabeth are strong and staunch advocates for their husbands,” Mrs. Clinton said. “At the end of the day, voters are going to have to choose among us.”

Still, the questions persisted about Mr. Clinton, who is scheduled to spend the week campaigning in South Carolina as Mrs. Clinton travels elsewhere. Mr. Obama, who would be the nation’s first black president, was asked about how the author Toni Morrison had bestowed that title on Mr. Clinton more than a decade ago.

“I think Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African-American community,” Mr. Obama said, praising Mr. Clinton for his longtime commitment to racial equality as a man who grew up in the South.

Lightening the moment, he added: “I would have to investigate more Bill’s dancing abilities and some of this other stuff before I accurately judged whether in fact he was a brother.”

Mrs. Clinton replied, “I am sure that can be arranged.”

The South Carolina primary is the fourth showdown of the fight for the Democratic nomination: Mr. Obama won the first, the Iowa caucuses, where Mrs. Clinton came in third, but she rebounded and won the next two contests, in New Hampshire and last Saturday in Nevada. Mr. Obama appears to hold a strong lead in public polls in South Carolina; Mrs. Clinton is spending time and resources there this week, but she is also campaigning in other states in the next two days, in part to lower expectations for her performance there.

In those three contests, Mr. Edwards did not end up in a leading spot, and in the debate he sought to break through and connect with his fellow Southerners. (He was born in South Carolina and lives in North Carolina.)

“There are three people in this debate, not two,” Mr. Edwards reminded Wolf Blitzer, the moderator of the debate, which was sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and shown on CNN. “I also want to know on behalf of voters in South Carolina, how many children are going to get health care because of this? We have got to understand that this is not about us personally.”

Mr. Edwards made a labored effort to highlight what he called his electability in the general election, referring to himself as “the white male” candidate, a phrase that became a point of playful banter between him and Mr. Obama, who often referred to the fact that a woman and a black man are running.

Patrick Healy reported from New York, and Jeff Zeleny from Myrtle Beach, S.C. Julie Bosman contributed reporting from Myrtle Beach, and Kitty Bennett from Washington.