My second diary on this site, posted in November 2005, was a diary bashing Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman's support of S.2126, the Family Entertainment Protection Act. In late 2005 Lieberman was already quite the pariah around these parts, but Hillary was not.
S.2126 reeked of the kind of craven political opportunism that turned me away from Hillary in the first place. The gamer constituency doesn't get much love in politics, so the gaming industry tends to be a convenient whipping boy for politicians looking to bolster their "Save the children!" cred without having to commit to anything more substantive.
Although I'm a gamer (and an advocate of free speech), the details of entertainment and gaming policy are less important to me as an issue voter than they are as yardsticks of a politician's reliance on political expediency. I'm of the opinion that Hillary's 2005 stance on federal regulation of the gaming industry was motivated by the same thing as her Iraq vote, and her vote for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment: expediency. Hillary decides what to do based off of the personal repercussions of a decision. If the political brownie points to be gained by taking a a given position outweigh the political heft of the group that will be antagonized, her position is clear. Sometimes that position is on a matter of relative triviality, like regulating video games. Other times, her positions are on matters of terrifying gravity, like consenting to a war of volition. In either case, Hillary is governing for the benefit of only one person: Herself.
It took me a while to come over to Obama's camp, but his response to this same issue helps me to reaffirm my choice. On Tuesday, Obama was quoted by a Pennsylvania newspaper on the topic of parenting and games:
He noted that "government can't do everything," and offered this advice for parents: "Turn off the television, turn off the video games."
What a radically sensible position to take. What an empowering position to take: Parents are the gatekeepers to the media their children purchase and consume.
I searched to find Obama's position on S.2126 and came upon a blog that quotes a response a reader got from Obama's office on the topic:
"Thank you for your letter opposing the Family Entertainment Protection Act. I appreciate knowing your views on this matter... There has been some significant Congressional activity lately in response to growing concerns among parents that video games have become too sexually explicit and that violent content has been made too easily available to minors. Among these bills is S.2126, the Family Entertainment Protection Act... I understand the concerns of those who believe that Congress is meddling too deeply in this issue and that the proposed legislation could raise free speech problems. All members of our communities, in my view, do have an obligation to ensure that children are protected from harmful material, but that should never come at the cost of denying others their constitutionally protected rights. The challenge here is finding the right balance between these two principles... Thank you again for writing. Please stay in touch as this issue develops."
"That should never come at the cost of denying others their constitutionally protected rights". Obama demonstrates a sensitivity to both sides of the issue by distilling their respective arguments down to a charitable nugget that become palatable to everyone: Protect the children, but don't do it by restricting free speech.
Unwillingness to pile on the scapegoat and take a position for the sake of expediency is political courage. The same courage he showed in opposing the Iraq war, opposing the Lieberman-Kyl Iran amendment (in position, although he was unable to vote on it), his unwillingness to throw Rev. Wright under the bus, and scores of other issues. The same political courage that Hillary lacks without exception. The choice between Hillary's realpolitik and Obama's reallife is an obvious one.