Echoing charges made by Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries, the Republican governor of Hawaii told potential voters in Henderson on Wednesday that the brief legislative record of Barack Obama proves he is not a leader.
Speaking before a crowd of about 75 as she campaigned for Sen. John McCain in a downtown Henderson amphitheater, Gov. Linda Lingle noted that while an Illinois state senator, Obama voted "present’ on bills 129 times rather than "yes" or "no." That represents about 3 percent of all the votes Obama cast as a state senator.
What this means, she said, is that he took the politically expedient position of neither supporting nor opposing legislation on tough issues, including casting the lone "present" vote on legislation allowing the victims of rape and other sex crimes to have their court records sealed.
Obama, who grew up in Hawaii, has explained to voters that he had questions about the bill’s constitutionality, although the law has never been struck down by the courts.
"Senator Obama is uncomfortable when things get tough," said Lingle, who argued that Obama’s three years in the U.S. Senate have been so bereft of accomplishment that voters have to look at his seven years in the Illinois Legislature to get a sense of where he stands.
On the other hand, Lingle said, McCain hasn’t been afraid while in the U.S. Senate to take stands at odds with his own party on issues ranging from climate control to torture of military prisoners.
Obama has said his major break with Democrats in the U.S. Senate came on congressional ethics, when he sponsored a bill to curb gifts and meals from lobbyists.
Lingle’s appearance in Nevada is an attempt to shore up support for McCain among Republicans and particularly among those who are Hawaii transplants, the governor told the Review-Journal in an interview prior to her speaking engagement.
A Review-Journal poll released last week showed Obama ahead of McCain 47 percent to 45 percent, which is within the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.
Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asians make up about 6.5 percent of Nevada’s population, or about 160,000 people. Two native Hawaiian hula dancers who now live in Las Vegas, Taylor and Summer Dew, performed before Lingle spoke.
While backstage, both said they feared Obama wanted to turn the United States socialist.
"He just wants more and more government and to raise taxes," said Summer Dew, 21.
With bipartisanship a frequent issue on the campaign trail, Lingle said there is no question that McCain has frequently reached across the aisle, citing his work with Democratic Sen. Ed Kennedy on education and immigration, and with Sen. Russell Feingold on campaign finance.
According to studies by Congressional Quarterly, McCain has voted with the majority of Senate Republicans about 85 percent of the time. Obama during his three years in the Senate voted with his party 97 percent of the time.
"If you want a leader, someone who has a proven record of working in a bipartisan way, it isn’t close," Lingle said. "John McCain is your man."
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at email@example.com or 702-387-2908.