Follow-up: Hillary Clinton’s Op-Ed in India Abroad

It turns out Barack Obama is not the first presidential candidate to publish an Op-Ed in India Abroad, after all (see earlier post). In fact, Hillary Clinton had her own Op-Ed appear there three weeks ago. An anonymous source close to the paper sent me a link to the article.

It’s very different from Obama’s, and looking at the two side by side one gets a clear sense of the different approaches taken by the two campaigns. Hillary stresses the India-U.S. relationship much more than Obama does; Barack, for his part, seems to be more attentive to the Indian-American community in its specificity. Hillary has a number of specific events she can cite — experience! — whereas Barack is all about ideas (admittedly, most, though certainly not all, of the events Hillary cites are from her husband’s administration). And Barack goes on a bit longer (too long?), while Hillary goes for the crisp, content-stuffed bullet-points. Here, then, is Hillary Clinton:

As First Lady, I traveled to India twice to represent the United States. I’ll never forget my visit in 1995. In Ahmedabad, I met women taking advantage of microcredit to start their own tiny businesses and achieve economic self-sufficiency for their families. I was inspired by these hardworking women and moved by their hope for the future of their families and of India.

In New Delhi, I was warmly welcomed by Sonia Gandhi, and at a speech at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, I spoke about the importance of opening up educational opportunities to girls, as well as boys. And I was so gratified to see the progress India had made when I returned a few years later.

On my second visit, I went to Kolkata where I met with President Narayanan. We discussed the great strides being made to send more girls to school and to bring girls and women into the circle of economic and social opportunity. That circle is growing by leaps and bounds in India, encompassing more and more people, lifting millions out of poverty.

I am proud that the Clinton administration helped build a strong partnership between India and the United States and I was proud that president Clinton made that historic visit to India in 2000.

As co-chair of the Senate India Caucus in the Senate, I’ve been working hard these past four years to build on those efforts. And as a Senator from New York, I have been honored to represent a thriving Indian-American community, among the most successful immigrants in our nation’s history.

I visited India in 2005 and have met with India’s leaders both in the United States and in India. I also voted to support the US-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement to pave the way toward peaceful nuclear cooperation — and to move toward greater cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation. (link)

Which Op-Ed speaks to you more?

42 thoughts on “Follow-up: Hillary Clinton’s Op-Ed in India Abroad

  1. I really liked Obama’s focus on Indian Americans. I am always happy to see good relationships between world leaders however how my leaders view me is the most important thing.

  2. Prefer Barack’s– Hillary’s has a prescriptive streak, which is annoying. Of course I’m bringing a prior understanding that Barack read the Upanishads as a child, according to his sister, and his mother liked to go shopping in Delhi. Hillary visited ceremonially, which is fine, but not the same thing. So while Barack focuses on immigration issues here and empathizes about helping families stay together, and on Indian accomplishments and entrepreneurial spirit, Hillary is pleased to see “tiny” businesses of hardworking women springing up on micro-credit and is pleased to talk about speeches she gave before august gatherings. Makes me want to make like Samantha Bee and kick her sand castle.

  3. Clinton’s op-ed is a typical gringo politician’s photo-op pander to first-generation Indian-Americans who think that Indo-US relations are all that should matter to us because we are not American enough. Obama’s is about his common experience with us and including us in the solutions for this country (while at the same time acknowledging the importance of strong relations with the mother country. The difference in both style and content is stark because she’s treating us like foreigners, and he’s treating us like brothers and sisters.

    Frankly, I prefer to be viewed as a sibling. I hope more American politicians begin to view us that way.

  4. Yes, Kaka, betcha anything Obama grew up reciting the same pledge ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’ that so many of us did.

  5. Hillary is becoming increasingly desperate and pathetic. She should do us all a favor and just quit. Good riddance

  6. Both op-eds were only modifications of their standard stump speeches, althought Barack’s seemed more guilty of it than Hillary’s.

    I am with Kaka. Barack addresses Indian Americans as members of the US Citizenry, rather than as transplanted Indians. That is a critical difference and I think a product of his background. He understands, very personally, what it is to be an amalgam of many cultures/nations. No matter how many countries you visit, officially or otherwise, you cannot acquire than mind-set.

    Although his hard-left trade talk has started to bother me quite a bit, he still has my vote… for now.

  7. Yes, Kaka, betcha anything Obama grew up reciting the same pledge ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’ that so many of us did.

    And in Hindi too – ‘Hum sab Bharatvaasi bhai-behen hain”. OK just kidding!

    But more seriously, neither he nor Hillary spoke even a token sentence in Spanish when repeatedly given openings in the Austin debate. That could have been one way he could have driven home how different he is from a standard pol – plus his response to whether the US should become a de jure bilingual nation was also extremely Anglo politician boilerplate. Among other things, being able to speak even a little bit of Spanish, at least when you’re in Texas, may have gone some ways to bringing some Hispanics toward him. Can’t believe he and his campaign flubbed that. And he seems to have a problem there – whether because people ‘think’ he’s Muslim, or because of ‘black-Hispanic’ tensions.

  8. Kaka has a point. HRCs message is too gringo, she is like ‘I love you all and care about you even though I am so bloody different from you etc etc’. Its a message we’ve heard many times before – pseudo affection sans empathy or an ability to relate.

    Obama is more like ‘I know what it means to be a minority, to be discriminated etc etc and I don’t like that either’. Plus he is being matter of fact, ‘I will be with you in issues that matter but I wont pander to you either’.

  9. So saying “you, me, black, brown, i yam like you vonly so vote for me” is better than “you and i may be different but we have the same goals and so we should work together, so vote for me” ?

  10. “you and i may be different but we have the same goals and so we should work together, so vote for me”

    Actually, what she is saying is, “I went to India three times, you desis are so cool. I know the only thing you care about is US-India relations, and I will take care of that. So vote for me”.

  11. Hillary spoke about the importance of opening up educational opportunities to girls, as well as boys. And I was so gratified to see the progress India had made when I returned a few years later….I met with President Narayanan…to send more girls to school and to bring girls and women into the circle of economic and social opportunity

    The condescension reeks in her statements (unlike Obama’s, which give credit to Indian Americans that they came up on their own efforts). “I came as a saviour to your country and told you to do x, y and z. And some time later, things got better.” Hah!!

    She reeks of conceit and arrogance in her statements. She needs to be punished for this.

    Hope she gets elected president and gets to take all the blame for the economic and social hurricane that’s forming.

    M. Nam

  12. 13 · MoorNam said

    Hope she gets elected president and gets to take all the blame for the economic and social hurricane that’s forming.

    Wow, I thought I knew some vindictive people, but that takes the cake

  13. Hillary stresses the India-U.S. relationship much more than Obama does

    Why should India-US relationships matter so much for American elections where Indian-Americans vote ( 1 or >1 generation ) ? Maybe some specific policies which helps Indian-Americans expand their business, financial, educational or retirements interests in India can be viewed as favourable to the Indian-American community; but other than that I don’t see the why factor of India-US relations shuld be the primary determinant in the choice of a candidate. And have either of them spelled any such policies excepting for either generalizing to vague ideas or rhetoric ?

  14. Chachaji #9:

    The Kennedyesque “Ich bin ein Berliner” is okay for theatricality but not always a good idea. (Kennedy’s German was a bit off there)

    May be neither Clinton nor Obama speaks Spanish or at least, not very good Spanish. If that is the case, it is risky to attempt it in public, stumble, make a fool of oneself and insult the audience in the process instead of pleasing them.

    There is a certain charm in connecting to a crowd through a common language – but only if it is done well. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton (back when Bill was still the First Black President) used to affect a southern preacher style cadence of speech while addressing predominantly African American audiences. Bill was a natural and the midwestern Hillary a disaster.

    The most important thing for a politician is to stick to what he/ she does best. That is dignified, even sexy. Don’t attempt something you can’t do. For example, if you don’t know how to eat a tamale, … don’t eat it until you find out the right way to do it.

  15. May be neither Clinton nor Obama speaks Spanish or at least, not very good Spanish. If that is the case, it is risky to attempt it in public, stumble, make a fool of oneself and insult the audience in the process instead of pleasing them.

    Strangely, my experience has been the opposite. Speaking the broken version of a language endears one to the recipient far more than a fluent speaker. This is anecdotal experience from different parts of the world including India.

  16. Among other things, being able to speak even a little bit of Spanish, at least when you’re in Texas

    Yo quiero Taco Bell, y’all!

  17. 18 · melbourne desi said

    May be neither Clinton nor Obama speaks Spanish or at least, not very good Spanish. If that is the case, it is risky to attempt it in public, stumble, make a fool of oneself and insult the audience in the process instead of pleasing them.
    Strangely, my experience has been the opposite. Speaking the broken version of a language endears one to the recipient far more than a fluent speaker. This is anecdotal experience from different parts of the world including India.

    It can go either way. Speaking a foreign language, even a broken version, may go over well in a campaign rally. One can get away with a rehearsed line or two to connect with the crowd. But the Austin setting that Chachaji refers to was a debate. A much more formal affair. The Latino journalist was asking questions that required thoughtful answers. Much more difficult to pull off if you don’t speak the language well. BTW, Dubya, despite his “broken” English, is fairly fluent in Spanish. He can take questions in Spanish.

    A Hispanic politician in Texas recently advised (can’t find a link) visiting politicians to speak to Latino voters as they would to English speakers – about bread, butter, war and peace. He specifically warned not to try speaking platitudes in Spanish if one was not fluent, just to pander.

  18. But the Austin setting that Chachaji refers to was a debate. A much more formal affair.

    I agree with you. Answering debate questions in Spanish might have been disastrous for both candidates.

  19. Thanks for sharing this information amardeep. I think this is an interesting conversation.

    Honestly I don’t think a letter from the candidates in India Abroad should be a significant factor in who South Asian Americans vote for. The fact of the matter is that neither of the candidates has an anti-India or anti-SouthAsianAmerican stance. And more importantly, South Asian Americans as a whole are not a significantly marginalized group in the US. We are overall more wealthy and privileged than others, and don’t experience nearly as much glass ceiling-ism and racism as other groups. The idea of identity politics is MUCH more relevant to groups of Americans who have been marginalized and oppressed and should therefore think more about voting in bloc for someone who addresses their issues. The point of me saying this is, I think it’s interesting that folks are moved by how a candidate looks at south asian americans (GIVEN, again, that neither candidate is offensive or anti-south asian american). I think instead we (SAA) should be moved by the issues that face Americans in general (and this should include us), and vote for a candidate based on the issues, their ability to move forward a progressive majority, and their ability to win the general election.

    But speaking specifically about the letters, the differences between the two candidates’ approaches are quite stark. Obama’s message REALLY speaks to me because his piece is about a vision, moving the country forward, creating a progressive majority, and he essentially says hey south asian americans you believe in all of this, let’s do this together. Yes, he does have the obligatory few paragraphs about the strengths of south asian americans and the positive US-India relationship he desires to build on, but what this piece is REALLY about is something much bigger. He doesn’t pretend that somehow SAA interests are different from that of Americans’. Clinton’s piece on the other hand, is ALL about her past experience with Indo-US relations, with an obligatory paragraph about south asian americans. Maybe her advisors forgot to mention that the piece was going in India Abroad and not the Times of India. Or maybe this is just yet another Clinton move to discuss issues in parcels, as opposed to issues as moving americans (and SAA) forward.

  20. 21 · melbourne desi said

    But the Austin setting that Chachaji refers to was a debate. A much more formal affair. I agree with you. Answering debate questions in Spanish might have been disastrous for both candidates.

    Actually, Ruchiraji, it may have been seen by the public as a ‘debate’, but was in a much friendlier format, intended to be (and billed as) a ‘real conversation’! In other words, there was not much of a confrontational dynamic, either between the questioners and the candidates, or the candidates themselves (who sat elbow to elbow). People who might have missed it can watch it here. In a full-fledged debate, I agree using Spanish might have been disastrous, if you’re not fluent in it. But in this format, either candidate could easily have said a well-practiced sentence in Spanish while making it clear that they’re not fluent in it. That’s only my opinion, of course, and overall, a minor point.

    But that begs the larger question – why don’t either of these candidates for the Democratic nomination, which purports to represent minorities and the poor – and with these two being from Illinois and New York – which have Hispanic populations whose size is next only to those of California, Texas and Florida – know at least some Spanish? However much one might dislike George Bush, it’s worth acknowledging he set an admirable precedent by developing at least nominal fluency in Spanish. I think we’re reaching the point where a level of fluency in Spanish is becoming essential, especially for candidates seeking national office (or even statewide office), even more for ‘change’ and ‘hope’ candidates.

  21. my anonymous friend ennis — i don’t think i can make it (concert plans that night!) but let’s have an informal la bloggers meetup in the near future. i won’t take secret photos of you and post them on the internet to ruin your anonymity, i promise. sort of…

  22. The difference is quite striking between these two candidates when you look at these op-eds side by side. Clinton’s piece reminds me of something from a high school election (I met so and so; my husband visited in 1995 etc.) — it’s a grocery list with no real substance or plans — and truth be told, I found it simplistic and patronizing. Obama’s thought-process and ideas are just more complex — and I felt like he had thought through the issues carefully and then laid out his plans in a coherent manner.

  23. Forget Obama and Hill. It’s gonna be McCain in 2008! And, yes at least he tells it like it is.

  24. DesiDawg says:>>It’s gonna be McCain in 2008

    McCain becoming president won’t be good.

    May the best person lose.

    M. Nam

  25. Forget Obama and Hill. It’s gonna be McCain in 2008!

    Not if Cunningham has his way. Plus not sure if that would be such a great thing. As Thad Cochran of Mississippi succinctly puts it

    Mr. McCain “is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”
  26. In a race as tight as that the Democratic front runners are facing a comment such as “Hillary stresses the India-U.S. relationship much more than Obama does;” can lead to biases and judgments. All the years in politics has given her opportunities to be part of Indian Caucus in the senate and being the first lady she obviously had opportunities to visit India twice. Obama on the other hand does not have this history, and may be that is the difference between them. Not the face that one emphasized more on India, what Hillary has written mostly is a recounting of her visit to India.

  27. But more seriously, neither he nor Hillary spoke even a token sentence in Spanish when repeatedly given openings in the Austin debate. That could have been one way he could have driven home how different he is from a standard pol – plus his response to whether the US should become a de jure bilingual nation was also extremely Anglo politician boilerplate. Among other things, being able to speak even a little bit of Spanish, at least when you’re in Texas, may have gone some ways to bringing some Hispanics toward him.

    I actually think it’s a really good thing that neither spoke in Spanish. I think a great “spoof” on the concept of Spanish-language campaign materials is the Para Ganar Obama video (I won’t lie, I nearly spit out my coffee laughing at the phrase “Yo no soy Clintonero”).

    As Ruchira mentioned, if you can’t actually speak Spanish (or any other non-English language), throwing out meaningless phrases makes a candidate seem condescending and offensive. I think the other question — why do two candidates from states with large Spanish-speaking populations — is more interesting but also probably a product of the time periods in which they both went through high school/college. At least, in my experience, everyone I’ve met who speaks a foreign language (now considered a basic and necessary part of a college preparatory education) either learned during: 1) exposure to said language in the home as a child [augmented with cultural language programs on the weekends], 2) formal classroom study beginning in middle school, high school and/or college.

    And more importantly, South Asian Americans as a whole are not a significantly marginalized group in the US. We are overall more wealthy and privileged than others, and don’t experience nearly as much glass ceiling-ism and racism as other groups.

    Totally agree with your broad strokes, but just wanted to emphasize (as I often do) that there’s also a pretty substantial economic divide between wealthy desis and working class desis. While — both numerically and on average — our wealth/income is higher, this is impacted strongly by the manner in which we (or our parents/grandparents/great-grands) migrated to the U.S.

    I like anjali’s analysis. There was a great piece in the NYT about LGBT voters being excited about feeling like they no longer had to vote based on a uni-dimensional view of their political concerns (i.e., gay marriage) but about the issues that concern them today — the economy, the war on terror, health care, poverty. I feel like it’s similar for many ABD voters.

  28. Can’t believe he and his campaign flubbed that.

    I don’t think it was a flub – it’s why Barack is different. He doesn’t pander to Mexicans, Jews, Indians, Whites or Blacks. – he is about a singular message, one that is resonating with people regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, so why flub that up by speaking some token spanish BS.

  29. It would be a day of mourning for many including myself if USA became officially bi-lingual with english/ spanish. And this from someone who is fluent in a few languages and has a working knowledge of many.

  30. Did anyone notice that Obama (practically, to my American-Indian ears) pronounced Pakistan right in the debate? And,

    “That is the true genius of America, a faith — a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted — at least most of the time.”

    The man understands the immigrant dream, and, as others have written, understands the American version of it (which some Indians might fear): the one where we come (out of fear of the knock on the door, as my husband’s ancestors did, or the bribe to start a business, as my own parents did, or with a student visa to learn about something) and become American. Obama is my America, and in 2004 I feared that my America didn’t exist. And, then, what? because I need the America that he paints with his words to survive and thrive (as do my “half-Indian” and “all-American”) children. I honestly don’t know if he can win, but I’m full of pride at the possibilities.

    (you guys saying the man gave a speech in Austin and didn’t say si se pueda?).

  31. It would be a day of mourning for many including myself if USA became officially bi-lingual with english/ spanish. And this from someone who is fluent in a few languages and has a working knowledge of many.

    It’s not officially anything right now (i.e., English is not the official language). :) We do have a requirement of providing language access under the aegis of national origin protection, however, through Title VI.

  32. I much prefer the Clinton op-ed. Now, I must declare my interests: I am an Indian nationalist and my concern for the Indian diaspora stretches only so far as to their role in acting as

    “diplomatic force multipliers”.

    The good work done by US-INPAC, for example.

    Hillary’s stance on India is very appealing. She has a precedent for ascribing India with a special status rather than clubbing us with the wider “South-Asia” club. Obama’s op-ed on the other hand, comes across as contrived. I don’t think he spends much time thinking about India’s potential as a cast-iron strategic partner. As mentioned by Amardeep, while Obama devotes much of his words on the Indian-American population in the States, Mrs. Clinton is more concerned with matters of high-politiks and the strategic goldmine that is India. That’s what matters to moi and that’s why I want Mrs. Clinton to be the next President of the United States.

  33. I am a suporter of Obama (Yes, I do not worship him). I have lived here ~60-70% of my time, and have been a political junkie all along.

    However, I am surprised how people could miss very obvious points:

    1) Most, most likely both Obama, and Hillary spent ~20 minutes on India Abroad article. Ten minutes on telling their staffer what to write, and one pass/ check at what is written. Pretty much, probably gave talking points to one of campaign their staff building: a) Clinton on her India-related connections, and b) Barack on being a son of an immigrant himself. Indian-Americans are less than 1% of the population, and they cannot spend more 20 minutes writing articles on them, well, hispanics, and African Americans is a different ball game – it is more worth their time and effort. Now, fund raising from Indian American is a different ball game, green is green, no matter who gives them. You are here, fawning or getting upset on some campaign staff written words of candidates in a newspaper that has very limited impact in the bigger picture of elections in November.

    Even Presidents do not write their speeches completely – neither did JFK’s words, neither FDR famous “infamy” speech. They edit it, or write bits, and pieces, at most. Some more, some less. I doubt Obama spent whole thinking what to write for India Abroad. I also think spanish newspapers in USA probably have similar words by both of the politicians.

    2) Now, why are both emphasizing “India” connection – Hillary more so. To this day, when a number of Irish Americans have become the Presidents of USA, the Ireland question, and how to deal with IRA, and Ireland peace process pops up all the time during American elections (not so much anymore, since Ireland is now moving toward peace, and is in the back burner) – be it seeking money from Boston Irish Americans, or St. Patrick’s day when Ireland politicians are in US, honobbing with both Democrats, and Republicans.

    In fact, seeds of 1965 immigration bill were sown in three disparate issues converging: a) cold war, and fear of losing scientific edge, b) civil rights bill, and c) John F. Kennedy had promised Italian Americans that pre-1965 country quota for immigration would be removed when he was seeking election for President. At that time, they thought relatively poorer western European countries (like Italy at that time) would seek the real benefits of a new immigration bill (it ended that the people from Phillipines, China, and India did eventually). The diversity lottery, in post Cold war was pushed by key US Catholic politicians since a number of East European countries are Catholic (like Poland), and that gave senators like Edward Kennedy an extra impetus. Catholic politicians in USA are extra sensitive to immigration question, because of hispanics, and they do pay special attention fr their own re-elections. To this day, all American politicians address Israel while seeking support from Jewish Americans. So singing paeans for the roots, religion for a particular electoral block to seek their vote is a very common practice.

    3) Most important point which only 1-2 commenters touched: Moolah, and terrorism. India is emerging is second largest market after China. We are talking $40 billions arms orders, and what not, and uttering “sweet nothings“. Gates with his broken arm was makes sales pitch last week in India. A part of this article by both of them is for deep pockets of Indian Americans from Silicon Valley, and around (while they 400-500 gas stations), who for most part are 1st genners, and like to hear few things before they reach for their wallets or purses for organizing fund raisers, and bundled dinners ($1000 a plate dinners).

    The epicenter of terrorism is not in Iraq, Iran, or North Afghanistan. It lies near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. I wish American politicians had paid attention to it, in 90s, and the present mess could have been avoided, may be. So both Obama, and Hillary, and their staff enunciating what they have for South Asia in mind is a first baby step.

    These articles are not written for progressive vision statements, they are written to raise money, and are make to push the right buttons.

  34. I also think there are fundamental differences between Hillary, and Obama but an India Abroad articles by them during the election (and associated fund raising) cycle will seldom be an indicator, only that Obama has seen immigrant experience very closely.

  35. I find it funny that Obama is embracing a “supposed indian heritage” and has embraced his Black heritage… yet refuses to accept his muslim heritage… in my opinion if he is black then he is muslim…I’m not saying that being black or muslim is wrong, I’m just saying he’s being selective with his heritage to get votes… does anyone believe if he was white that he would be a presidential candidate? DOUBT IT!