Reviewing the debate coverage and watching recordings of some key exchanges, it's really striking how invested Hillary Clinton's campaign is in the idea that there are no important policy differences between the candidates. This is a theme she's struck at previous debates, but her recent do-si-do with Obama about Pakistan is particularly telling in this regard, since she actually does want to be critical of her rivals, but at the same time wants to deny that she's staking out a different position wherein she lets OBL run free and/or drops a nuclear bomb on his head.
All this could be true, but it intersects with the non-specificity of her campaign in suspicious ways. If her campaign contributions from lobbyists don't tell us anything about policy differences between her and her rivals why can't she say she agrees with Bill Richardson that we ought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 90 percent by 2050? Or can she say she agrees with John Edwards that we ought to force insurance companies to compete with a Medicare-like public sector alternative? If her Iraq vote is just about the past, why can't she reassure us that she won't be listening to Ken Pollack, RIchard Holbrooke, and the rest of Team Hawk the next time around?
The idea that all Democrats want the same things and will listen to the same people so all we need to do is find the person who's got the savvy to implement the agenda we all agree upon is tempting. It's tempting and, in principle, it could even be true. But I would want to see actual evidence that it's true, not just a generic reassurance.
Photo by Flickr user Sskennel used under a Creative Commons license
Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.