Dear Sen. Obama:

I admire your campaign theme that aims to look to the future, dedicated to real change, and to rising above partisan politics. The reason I am supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is that I believe she stands for all those things, too — but is more experienced than you and ready to be president from day one. Though I have doubts that you are as ready as she is, I certainly believe you are more ready than any Republican running.

But one thing you keep saying confuses me. As you campaign on the theme of change and looking to the future, I have heard you frequently say that you don't want the country to go "back to the '90s."

So my question is: What exactly about Bill Clinton's presidency in the '90s do you not want to go back to? Could you please be specific?

-- Do you not want to go back to the days when Bill Clinton took billions of dollars of inherited deficits and converted them to $1 trillion of surplus?

-- Or not want to return to the creation of 23 million new jobs and the most extended period of growth and prosperity in many, many years?

-- Or not return to a time when America's relationships with the rest of the world were positive and inspiring — leading to peace in Ireland, the end of genocide in Bosnia and inspiration to the Third World for American values of human rights and democracy?

-- Or not see the first Democratic president reelected to a second term since FDR; who had finally positioned the Democratic Party as competitive to win the presidency, winning over his two elections such "red states" as Georgia, Colorado, Montana, Tennessee, Arizona, New Mexico and Kentucky; and who transformed the Democratic Party from one that had lost five out of six presidential elections, mostly by landslide margins, to a mainstream party of the middle class that could compete for the presidency once again?

Most Democrats would love the next Democratic president to be as successful as Bill Clinton was. Do you agree? President Clinton's job approval rating when he left office in January 2001 was about 65 percent — one of the highest ratings for a second-term president since modern polling was invented. Is that what you don't want to go back to if you were elected as the next Democratic president?

I know you are referring to the "divisions" of the '90s that you don't want to relive, and there certainly were plenty of them. But do you blame Bill Clinton for the hyper-partisanship of the Gingrich-DeLay Congress? For the tens of millions of dollars spent by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr investigating a 20-year-old land deal, in which even Mr. Starr finally concluded after all that money and all those innuendo headlines that the Clintons were not responsible for any wrongdoing?

I hope you are not blaming the Clintons for the virtually entirely partisan House impeachment vote, resulting in Mr. Clinton's acquittal in the Senate — where even a Republican majority-controlled chamber could not muster a majority vote for conviction.

Yes, there was serious hyper-partisanship in the Congress in the '90s — mostly from the Republicans. But I assume you are not giving credence or blaming the Clintons, or specifically Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for that divisiveness? Or are you? If so, many Democrats would be disappointed to hear you say that explicitly.

I'm not saying all was perfect during the Clinton years. Sen. Clinton is the first to say many mistakes were made — for example, as she often says, she learned from her mistakes in the way she handled the national health insurance proposal. But Sen. Clinton understands and is committed to a campaign looking to the future, with the experience to make real change happen.

By the way, I was proud to be a Democrat seeing you, John Edwards and Sen. Clinton Wednesday night on the MSNBC Las Vegas debate. That high-level debate focused on the issues. This is what Democrats want. We also believe accurate information about each of your past records, statements and votes — and non-votes — is neither "negative" campaigning nor personal attacking. It helps voters make more informed decisions about each of you. Better now to air all facts about your records than let the Republicans use their attack and "Swift Boat" innuendo machine in the fall with just a few months till the general election.


Lanny J. Davis