Health care remains another important point of difference. And here we have a three-way split. McCain would attempt to bring down costs and make insurance more affordable for those not now covered by stimulating competition and cracking down on the big pharmaceutical companies that he believes overcharge patients. Obama has some as-yet-unspecified plan to make insurance more affordable for those who want it. Clinton, clinging to the approach that proved politically disastrous when she headed her husband's health-care task force, would make insurance coverage compulsory, even for youngsters who neither need nor want it, and deduct the cost from their paychecks if necessary.
Enough detail to make the broader point. This is one of the few elections that create for Americans what Ronald Reagan once called a time for choosing. In 1932 we elected Franklin Roosevelt and put paid to the notion that that government is best which governs least. In 1980 we elected Ronald Reagan, a Roosevelt Democrat turned Republican, and put paid to the conservative war against FDR's New Deal. This year we will have to choose between a man who is confident that America can--indeed, must--play a leading role in maintaining world order, even at the expense of domestic spending, and a man or woman who believe that America must concentrate its resources on the home front, while relying more on international institutions to keep the world's democracies safe from its enemies.
Little wonder that the current round of primaries has attracted worldwide attention. What happens in America doesn't stay in America.
Irwin M. Stelzer is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, and a columnist for the Sunday Times (London).