Monday, August 6, 2007

National Security Democrats

The latest round started when Barack Obama said that, of course, he’d meet with “our” enemies. Hillary Clinton said that was “naïve.” She then dragged out her husband’s foreign policy heavies, Richard Holbrooke and Mad Maddy Albright, to elaborate. [If they and their ilk are indeed our future, as they likely will be, it will again strain the Democrats’ claim to be the lesser evil, especially if there are no Cheney/Bush neo-cons in power to make them look good.] Thus the media found Obama guilty of a “gaffe.” In response, he declared in Chicago last week that he’d have no problem sending troops into Pakistan to fight terrorists, even over the objections of the Pakastani government. One would have thought that proposing to violate an ally’s sovereignty would ignite an even greater chorus about Obama’s unfitness to rule. However, it seems that the Democrats are now so enamored of national security posturing and, what comes to the same thing, that the Clintonites are so close to the neo-cons in principle (differing only in being more competent and less out of control) that Obama’s position has won more praise than blame from leading Democrats, just as it has earned him favor on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. Is it that leading Democrats are so sure that George Bush has already won the election for them that they’re now eyeing the November election – going after benighted Giuliani supporters? Last Friday (in the Senate) and Saturday (in the House), substantial numbers of Democrats gave the Bush government what it wanted in revisions to the already spineless Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA). This utterly contemptible capitulation in the Cheney/Bush War on Liberty suggests that many Democrats are indeed trying to fill Giuliani’s empty shoes. But I think, even more than that, the Democrats are only showing their true colors. Many of them would like the Democrats to be the National Security party again, as they were until some time during the Nixon administration, when a growing anti-war movement within the Democratic Party caused more than a few Cold War liberals to turn Republican and morph, ever so slightly, into neo-conservatives.

There is another cause for concern as well – at least to the (very limited) extent that the New York Times and NPR’s doyenne of conventional wisdom, Cokie Roberts, can be believed. If they’re right, despite her history of Bush aiding and abetting, Clinton has lately won over large swathes of anti-war Democrats, not by apologizing for her voting record, but by insisting, lately, on “timelines” for troop withdrawals. According to the media agenda setters, her operatives have engineered this transformation so skillfully that she has managed to avoid charges of flip-flopping à la John Kerry. Lets hope even liberals are not so easily fooled. [Writing in Salon (August 6), Michael Scherer suggests that this hope may not be realized; that, on this point, the conventional wisdom is dead right.]

Lets also hope that John Edwards is savvy enough not to follow Obama into the national security camp. Should Edwards win the nomination, he’ll most likely end up there eventually. But, for now, with Obama trying to outdo Clinton on the toughness factor, Edwards is looking more and more like the least Clintonite of the leading contenders. That’s not exactly a reason to vest hope in his candidacy, but it is a very good reason to support him over the other two.

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