Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 7, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

SURPRISE!....TNR ENDORSES LIEBERMAN....As Atrios points out, endorsing Joe Lieberman is a real sign of marginalization for The New Republic. On the other hand, if he's really the guy they like, I guess you have to give them points for sticking to their guns even though he doesn't have a snowball's chance of winning the nomination this year.

But that aside, I'd like to point out two parts of their editorial that rang pretty true for me:

Recall for a moment the political climate in the United States in January 2001....The campaign had been fought largely on Democratic terrain--with Bush promising a larger federal role in education and health care, and a multicultural Republican Party. With national security a second-tier political issue, and welfare and crime no longer political issues at all, all that remained of Ronald Reagan's winning formula was tax cuts. And even that had been challenged by John McCain in the primary.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is more true than conservatives want to admit. Even after the Reagan/Gingrich years, the American public is still largely supportive of liberal goals. But there's also this about the Democratic party after 9/11:

But the Democratic Party has also buried itself. In late 2002, with the Bush administration threatening preemptive war in Iraq, Democratic strategists developed a remarkable plan for the midterm elections: Ignore national security. One year after the bloodiest foreign attack on U.S. soil, and on the eve of one of the most audacious foreign policy gambles in U.S. history, Democratic candidates campaigned on the sluggish economy and prescription drugs. And Bush and Karl Rove ripped them to shreds.

Sadly, this is also largely true. As TNR points out, George Bush decided not to use 9/11 as a chance to forge a bipartisan consensus on fighting terrorism perhaps the single thing I most strongly hold against him but instead used it as a partisan club by going to war in a way ruthlessly and deliberately calculated to drive the largest possible wedge through the Democratic party. Unfortunately, the Democrats let him get away with it by declining to provide serious national security alternatives in tune with what the public obviously wanted.

Unlike TNR, I think Wes Clark does provide serious alternatives. Not because he's a former general, but because he actively promoted an aggressive military posture in Bosnia and was willing to fight hard to put together and keep together the coalition that won the war. It's pretty clear that if military action is needed in the future he won't shy away from using it, but it's equally clear that he wouldn't have used the military to pander to his base in Iraq instead of using it for the less flashy but probably more important job of thoroughly routing al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. That's the kind of foreign policy leadership we need, and it's too bad TNR doesn't recognize it.

Kevin Drum 8:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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