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Tilting at Windmills

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November 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HILLARY THE HAWK....As Matt and Ezra say, the biggest progressive beef with Hillary Clinton is that her foreign policy is too hawkish. That's how I feel too, though trying to define what any of us really mean by this is maddeningly difficult. To a large extent, after all, the biggest difference between Hillary and Barack Obama is simply that Hillary refuses to tie herself down. Basically, she wants maximum freedom of action when she takes office, and in the case of foreign policy this isn't necessarily a bad thing to want.

Still, it leaves us all in an uncomfortable position. So let me put things a little differently. I would say that, within a reasonable margin, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore all had roughly similar foreign policy outlooks during the 90s. Today, Gore is obviously opposed to the Iraq war more strongly than either of the Clintons, but my guess is that all three still have pretty similar foreign policy instincts.

Question: Agree or disagree? Iraq aside, do you think Gore has fundamentally changed his worldview since the 90s in ways that Hillary hasn't? Did it need changing? In hindsight, was the Gore/Clinton worldview of the 90s good or bad?

Kevin Drum 2:09 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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I do not think that Hillary (or Bill) shares Gore's foreign policy views or instincts. Gore has learned some things about the bankruptcy of beltway politics that Hillary and Bill have no understanding of.

Even worse, Hillary will be more politically constrained in foreign policy. She will be utterly tied down as president because she will always have to anticipate people thinking she's weak on foreign policy because she's a woman. She will have no freedom, despite all her futile efforts to preserve freedom of action. When war hawks start beating their drums, she'll dance along. Just as she did on Kyl/Lieberman. She might not launch another stupid ground invasion, but I'd expect her to make liberal use of cruise missiles every time the military presents her with a viable target and rationale. I wouldn't even put bombing Iran past her.

Not to mention: her foreign policy advisors are all people who advised Democrats to support GW Bush on Iraq. She hasn't distanced herself from those folks, no matter how wrong they were. Where is the evidence that she's learned anything in the past 6 years?

Posted by: Frances on November 19, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

The question is not so much what their current world views are, it is whose interests do they serve.
Hillary clearly supports the Wall Street status quo of what's good for big money is good for the US. Afterall she was a corporate lawyer, walmart board member and is the senator for Wall Street.
I would expect More of The Same from her.

Posted by: joeis on November 19, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure that we really know what Hillary's "foreign policy" was during Clinton-Gore; presumably it wasn't far afield from her husband's, but that still leaves a lot of wiggle room.

It seems obvious that she's the most hawkish Dem of the lot and, as Frances points out in the 2:23 pm post above, there will be important constraints -- real or imagined -- on her foreign policy.

As the "first woman President" and as the first Democratic President of the "war on terror," there will be important political considerations, legacy-wise -- she'll be in a position where she has to be tougher-than-thou on terror because she's a woman (she'll need to be Thatcher-like in that respect) and more-committed-to-victory-in-Iraq-than thou because she's a Democrat.

I see no reason for anyone to believe that President Hillary Clinton will end the war in Iraq under any conditions other than the "victory" so fervently fantasized by the 28% crowd.

Posted by: R Burgos on November 19, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, Gore isn't running. But, yes, I do think his views have shifted since the 90's. Gore is clocked in on environmental issues and I think he sees a hawkish foreign policy stance as counter-productive to that end. You might say the same thing about Bill.

--Dan

Posted by: Dan on November 19, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Republic or Empire? Which will it be? The Repubs and Dems just disagree over the details ("We only need 3 military bases in that country, not 5!" or "We should keep 100,000 troops in that country, not 150,000!"), but they basically agree that the US should dominate the world.

That's why we need a real third party - libs, moderates, traditional conservatives, libertarians, independents, who can all agree to dismantle the Empire and rebuild the Republic.

Posted by: Speed on November 19, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Gore has been innoculated by losing. Hillary still has too much to lose.

Posted by: anonymous on November 19, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm as willing to give Hillary the benefit of the doubt about a change of heart on the wisdom of war as I am John Edwards, who voted along with Hillary Clinton to delegate the decision to go to war in Iraq to President Bush back in 2002.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Like Dan said, it's probably safe to say that Gore sees the effects of climate change as far more pernicious, and more difficult to beat back, than any terrorist or hypothetical nuclear threat, and he probably sees the disproportionate amount of money, time, energy, & political capital (to say nothing of human lives) squandered on something like half-baked ideas about how to rearrange the Middle East so that our access to oil continues uninterrupted as nothing short of retarded.

I couldn't provide you the quote, but I'm pretty sure he's indicated that one of his larger regrets from his time in office is not pursuing the environmental agenda more vigorously, so in that sense, whatever good the Clinton/Gore administration may have done, it wasn't good enough.

Posted by: junebug on November 19, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq aside, do you think Gore has fundamentally changed his worldview since the 90s in ways that Hillary hasn't

Iraq aside how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln.

The problem is of course that you can't put Iraq aside. How one reacted to Iraq is a perfect litmus test for how effective a leader one is likely to be - Not as a measure of how willing you are to use force, but as a measure of how susceptable to blatantly emotion pandering propaganda you are during a campaign to drum up support for a war in the first place.

Anyone with any reasoning skills whatsoever could have figured out that the Iraq war was based on a deception if only because of the arguments that WEREN'T being made in favor.

So the variable isn't a matter of foreign policy instinct but a matter of who has the leadership qualities necessary to ask tough questions and reach the truth.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on November 19, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary Rodham Clinton favors a strong executive branch and wants to wield this power.

I would prefer to weaken the presidency.

But Congress has to be willing to step-up to the plate and contest the issue with the president.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on November 19, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Gore would react as stonily to a legit question as she tends to do. I find him more human in his responsiveness. Can't give a good example right now. But, in theory, some questions are an opportunity to show yourself, which she does not do, in my view. So, yes, he has probably moved on.

Posted by: Bob M on November 19, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Gore hasn't changed his personal views, he has capitulated to the progressives during the primary season, all dems do this.

Posted by: Matt on November 19, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed.

And that's the problem with all three.

Kevin, you have blogged in the past about the Bipartisan Foreign Policy Establishment.(TM)

How long before Hillary agrees with O'Hanlon's op-ed that invading Pakistan should be under consideration?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 19, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

No, I don't think Gore changed his views. Had Gore or Clinton (Bill, that is to say), had been president when Sept 11 happened, we would not have invaded Iraq with a ground force- Afghanistan, probably yes since political pressure to "try to get Bin Laden by all means at hand" would have been impossible to withstand.

What is Hillary doing? Playing smart politics or, at least, trying to. She is certainly more anti-war than either Gore of her husband, but still voted to give Bush authorization. She was thinking ahead to a future general election in which she did not want to be painted as a dove. Of course, the risk is that this vote, which cannot be easily disowned, will prevent her from getting the nomination in the first place. It appears to me that she has finessed this problem, but we will know for certain in about 7 weeks.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on November 19, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: the biggest progressive beef with Hillary Clinton is that her foreign policy is too hawkish ... Gore is obviously opposed to the Iraq war more strongly than either of the Clintons,

False dichotomy. Being opposed to the Iraq war doesn't necessarily mean that you're not a hawk, it means that you're opposed to stupidity. Richard Clarke (not exactly a dove) said it best, when he said that invading Iraq after 9/11 was like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor.

Forget all the "this is where we are now" bullshit from apologists and those who'd like to forget their original support for the Iraq War, we should never forget that the reasons for invading Iraq were bullshit: there were no WMD's. There were good reasons to believe that there were no WMD's.

At least with Vietnam you could argue that the domino theory seem to make sense at one time, with Iraq War 2 there are no excuses.

Posted by: alex on November 19, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Gore hasn't changed his personal views, he has capitulated to the progressives during the primary season, all dems do this.

My first thought was to say that card-carrying progressives would be shocked to learn that anyone's capitulated to them.

My second thought was to say that Gore's not running, so your comment doesn't make sense. Jackass.

My third thought, which is what I'm going with, is to say that your idiocy is matched only by your lack of imagination when it comes to trolling.

Posted by: junebug on November 19, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have any trouble in defining Hillary's hawk problem: she's a senator from NY and therefore has strong ties to wealthy and influential Israel hawks. That's why she voted for Kyl-Lieberman. And that's why she can't agree to talk to Iran.

And even though Obama and Edwards have genuflected at the knee of AIPAC, I believe they wouldn't be beholden to Likudnik Middle East policy.

Posted by: LaMoose on November 19, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

To all the progressives here, did you back the ouster of the Taliban in 2001? Or did you argue against it and say that we shouldn't let the emotions of 9/11 sway us? I'm seriously asking this because it seems to me that it's naive to not consider the context of the politics of the decisions to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Bush deliberately chose to push for a vote authorizing him to have the power to go to war in Iraq right before the fall 2002 elections, and Democrats in the Senate were under intense pressure as a result. Now perhaps one can indeed fault Clinton and Edwards for the way they voted as neither one was seriously threatened by voting no (Edwards was resigning, while Clinton's Senate seat is quite safe), but blithely saying that there was a lack of courage in making a case to the American people against a war in Iraq is to ignore the harsh reality that war can be used as a very effective partisan weapon because people really can be easily swayed to support a war, and were. That politicians have to weigh this when making a vote is not surprising in the least.

Of course this is why President Bush owns his war in Iraq lock, stock and every barrel of oil and why five years later it's hurting the Republican Party. You don't promise people a painless war and then expect to be popular when it goes on and on and on without resolution.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Speed:

The Repubs and Dems just disagree over the details . . . . . but they basically agree that the US should dominate the world.

And "dominate" necessarily means, first and foremost, militarily, as in, "periodically throw some country up against the wall just to show who's boss".

Any discussion of this topic that doesn't begin at the beginning is a waste of time and energy.

Posted by: PowerOfX on November 19, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one who remembers that Hillary was president of the young republicans as a freshman at Wesleyan college? She's capable of wearing many political hats.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_clinton

Posted by: slanted tom on November 19, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Gore has definitely moved to the left since the days of his first presidential campaign, when he was running against the nuclear freeze, and staking out a position to the right of the other candidates on foreign policy.

Posted by: Joe Buck on November 19, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary the Hawk? What about McCain going to visit the troops over Thanksgiving? A true sign the Little Bush Wanna Be Republican is in need of support like Votes, These fvcking Republicans can forget it after 8 years of Bushs Bullshit.

Posted by: Al on November 19, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

It is far more accurate to say this:

I would say that, within a reasonable margin, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and George Bush all had roughly similar foreign policy outlooks during the 90s and hence.

Changing from Hillary to Bush will only be a change of label but certainly not of policies. The Clintons are as much for the war in Iraq as Bush is for it.


Posted by: Me_again on November 19, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'll argue that invading Afghanistan has been a failure.

It hasn't disabled al Qaeda. We're still in Afghanistan taking casualties will no good end game in sight.

We're risking losing Pakistan to Islamists who are sympathetic to the Taliban. And Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

IMO, we should have isolated Afghanistan after 9/11 and demanded Osama bin Laden and his team be turned over.

If the Taliban refused we should have squeezed Afghanistan for awhile. If the Taliban continued to resist, eventually we go in and attempt to kill/capture ObL and the leaders.

While invading Afghanistan may have been legal, it hasn't advanced U.S. security much. al Qaeda is now a many-headed hydra. Even killing Osama bin Laden is no big deal at this point.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on November 19, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "[T]he biggest progressive beef with Hillary Clinton is that her foreign policy is too hawkish."

Yeah, well, some progressives refuse to acknowledge that there's a big difference between "strong" and "bellicose," preferring instead to conflate the two in order to make their point that Sen. Clinton is too hawkish.

slanted tom: "Am I the only one who remembers that Hillary was president of the young republicans as a freshman at Wesleyan college?"

Well good for you!

Are you also aware that Hillary Clinton was only 18 years old back then, and that she's 60 years old now, and further that most people will evolve in their views over the course of four decades?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 19, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Carl N., what did you argue back then about the wisdom of attacking Afghanistan? I can tell your hindsight is 20/20, but that's not saying much.

FWIW, Al Gore was for taking the Taliban out, given their support of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and it would have been poltical suicide to argue otherwise at the time. However what Al Gore would have NOT done, in my humble opinion, was start a war in Iraq and lost focus in Afghanistan as Bush has ended up doing.

As for killing Osama bin Ladan, it's still a very big deal to me that we not let someone who was directly responsible for killing thousands of Americans die in his sleep never being brought to justice for it. Capturing and executing Eichmann was no big deal in a way by 1961, except to the survivors of the Holocaust.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK
As Matt and Ezra say, the biggest progressive beef with Hillary Clinton is that her foreign policy is too hawkish.

I would say the biggest progressive beefs with Hillary Clinton are that she is closely attached to the corporate interests that oppose progressivism entirely, and that she is quick to validate the false premises on which conservative policy is sold, whether or not she agrees with the policy, rather than challenging it.

This is often most manifest in foreign policy areas (especially as regards the middle east) because of the degree of media attention those issues get right now particularly with the War in Iraq and issues that seem attached to it so central to political debate in this country. But it is by no means limited to foreign policy, and it is a mistake to look at the problem as one essentially of foreign policy perspective rather than one that just happens to be most obvious in the foreign policy arena currently.


I would say that, within a reasonable margin, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore all had roughly similar foreign policy outlooks during the 90s.

Based on...what?

One of them was President during the 1990s, and the other two had their political expression constrained by their relation to that one.

Naturally, that will make all three appear, on the most superficial analysis, to have substantially similar views on all areas of policy, but it certainly isn't evidence that they actually did have similar views regarding any particular policy area.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 19, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I'd say my biggest beef with Clinton -- and it's certainly related to foreign policy -- is that I don't have a clear idea at any moment just what particular piece of progressive policy she'll chuck under a bus to show that she's sufficiently moderate or tough or whatever she thinks she needs to show.

Basically, she wants maximum freedom of action when she takes office, and in the case of foreign policy this isn't necessarily a bad thing to want.

Not necessarily a bad thing at all, or so one thought until the current administration pushed ideas of Executive power to obscene and absurd levels. Our government is out of balance, and the next president will have to loosen his or her grasp of power to allow things to get back into balance. It's not altogether clear that Clinton has accepted this.

On Iraq, it's all a bit simpler. She voted for it, she supported it. She was a hawk, and then an incompetence dodger, and she was the last of the candidates to come around on the issue. So quite simply, of all the candidates, she's the most likely to find a reason or set of circumstances to keep us in Iraq. I could see her keeping the war going for one "Last" chance for success, especially if it would improve her numbers with moderates a few points.

I know it's tough to give specifics when you don't know exactly what the situation will be when you take power, and most of the candidates have been at least somewhat evasive about what will happen. But Clinton is the one with the biggest credibility problem on this issue, and she'll have to be a lot more convincing if she wants to allay my fears and win my vote.

Frankly, I'm not willing to go through the same nonsensical crap we went through with Kerry in 2004, when I felt a lot more confident in his foreign policy inclinations and still had some belief that there were options worth keeping open.

Posted by: Royko on November 19, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Look, once you get in office you can do what you want, especially as circumstances change. But if you are willing to "tie yourself down" like Obama, then your base knows that you at least have your heart in the right place.

Being a reality based political party, we can understand deviations when necessary.

I'm betting HRC doesn't want to deal with the storm of right wing and corporate media punditry that would result if she did something different in office than in the campaign.

Posted by: MNPundit on November 19, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Here is how I see it: neither Bill Clinton nor Hillary Clinton would have wanted to invade Iraq after 9-11. The President asked for authority and she as well as many senators gave it to him, as she would want authority if she were trying to ramp up pressure on a rogue regime. But I have no doubt that but for the incessant pushing by W and Cheney to invade, there would have been no invasion, period, even if Hillary was President on 9-11. Action in Afghanistan, yes. Frankly, we should have declared war on Afghanistan after 9-11 as we had every legal right to do so under International Law. She wont invade Iran. She wont invade Syria. She wont invade anyone. She is no dummy and only a dummy would look at the state of our military, our interests around the world, and the reality of what our military can accomplish, and conclude that we should be thinking about invading anyone. Thats where I think she is. The fact that she is acting as a candidate in a manner calculated to protect her options and flexibility if elected, merely tells me she is very smart.

Posted by: Jammer on November 19, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit, Hillary Clinton in all likelihood doesn't want to be as far to left about Iraq as some would like her to be during the primaries because she knows as well as anyone that in the general election it's a problem to be too far to the left of the Republicans on the issue. It's also very important to realize that right up until January 20th, 2009 President Bush can do a great deal of mischief (and will) in Iraq to try and defeat the Democratic candidate for President. Reducing your exposure on the war may indeed be the better part of valor in 2008.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

It seems obvious to me that by the fall of 2002, considerable daylight was showing between Gore and both Clintons.

I agree that none of them, had they been President, would have had the cockamamie idea of invading Iraq; WTF would that have had to do with anything?

But none of them had that bully pulpit, and when it was used to rush us into a ridiculous war, Al Gore had the courage and common sense to speak out against it, and the Clintons didn't.

And with her continued defense of her vote for the war, her lukewarm (at best) support for any measure that would start getting us out of there, and her meaningless "if Bush won't end this war, I will" (by when - 2017? she's not saying), she's clearly more hawkish than Gore, Edwards, or Richardson on this subject.

Finally, nuts to freedom of action: at its core, this is about democracy. We, the people, have the right (and in some cases, the obligation) to limit our leaders' freedom of action.

The American people have made up their minds about this war: we want out. This isn't a passing blip in the polls - in fact, the desire to get out has been unaffected by the realization that, militarily at least, the surge has been somewhat successful.

If a President wants to keep a war going well after it's lost the support of the American people, who've already voted against it in one election, it's time to get rid of that President. (I'm still all for impeaching Bush and Cheney, even though time is short.)

But if a Democratic Presidential candidate is willing to keep the war going well after it's lost the support of the American people, that's a good reason not to nominate her.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 19, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK


Invading Iraq wasn't a left thing or a right thing: it was a stupid thing. Hillary Clinton supported the invasion: she supported the occupation for years, until the polls really went sour.

She's a proven fool, like most of the people at the top. You'd think the Democrats could find someone to run who _might_ be competent.

Posted by: gcochran on November 19, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Gore's worldview has certainly changed - not being actively involved in elective politics is profoundly liberating. If Hillary is more hawkish than Gore or Bill, it is because as a woman candidate for the presidency she can afford to be nothing less. What that means for her presidential policies, assuming that she does become president, is too early to tell.

Posted by: Independent on November 19, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

The issue, really, is less whether the Clinton/Gore worldview of the 1990s was correct then, that whether their worldview is correct now.

Gore has the clearest case to make. He was not in the decision chain in most national security and foreign policies of the Clinton administration, though when he was his influence was substantial. The administration's great failure -- how it handled al Qaeda -- can't be blamed on Gore. Since 2001 the Bush administration's great failure, the adventure in Iraq, has seen Gore consistently if ineffectually in opposition.

Bill Clinton's worldview obviously failed with respect to terrorism. However, as it evolved (Clinton was a novice in the foreign affairs field when first elected President) it had many advantages in American relations with countries already well-disposed to us, a fact that had something to do with the extensive consultations Clinton's administration normally engaged in and something as well to do with the limited demands it made of American allies. Having said that, one must point out that the infrastructure of American foreign policy outside the Pentagon eroded dramatically during Clinton's Presidency. Most of this erosion was instigated by Congress, but Clinton's resistance was weak to nonexistent. For someone who brought so many political problems on himself, Clinton was remarkably unwilling to stand up for unpopular government institutions like the State Department, creating problems the Bush administration later made worse.

What does Hillary Clinton think about foreign policy outside the context of the election campaign? I don't think she does. I wouldn't say that about a number of domestic policy issues, on which I might not agree with Sen. Clinton but would not doubt that she knew what she was talking about. With respect to foreign policy and national security affairs, though, it's pretty clear that she was for the Iraq war when it was popular, against it when it was unpopular; she now says she will end the war when addressing antiwar Democrats, but avoids specifics so as to avoid Republican attacks.

Is she "preserving her options," as Kevin argues, for her administration? Frankly, that is ridiculous. Any newly-elected President will have substantial flexibility in the foreign policy field -- neither the American people nor the (likely) Democratic majorities in Congress will want to see a newly elected Democratic President fail right out of the box, and no administration will walk into disaster just to uphold a campaign promise.

The only flexibility Sen. Clinton is seeking is flexibility for the campaign. She wants to be anti-Bush, but not as much as Democratic opponents whom she wishes to cast as irresponsible or extreme. This could be called triangulation. It is probably better described as an unsteady search for the safe center by a woman whose political identity is entirely wrapped up in election campaigns -- and a declaration that a Hillary Clinton administration will make foreign policy up as it goes.

Posted by: Zathras on November 19, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary's a Hawk!

Hillary's a Hawk!

Squawk, squawk!

Hillary's a Hawk!

Posted by: Hillary Hater on November 19, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I completely agree with the sensible posts of David W. and Jammer. Actually, since the same advisors would be counseling any Dem President, the only clear difference between the contenders is in how they present themselves for the general election. I prefer a Pres whose heart is good, whose thinking is clear and intelligent, and who retains the options to act as necessary. Right now, Hillary is the most like that person.

Posted by: Keith on November 19, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Squawk, squawk, squawk!

Hillary is GOP-Lite!

Beware!

Hillary Hater
HowardDeanWasTheAnswer@ObamaIsTheAnswer.org

(aka, we would rather lose than ever appear even the slightest bit hawkish or rational)

Posted by: Hillary Hater on November 19, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

At least based on public statements, it seems to me that less comfortable with the continued consolidation of power and wealth than Bill Clinton. Now, this may just be a matter of focus. When prompted, Bill Clinton does talk a good talk on media consolidation and public financing and so forth. But mostly he is focused on his CGI stuff, which has nothing to do with media consolidation or inequality within the North Atlantic economy, and features him hobnobbing around with billionaires. Gore, meanwhile, talks at length about the problems of media consolidation.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot on November 19, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Both Gore and the Clintons are hawkish in the sense that they all believe that the military can be used to solve some problems. Where they part is that the Clintons also see a political benefit to using force (Hillary especially, who wants to prove she's as tough as any of the guys). Gore may see that benefit as well, but would not want to send people to fight and possibly die for his own political gain. That's why the Clinton's are better at winning elections: it's all politics.

Posted by: Lee on November 19, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

If she is not a hawk, she has no chance to win the GE. For a woman, she has to run as a hawk or don't run at all.

Posted by: bob on November 19, 2007 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary Apologist: we would rather lose than ever appear even the slightest bit hawkish or rational

What about supporting Iraq War II is/was rational?

And does opposing wars that we got into onto the basis of lies, deception and hysteria, and which have nothing to do with the defense of the United States (and in fact make us more vulnerable) make one more of a pacifist than Gandhi?

Richard Clarke was right. There was a reason why we didn't invade Mexico after Pearl Harbor. Spare me the absurd rationalizations that invading Iraq after 9/11 made any more sense than that would have.

Posted by: alex on November 19, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Are you also aware that Hillary Clinton was only 18 years old back then, and that she's 60 years old now, and further that most people will evolve in their views over the course of four decades?"

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii

Gee Donald, I was 18 in 1965 and joined the service in a non-combative role for 4 years, knowing full well that most wars are unnecessary quagmires that create much more harm than good.
Still felt that way when Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld decided that we'd have a little war in Iraq. Maybe I've never evolved. Never had a deferment or walked away from the National Guard either.
It would be grand if Hillary shows some of her evolution and soon.

Posted by: slanted tom on November 19, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

slanted tom, unfortunately it's not all about me or you. While I wish more people were as rightfully skeptical about war as you are, the truth is that many Americans are indeed seduced by it. Hillary Clinton is a politician, not a preacher, and while she can lead by example she also knows there are limits to what she can do and remain an effective leader. Dennis Kucinich, bless his heart, is on the side of the angels when it comes to war, but he's never going to get elected because whether he likes it or not a majority of Americans aren't pacifists just yet.

That said, the question of how Hillary Clinton's policy on Iraq differs from either Edwards or Obama's is important to ask and have answered. We know Obama rejected the Iraq war from the gitgo and Edwards has since recanted from his Senate vote handing Bush the power to make war. (Frankly, why Edwards hasn't caught more flack from progressives about what clearly looks like an opportunistic vote given his own 2004 Presidential ambitions while Hillary gets hammered on her own vote seems, well, to indicate some irrational dislike of Hillary Clinton, but that's just me.) Hillary needs to do more than just say she's not like Bush or any of the other Republicans, she needs to make a clear distinction, not only to reassure progressives but to support the Democratic Party as a whole about ending the war. We know what the Republican line will be on Iraq already - 100,000 troops kept there for 20 more years. Whomever the Democrats wind up with as their candidate for President, they have to have a meaningful alternative to present to the voters, period.

Posted by: David W. on November 19, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Whomever the Democrats wind up with as their candidate for President, they have to have a meaningful alternative to present to the voters, period.

Posted by: David W.

My sentiments exactly!

Posted by: slanted tom on November 19, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

In the instance of Hillary, I think it's important to take into consideration the political landscape in 2002. At the time she voted to approve the Iraq war, she was living in entirely republican times. Back then, the republican party was under every stone as well as above it. Both the presidency and both houses of Congress were republican controlled. Bush was in a position to appoint, or about to appoint more then one Supreme Court judge.
I think She merely tried to float along unobtrusively with the political tide, hoping that she wouldn't tic off too many middle-of-the-road voters by opposing what was, at the time, a pretty popular 'Short Victorious War'. My bet is that she figured that George would go in, win, declare victory, leave and that would be it. Come to think of it, if that's what had happened, we wouldn't be having this stupid debate. And if we had won a competently executed popular war, she would have been castigated for being womanly wimpish in her 2008 bid for the presidency.
If anything, she's guilty of not realizing that shrubs is a gibbering drooling idiot, and she's guilty of selling her morals for potential political gain. Unfortunately, it all backfired, and what would have been a shrewd move back then is a major embarassment now. Bad foresight on her part.

Posted by: Aaron on November 19, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

The articles hit on a key point -- that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy stance is more conservative than her economic and social views. It is the area where she is most likely to diverge from mainstream Democratic policy positions.

I do think there is a clear difference between Gore and Clinton on foreign policy, but how much of this is a true difference of opinion and how much is generated by Hillary trying to look hawkish as the first viable woman Presidential candidate and Gore having more freedom to speak out now that he is out of office I am not certain. Their views may be closer in reality than they appear rhetorically.

In general, I think Clinton's foreign policy would be mix of aggressive multilateralism coupled with a hard dose of realism. The overreaching neocon idealist experiment in Iraq has been a disaster and Hillary knows there is no longer any appetite for grand foreign policy schemes. I think her foreign policy approach would resemble Eisenhower's. She will talk tough, push hard for international cooperation and assume that other nations are primarily motivated by their own self-interest rather than some abstract greater good. As for further military action -- any realist knows the U.S. no longer has the resources for that.

Posted by: Ogre Mage on November 19, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the premise of this post flawed? What are the "foreign policy outlooks" of any of the candidates? For that matter, what was the foreign policy outlook of Bill Clinton in the 1990's? And why would anyone expect, or even want, Hillary to have the same outlook 15 years later?

For that matter, a president reacts to events during his presidency. Whatever "outlook" he provides during a campaign is not a good or accurate indication of what he will do if elected. Wilson and FDR campaigned with pledges to keep us out of war. Johnson campaigned by arguing the other guy would take us to war. Bush certainly did not campaign as a president who do anything near what he had done in Iraq or Afghanistan. Even Reagan ultimatly made peace with Russia, although only after he basically was true to his campaign promises of a strong defense, military spending and criticism of communinism.

Posted by: brian on November 19, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Lots of bright people thought the right thing to do was give W the power he said he needed at a critical time. I didn't. But I think it's fair to say Hillary:
a) knew that sometime she or another Democratic president may have to handle a real crisis and need bipartisan support to address it (Unless you think the GOP would just forgive and forget her anti-Bush vote);
b) wants the presidency for what she believes are fair and worthy reasons and thinks (maybe even knows) she must style herself as a centrist, Bubba-style, in running for it;
c) was authorizing Bush's empowerment to handle an existential crisis, not his rush to war, let alone his disastrous handling of it.
If you can't forgive Hillary for these things, I recommend you start preparing now to utter the phrase "President Giuliani" or "President Romney." I'm not saying Hillary will certainly be the nominee, and there are others I'd prefer. But if she is and many of her fellow Democrats shrug off the election because they can't see the difference between her and a Republican, then we are even more screwed than we are today.

Posted by: beejeez on November 19, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

slanted tom: "Gee Donald, I was 18 in 1965 and joined the service in a non-combative role for 4 years ..."

Again, good for you. When I was 18 in 1980, I was a member of the Young Republicans, and that year I voted for Ronald Reagan instead of Jimmy Carter, which to my everlasting chagrin was the most ignorant fuckin' ballot I've ever cast.

You want to hold that 27-year-old mistake against me, too, like you are apparently hellbent on doing with Mrs. Clinton?

Not everyone had the benefit of growing up in a politically liberal household, as I assume you did. Through their own life's experiences, people can and do change their political views as they get older, and in select cases, wiser.

While I might otherwise commend your parents for instilling in you liberalism's inherently sound core principles, I find you entirely too rigid and judgmental in their application.

Hillary Rodham was was raised in the well-to-do Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Illinois, which even today is hardly a bastion of left-wing politics. And yes, as you pointed out in an earlier post, she was a "Goldwater Girl" 43 years ago. So fuckin' what? She most certainly isn't one now.

One final comment before I go: Neither you nor I are fit to be the final arbiters of what properly constitutes a so-called "Good Democrat."

We're supposed to be the "Big Tent" party, and as such, the Democrats certainly don't need you, me or anyone else to act as our party's self-annointed gatekeepers.

Aloha.

"I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents." -- Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 19, 2007 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

beejeez: If you can't forgive Hillary for these things, I recommend you start preparing now to utter the phrase "President Giuliani" or "President Romney."

Donald from Hawaii: Neither you nor I are fit to be the final arbiters of what properly constitutes a so-called "Good Democrat."

Well, I'm not slanted tom, and I (and I presume he) wouldn't claim to be the final arbiter of anything. But I do place my right to an opinion above Loyalty to the Party (if more Republican's felt that way maybe we wouldn't have such a disaster of a president).

I now understand how Hillary boosterism works: rationalize what she says or does as politically necessary, then give her the benefit of the doubt on everything else. Presto! With your eyes closed you can see anything you want to see in her.

Am I saying she'd be anywhere near as bad as W or any of his would be successors? Hell no. But talk about low expectations.

As I explained to Republican friends about why I voted for Kerry in 2004: if W was running against Mickey Mouse, I would've voted for the rodent.

But make no mistake about it, if nominated her only redeeming qualification will be that she's not a Republican nut job. She's being shoved down people's throats as the anointed beltway, big money, political dynasty excuse for a Democrat. Certainly the lesser evil, but nothing to be happy about.

Posted by: alex on November 20, 2007 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I don't have a terribly good idea of what Hillary's FP is and I don't think your argument that she wants "maximum flexibility" and that's good for FP is a good thing. I mean, if she was to define herself roughly as a neo-liberal in the mold of Bill, that would be a start. But right now, we have the following:

1. Voted for Iraq War
2. Won't admit it was a mistake to empower Señor Bush to start a preemptive war with that vote.
3. Made a similar if not equal vote on Iran recently and says it doesn't give Bush authorization to make war on the Iranians.

In the best world, she's incredibly myopic on that point (since the Dems have been defending the Iraq vote by saying that it didn't authorize the war - but Bush did it anyway). But in the worst world, she's consistently shown a lack of leadership on the most important and impactful issues of the day. And that's why I'm not a supporter.

As to Gore and Bill - I have strong doubts that either would have voted to go to war in iraq. Preemptive war isn't something that neo-liberals generally favor and the Clinton Doctrine was one of international military restraint (after Somalia).

So yeah, I think Hillary is either myopic, hawkish, or a failed leader in terms of substance. And that's not good for a potential president.

Posted by: SJH on November 20, 2007 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

After reading a few comments I want to add one thing.

The 2002 vote MAY be explainable. The Iran vote is not. Every single thing since that 2002 vote has shown you do NOT give Bush an inch for he will take a mile. I'm MUCH more bothered by Hillary's Iran vote than the 2002 vote. It's like Bush said, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, well you won't fool me a second time.

Posted by: SJH on November 20, 2007 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks Bush needed the 2002 resolution in order to invade Iraq hasn't been paying attention.

The only thing the 2002 resolution accomplished was to give him some additional political cover.

The Iran vote does even less.

If Bush decides to attack Iran, it won't be because of the Iran vote and voting that resolution down wouldn't have prevented him from doing anything he damn well pleases.

So, pretending that there was something substantive to Hillary's vote on either count is to simply buy in to Bush's and the GOP's talking points and that tells me such a person isn't to be taken seriously when criticizing Clinton.

Posted by: anonymous on November 20, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

alex: She's being shoved down people's throats as the anointed beltway, big money, political dynasty excuse for a Democrat.

Bullshit.

Most beltway Democrats didn't want her to run because they didn't think she could win.

She's ahead in the polls not because of political anointment by the Democratic elite, but because of her and her husband's superior political skills.

Talk about myopia.

Geez, you people are suffering from Hillary Derangement Syndrome and have no clue about political realities in America which is why you keep picking even worse losers than the eventual Democratic nominees, losers like Nader, Dean, and Obama.

Posted by: anonymous on November 20, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

alex: What about supporting Iraq War II is/was rational?

She didn't support it, so quit lying about this.

Posted by: anonymous on November 20, 2007 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

My problem with Hillary is that I think she is well entrenched with the foreign policy crowd that wants to maintain the U.S. as an empire. Her hawkishness is the natural outgrowth of that. She certainly wouldn't be as stupid as George W. Bush has been, but she would still be "Bush-lite."

The question is, would Obama and Edwards, in their inexperience, be likely to be pushed by the foreign policy establishment into also maintaining the empire?

Posted by: Heidio on November 20, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Ogre Mage: . . . Hillary Clinton's foreign policy stance is more conservative than her economic and social views.

Hmmmmmmmmmm . . . exactly the stance of the majority of the American people.

SJH: 1. Voted for Iraq War

Another lie.

Posted by: anonymous on November 20, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary went to Wesleyan? And here I thought our most famous alum was Bill Belichick.

WELLESLEY, people, not Wesleyan. WELLESLEY.

Posted by: Whispers on November 20, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Gore has left his political career behind, and he no longer feels any need to conform himself to the conventional wisdom. He is past internalizing the standard (and justified) Dem fear of being called a wimp.

This frees him to use his own brain in a way that the Clintons cannot. Like millions of other Americans the Iraq fiasco has reminded him of just how badly a military adventure can go sour, and that threats are sometimes... trumped up.

Al Gore is now a different man, significantly more skeptical of military "solutions" than the Al Gore of 8 years ago.

The Clintons remain trapped in a time warp by Hillary's bad vote and the need to beat a Republican next year.

Posted by: tomtom on November 20, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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