"Not Ideas About the Thing
But The Thing Itself"
Later, in the same Robin Toner article that I linked to before:
The broader question is whether the war forges an enduring change in the Democratic Party, its stance and its credibility on national security. Many strategists are already warning that over the long haul, it is not enough to be antiwar: the Democrats need a strong, affirmative vision of foreign policy.
“If getting out of Iraq defines entirely who the Democrats are on national security, then over the long run, it will be a disaster,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic group. Rather, Iraq needs to be part “of a larger strategy aimed at showing how to protect America’s national security interests,” he said.
Bennett’s right. But here’s the thing. If Toner had called me up and asked for my view on this question, I might have said something about the Democrats’ larger national security mission instead of talking about how someone should talk about this. Who’s going to talk about it if not those Democrats who the newspapers deign to quote? I can talk about it. I can even link to Matt Bennett’s press release about his group’s “constriction” strategy against al-Qaeda. But the only way for Democrats not to be defined entirely by opposition to the war is for the Bennett’s of the world to say the things they think need to be said instead of saying that someone should say those things. If not Bennett, who? If not now, when? Quotations in major newspapers are a precious commodity; there’s no point in wasting that space on not-very-original meta talk.
UPDATE: Audio recording of Wallace Stevens reading the poem available here.