Perhaps Barack Obama’s efforts to goad others into spelling out what his campaign is trying to say are paying off. Here’s Harold Meyerson:
Many of Hillary Clinton’s foreign and military policy advisers, such as Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, supported the war at first, then criticized its conduct, then supported the surge. On the war, at least, they could as easily be providing advice to John McCain. The same cannot be said of the majority of foreign and military policy mavens aligned with her two chief rivals.
Recently, Clinton herself resurrected old doubts about her foreign policy judgment that she had managed to tamp down over the past half-year by favoring a timeline for the withdrawal of most U.S. forces. In voting for the Lieberman-Kyl legislation that deemed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, she opened the door for Bush and Vice President Cheney to charge into Iran, or its airspace, with what they would claim to be congressional permission.
And here’s Maureen Dowd:
When Hillary voted to let W. use force in Iraq, she didn’t even read the intelligence estimate. She wasn’t trying to do the right thing. She was trying to do the opportunistic thing. She felt she could not run for president, as a woman, if she played the peacenik.
By throwing in with Joe Lieberman and the conservative hawks on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard issue, she once more overcompensated in a cynical way. She’d like to paint Obama as the weak reed who wants to cozy up to dictators, while she’s the one who will play tough. It was odd, given her success in the debates conveying the sense that she is the manliest candidate among the Democrats, that she felt the need to man-up on Iran.
In some ways, it’s the point Dowd raises here — about political strategy — that worries me the most. I don’t think it’s really going to be possible for Democrats to address the big problems facing American foreign policy unless they’re willing to try to break out of the long post-9/11 defensive crouch they’ve been in for years. John Edwards, as has often been the case, led the way here with a bold move to repudiate the “war on terror” conceptual scheme. Barack Obama, having opposed the war from the beginning, wound up mostly attracting to his banner the substantive advisors who were less invested in the crouch and doesn’t seem to have those instincts personally, and wound up essentially forced out of the crouch for his position that we should be willing to conduct diplomatic talks without preconditions.
Clinton’s team isn’t all bad nor is her record, but she seems the least inclined to make a bold, self-confident big-picture challenge to the conservative conception of how we ought to conduct ourselves in the world.