I think Hillary Clinton’s major foreign policy address from yesterday is pretty good. The key implicit critique of Obama:
The symbol of our presidency – the American Eagle – holds arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. Both are symbolic tools of what we need to keep our democracy strong and our nation safe— tools that a President must know how to use in the daily course of events, but also when that 3 a.m. phone call comes to the White House because an unforeseen crisis has erupted without warning. In that split second the president has to respond and make a decision that could affect the safety and lives of millions of people here in our country and around the world. Whoever sits at that desk in the Oval Office on January 20th, 2009 needs all the tools available, all the resources at our disposal, and the wisdom to know how to use them.
This sometimes gets lost in the heat of a campaign, but I really do think Barack Obama’s lack of administrative or executive experience is problematic. I don’t find Hillary Clinton’s claims on her own behalf in this regard nearly as convincing as she does, but it is a real problem with his candidacy. Still, as we get down to a choice of two people I do think this line of argument runs smack into the brick wall of the 2002 Iraq vote. Do I worry that Obama might screw up? Yes. Does voting for the woman who got the single most important call of her legislative career wrong seem like a reasonable alternative course of action? Not really.
This sort of hangs like a cloud over a lot of the speech’s best moments:
On my first day in office, I will announce, as I have repeatedly in this campaign, that the era of cowboy diplomacy is over. That includes the doctrine of pre-emptive war. I have been against that for many years.
I like these words. I’m against the doctrine of pre-emptive war, too. But this is the woman who, when casting a vote to authorize a preemptive (really preventive) military invasion of Iraq said “my vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for unilateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose.” Under the circumstances, it’s hard to know what her opposition is supposed to amount to. It — especially in combination with a refusal to deal with the issue directly and clearly — leaves me confused, not understanding who I’m supposed to be voting for.
But all that is, at it were, external to the text at hand. What’s on the page here is very good, including a very thoughtful take on the diplomacy with adversaries issue and a strong statement about the need to avoid the many false choices with which the Bush administration has sought to present people.