So as you’ve probably heard by now, Hillary Clinton thinks that you have to pass a “commander in chief threshold” if you want to be president. “I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy.” This is outrage on several levels, both in terms of Clinton’s not-so-thick resume, and in terms of the seriously poor form involved in bashing your opponent in ways that involve praising the other party’s nominee. That said, like Kevin Drum I’m a bit skeptical that there’s a practical problem here of Clinton handing McCain ammunition since politics, in practice, doesn’t seem to work that way.
There is, however, a deeper worry that this expresses. Why does Hillary Clinton think McCain would be a better foreign policy leader than Obama? Now I expect millions of people around the country to agree with Clinton about that in November. Millions of people will, I think, decide that invading Iraq was a good idea, that staying in Iraq indefinitely is a good idea, that pushing the envelop of confrontation with North Korea and Iran is a good idea, that refusing to abide by any of our treaty commitments is a good idea, etc. Those people will, naturally, conclude that McCain would be the better commander in chief. That’s inevitable. I expect those millions of Americans to be outnumbered by millions more who prefer Obama’s approach and who want to see America pulled back from the brink and back toward something like the liberal internationalist tradition that’s governed us at our best since the Second World War rather than to continue on the path of militarism and hegemonism that’s been responsible for the bulk of our mistakes.
I had also taken it for granted that whatever Clinton did or said during the years 2002-2004 she wouldn’t seriously be among the group of people who prefer McCain’s approach. But is she? If not, why does she think he’ll be such a good commander in chief? Now I certainly think that most of Clinton’s supporters, including many of the people who work for her on national security issues, don’t see her as the kind of person who prefers the McCain approach. But maybe she is? Surge architects Jack Keane seems to think so.