succumbing to peer pressure

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ezra Klein totally copies me

and posts the differences between Clinton and Obama. Apparently, he thinks there are only three topics - the rhetoric of militarism, healthcare, and new blood. But he does really nail it with the first one:

Clinton buys into the rules of the current foreign policy conversation. "I believe of any one of us," Clinton has said, "I am better positioned and better able to take on John McCain or any Republican when it comes to issues about protecting and defending our country and promoting our interest in the world." Her rhetoric and voting record clarifies why that would be: Clinton can match McCain's militaristic appeal because she marries militarism with competence, and popular domestic policy liberalism.

Obama does not propose to respect those rules. Responding to Clinton, he said, slightly abstractly, "I believe that the way we are going to take on somebody like a John McCain on national security is not that we're been sort of like John McCain, but not completely; we voted for the war, but we had reservations. I think it's going to be somebody who can serve as a strong contrast and say, 'we've got to overcome the politics of fear in this country.'" Obama talks about "the politics of fear" quite frequently. Most Americans probably don't know quite what he's referring to. That's a political failing on his part, and it would be nice if he'd tether his answers to earth a bit more often. But over time, it's become clear that Obama is referring to a discussion space that lets war policy stand in for foreign policy, that elevates only questions of troops, and dismisses soft power, negotiations, multilateralism, rules, cooperation, and most every other tenet of a progressive foreign policy approach.

From the early arguments over negotiating without preconditions to his more recent statement that "I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place," Obama is previewing an aggressive stance against the fundamental sicknesses in our polity that led to the war in Iraq, and will lead to future, equally ill-considered invasions. If he can lead the country towards, at the least, respecting an alternative foreign policy vision, he will have enacted great change. This is not an attack on Clinton: I have no doubt that she will pursue a better foreign policy than this president has. But I don't think she will advocate for a new foreign policy mindset. And that's a big difference.

I think, as I said in my comparison post, that this, coupled with his transparent government rhetoric, are really what push me over to the Obama side. But I could see a coherent argument that that doesn't outweight the healthcare debate. To each his/her own.


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