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Why Our Next President Needs to Be Scary, And Other Bad Op-Eds

Michael O'Hanlon, "Obama as Diplomat in Chief," The Wall Street Journal O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and famous booster of the surge, was last heard from advocating the seizure and transportation of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal to … Read More

By / February 14, 2008

Michael O'Hanlon, "Obama as Diplomat in Chief," The Wall Street Journal

O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and famous booster of the surge, was last heard from advocating the seizure and transportation of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal to New Mexico, through the power of wishful thinking. Today he takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to criticize Barack Obama's pledge to engage in diplomacy with unsavory regimes. He does so despite acknowledging that "Mr. Obama is not wrong about the utility of negotiations with unsavory regimes. They are often useful, and they need not amount to appeasement or even a false raising of hopes."

O'Hanlon fears that by "elevat[ing]" presidential diplomacy "to a doctrine," a President Obama would risk rewarding autocrats and thugs with international credibility. But of course, if American policy were to speak to any country that wanted to speak with us, getting to speak with US diplomats wouldn't be any sort of distinction. On the other hand, remaining sclerotically tied to a conception of foreign policy that cannot distinguish between negotiations and concessions does, in fact, make diplomacy needlessly difficult.

Max Boot, "Go With the Tough Guy," Los Angeles Times

John McCain's foreign policy advisor advises us to vote for John McCain because he'll frighten Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama won't:

It is hard to see how Bush could reverse this decline in America's "fear factor" during the remaining year of his presidency. That will be the job of the next president. And who would be the most up to the task? To answer that question, ask yourself which presidential candidate an Ahmadinejad, Assad or Kim would fear the most. I submit it is not Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Mike Huckabee. In my (admittedly biased) opinion, the leading candidate to scare the snot out of our enemies is a certain former aviator who has been noted for his pugnacity and his unwavering support of the American war effort in Iraq.

This kind of thing appeared pretty frequently in 2004, with Bush taking the place of McCain and Kerry taking the place of all the others. And indeed, with just a little find-and-replace action, you'd have a perfectly serviceable College Republicans flier in support of George W. Bush's re-election.

Which is sort of the point. While it's conceivable that the foreign policy failures of any president, no matter how belligerent, stem from being not belligerent enough, belligerence is bound to run up against diminishing marginal utility eventually. Since, for example, it's not feasible to invade North Korea, exactly how is an empty threat from McCain going to inspire fear in Kim Jong-Il? And if it isn't, maybe it's time to consider whether there are other salient objectives in foreign policy besides making empty threats.

Douglas Schoen, "The Disaffected Voters Who'll Decide 2008," Washington Post

One of our most depressing quadrennial rituals, after the presidential election itself, is the fabrication discovery of some moderate swing-demographic that's going to decide the election. Naturally, the pollster or consultant who drunkenly pummels statistics into submission until they tell him what he wants to hear makes this discovery will cash out handsomely is a disinterested footsoldier in the cause of science.

Disinterested pollster Douglas Schoen has big news. Soccer moms, NASCAR dads, security moms, baseball cousins, bipolar aunts, insecurity in-laws, it's time to make way for the RAMs:

I call them "restless and anxious moderates," or RAMs. Most come from the third of the electorate that identifies itself as independent, but some Democrats and Republicans have also joined this new bloc. These voters tend to be practical, non-ideological and unabashedly results-oriented — people such as Gary Butler, 60, who lives in Show Low, Ariz. Both parties, he says, "are way too far apart, and nobody is looking out for the good of the people."

"Address my life and the problems I face in my terms," another RAM told me. "Cut political rhetoric, cut political fighting, cut the game-playing, stop the five-point programs; just address my issues in a real-world, straightforward way."

 

"Address my life and the problems I face?" "Cut political rhetoric?" "Cut political fighting?" Slow down there, kimosabe. What dangerous, new, radical kind of talk is that? I'll bet it barely predates the invention of hackneyed political writing.

In all seriousness, congratulations to Douglas Schoen for discovering that people want problems solved.

 

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