Friday, March 18, 2005

Bartlett '08

No, not the congressman from upper Maryland. The fake president on TV's West Wing.

I hadn't been watching West Wing for some time, but a friend of mine suggested I tune in because it was still very good. I did and it is. As some of you may know, the fictional Democratic President Bartlett is nearing the end of his second term and as the Democratic candidates jostle in the primaries, the president and his advisors are planning what to do with the rest of their term in establishing some sort of legacy.

Because I love political campaigns I've especially enjoyed watching the show's treatment of the primary season and the contenders in it, including Jimmy Smits, a Hispanic congressman from Houston, TX, as well as the two vice-presidents, the former one (that guy from Animal House) and the current one (Office Space's Lundberg).

But this week's episode went back to the WH for its premise. The subject was Cuba.

Even if you didn't see the episode you might have an idea what it was about.

Which I guess is where I start thinking of our friend Peter Beinert, his buddy Senator Lieberman, and the rest of the gang at TNR, PNAC, and whatever associations are continuing to flog the demand for American hegemony and to purge any and all Democrats that dissent.

Beinert and his collaborators want us all to shut up about foreign policy and do whatever the elite at the Foreign Affairs institute or whatever its called want us to do, which for the last several years appears to be to continue our Cold War policies of escalating our armaments industry and threatening/intervening in the affairs of other countries as we see fit, all designed to protect ourselves from our enemies and to wage a new war on terrorism.

The problem with this siren's call of militarism as I see it is that since not all of us agree that it makes sense, that someone should attempt to articulate the basis for an alternative course of policies. Optimally, this should be the Democratic Party's task, as the out-party, not just for the sake of opposing, but because many of its membership think there is a policy rationale for doing so.

Which brings me back to Cuba and our 40-year, failed policy of an economic embargo against that island and its people. Of course our policy has been more than that over the years. Somewhere stashed in the halls of Congress or the Pentagon is a resolution or a white paper saying how our policy is "regime change" there. But the policy has been a practical and moral failure.

Wouldn't it be great if one or more of the Democratic candidates in 08 were to say this out loud? There would be immediate cries of course that in doing so we would be kissing off Florida and its irate but politically significant group of Cuban exiles or that we were offering a policy of "appeasement" towards a "brutal dictator".

Some of you may suggest that as admirable as such a call may be, this one position is not worth the risk. You may be right. But it's that tact that has continued to yield the failed policy and inadvertantly, a view of the Party as spineless and pandering. Why not put forward a publically unpopular policy, which at the same time happens to be a reasonable one, if for no other reason that it deserves discussion in a obstensibly democratic society?

So I say let's give Bartlett a try, since his eight years in the TV White House don't count, he can still run. It might just look like courage.

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