In his most recent NYT column last Thursday, David Brooks said this:
Today, Americans are disillusioned with the war in Iraq, and many around the world predict that an exhausted America will turn inward again. Some see a nation in permanent decline and an end to American hegemony. At Davos, some Europeans apparently envisioned a post-American world.
Forget about it. Americans are having a debate about how to proceed in Iraq, but we are not having a strategic debate about retracting American power and influence...
As Robert Kagan writes in his masterful book “Dangerous Nation,” America has never really been an isolationist or aloof nation. The United States has always exercised as much power as it could. It has always coupled that power with efforts to spread freedom. And Americans have always fought over how best to fulfill their mission as the vanguard of progress...
What’s happening today is just another chapter in that long expansionist story...
When you look further into the future, you see that the next president’s big efforts will not be about retrenchment, but about expansion. They’ll be about expanding the U.S. military, expanding the diplomatic corps, asking for more shared sacrifice, creating new interagency bureaus that will give America more nation-building capacity.
While you might have spit up your orange juice after reading "asking for more shared sacrifice", and while you might disagree with Brooks' reading of history, and while you might not share Brooks' reading of the American mind, he does point out something that, as Glenn Greenwald notes, is both "true and important" --
Look at the leaders emerging amid this crisis. The two major Republican presidential contenders are John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, the most aggressive internationalists in a party that used to have an isolationist wing.
The Democrats, meanwhile, campaigned for Congress in 2006 by promising to increase the size of the military. The presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is the leader of the party’s hawkish wing and recently called for a surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan. John Edwards, the most “leftward” major presidential contender, just delivered a bare-knuckled speech in which he castigated the Bush administration for not being tough enough with Iran. “To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table,” Edwards warned.
Meanwhile Greenwald's been reading the NYCity tabloids which reported and discussed a recent suck-up fest to the American Israeli Political Action Committee attended by Hilary! and John Edwards. And apparently, Hilary!'s idea of engaging in diplomacy with Iran before dropping the bombs didn't go over well.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew grumbles at a pro-Israel dinner in Times Square last night when she encouraged "engaging" with Iran before taking stronger action to keep it nuke-free. . .
Clinton's remarks at the Marriott Marquis were met with little applause, and after she left the stage, several people said they were put off by the presidential candidate. "This is the wrong crowd to do that with," said one person at the dinner, noting the pro-Israel crowd wanted to hear tougher rhetoric...
Heather Robinson, who attended the AIPAC event [sic] is angry over Hillary's suggestion that war with Iran may not be necessary: "But while Hillary’s rhetoric of 'engagement' may sound good, the community of anti-terror activists and Israel-supporters must realize that, at the most basic level, engaging with people who wish your destruction–and are actively working to achieve it–means strengthening a pernicious enemy."
Of course the whole whoring after campaign dollars from the self-described "ATM for American politicians" that is NYC's Jewish and particularly AIPAC community is in inverse proportion to the views of large majorities of American Jews.
So, we're left with the most troubling of all questions in American politics today: how is it that Big Money continues to exercise a role disproportionate to its popular support?
If three-quarters of the Jewish community voted for John Kerry, and if there is money to be had from other donors, both small and large, one wonders why presidential candidates, especially Democratic ones that are supposed to care about public opinion, continue to prostitute themselves in front of audiences and on behalf of causes that are both demonstratably foolhardy as well as unpopular (or at least unsought by the American public)?
Meanwhile, although I hate to speak ill of other liberal bloggers, two popular netroots folks of our persuasion have joined the John Edwards campaign. Here is what Shakespeare's Sister, one of said netrooters, had to say about that:
As for The Big Question: Why Edwards? A lot of reasons, none of which I've been too shy about sharing as my personal support for him has increased over the last months, although you can read more in my first Edwards blog post here. I will, however, mention the three little words that ultimately got me: "I was wrong." That's how John Edwards started his Nov. 13 op-ed in the Washington Post, referring to his Iraq war vote. "I was wrong," he said, and more than that: "I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake—the men and women of our armed forces and their families—have performed heroically and paid a dear price. … [A] key part of restoring America's moral leadership is acknowledging when we've made mistakes or been proven wrong—and showing that we have the creativity and guts to make it right." I don't need a president who never makes mistakes; those don't even exist. I need a president who's willing to admit them. Those have been in short order as of late, you may have noticed.
Quite some time ago, a staffer for another then-potential presidential candidate called me to pick my brain about what it would take to get my support. One of the things about which I was most adamant was that the candidate had to say, quite plainly, that s/he was wrong on Iraq. The staffer ran a couple of options by me: "What if s/he said this? What if s/he said that?" I said what I wanted to hear was "I was wrong."
John Edwards gave me what I wanted. And I believe he offers America what it needs.
So Shakes, as she is affectionately called, heard the magic words about one war and felt good enough to sign on. But what about Iran? And what about the broader question of, as David Brooks referred to it, the "strategic debate about [sic] American power and influence"?
Well, Shakes has responded, sort of --
Earlier today, Ezra interviewed him, with an evident objective of getting some clarification on that speech—and enough people had specifically referenced it here that I thought the follow-up warranted posting here, too, particularly since, as Ezra notes, "His position here is more thoughtful and nuanced than his comments at the Herzliya conference revealed." [emphasis mine--Bulworth]
Anyway, Hilary! and Edwards have already sucked up to the war lobby's next ingenius idea and as Glenn Greenwald sadly documents, one other potential contender, Wes Clark, has already been taken to the woodshed for his attempt to address the issue honestly and competently and has returned very much the worse for wear after his penance.
So as Greenwald asks, what's left for us, and what Democratic candidates, if any, are going to rebuff the siren's call of war with Iran, given all that's transpired and continues to transpire in Iraq?
Well, TPM tells us that James Fallows says forget challenging the surge in Congress and concentrate on denying the Administration any wiggle room for warring on Iran.
It would be nice if our presidential candidates would, after they've fallen all over themselves repenting of their Iraq-war vote, which is now a politically safe call to make, and demonstrate they've actually learned something over the past four years by calling bullshit ahead of time in the already emerging propaganda designed to lure us into bombing another Muslim country that hasn't attacked us or anyone else yet, and which is not a "clear and present danger" to the United States or our allies.