« Abolish the Air Force! | Main | Ten Reasons That American Health Care Needs Reform »

November 02, 2007

Thinking About 2008

I am, at this point, a genuinely undecided voter. I have no clue who I'll pull the lever for in 2008 (though I'm comforted by the fact that my lever-pulling will have absolutely no effect on my party's nominee). But if I were going to decide on Obama, this is exactly why. Insofar as there's a real hope for a new foreign policy, I think it lies with Obama. That's not to say Edwards' policies on this are bad, but what moves him is, as far as I can tell, economic injustice at home, so I think his foreign policy would be a bit secondary. And Hillary Clinton's policies would, as far as I can tell, be bad, at least as compared to the other two.

It's also worth remembering, when you think about foreign policy and the Democrats, that the president has considerably more autonomy on foreign affairs than s/he does on domestic policy, where the executive is hemmed in by Congress, the filibuster, etc. There's a case to be made that given their relative nearness in domestic policies, that you should go with whomever you think would do the best job abroad. I'm not sure I agree with that argument -- particularly because health care reform will take some real skill -- but it's one I'm wrestling with.

November 2, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

"That's not to say Edwards' policies on this are bad, but what moves him is, as far as I can tell, economic injustice at home, so I think his foreign policy would be a bit secondary."

That's actually Edwards big plus! The world doesn't need another US president who's an activist on foreign policy, we already had enough, thank you so very much. A bit more of good ole US isolationism would be simply fantastic.
:-|

Posted by: Gray | Nov 2, 2007 1:43:55 PM

I've made no secret of being down on Obama, but I admit that this does prevent a very compelling case for him over Hillary Clinton. But I'm sticking with Edwards for now.

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 2, 2007 1:48:02 PM

I think Edwards is going to do a lot more to fight global poverty than Obama will. He's come out with bigger proposals about it, and he makes it an issue when nobody else does and when there's no obvious strategic reason for doing so.

In the end, that's one of the biggest ways we can impact the world for the better. War issues get much more play in the media, but the power of American money to prevent global poverty is quietly tremendous. So let me appeal to your "every man my brother" sentiments and suggest that you support the guy who's going to take on the biggest problem in the world.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 2, 2007 1:49:03 PM

"That's not to say Edwards' policies on this are bad, but what moves him is, as far as I can tell, economic injustice at home, so I think his foreign policy would be a bit secondary."

I'd expect that Edwards is well aware of the lessons of LBJ. You're not going to get a domestic agenda if you're bogged down overseas.

-----

"I am, at this point, a genuinely undecided voter."

You vote Edwards because it's best for the Democratic Party.

It's best for the Party because we'll win more seats in '08 than with the others, we'll be better able to defend seats in '10, and it'll help the Party's public perception.

AND

It's best for the Party because it'll dramatically shift the center of gravity in the Party away from DLC-style thinking. Edwards winning by a decent margin as a proud progressive populist will have enormous impact on how the Democratic Consultant Class wages future campaigns, and thus on how Democratic politicians choose to position themselves.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 2, 2007 1:52:56 PM

The problem with Edwards on foreign policy is that he's a CFR man all the way through and if you read his reports on Russia they sounds a lot like Dick Cheney's view of relations with that country. Which is a bit worrying.

Posted by: Meh | Nov 2, 2007 1:54:57 PM

The argument Matt is relaying - dozens of foreign policy experts like Obama, and you should too - doesn't really move me. I'm quite convinced that Obama is a smart man who thinks deeply about these issues... but I don't see, really, how that assessment is much different from Hillary Clinton or John Edwards - they seem like smart thinkers, too. I will say that my State Dept working (now retired) relatives do also find Obama interesting... but my Aunt, I think, is more for Clinton, as further evidence of the gendered nature of what's going on this year.

All of that said, I too remain largely undecided... but really in the sense that I'm trying to decide if my likely vote for Kucinich is a fool's errand or just a way of freely making my own choice. As a gay man, I remain frankly unimpressed by the half-measures all three of the top candidates have taken on the key gay issues, especially marriage, and I suppose I'm not above voting my own interests, or my dismay. I realize at this point, we are likely as Democrats, mostly, to get Clinton, possibly Obama. I can live with either result, and I think the main thing is that whoever gets the nomination can realistically be expected to win.

In terms of voting on the theory of getting a specific foreign policy, though... I don't really see it. I think with any Dem we will get greater international cooperation, greater emphasis on diplomacy over soldiers, and a President who will take on the things we care about. I think there's a lot of leaping - even in those elite foreign policy circles - to conclusions about what's likely to be the next Democratic President's foreign plicy; and much of that, which I think is natural, reflects how sour progressives are on the failed foreign policies of the Bush team. As with so many things, the Bush folks have so lowered the bar of expectations that we imagine anyone will, as Bush has, only see enemies and sabre rattling as diplomacy. That, I think, is what we've come to expect. Myself, I think anyone with a college degree and some good sense will be an improvement, and better diplomatically, then anyone we've got now. And that, for me, includes Mrs. Clinton.

Posted by: weboy | Nov 2, 2007 2:11:47 PM

Edwards would be the best candidate, and the best President. No question in my mind.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 | Nov 2, 2007 2:23:28 PM

I really, really wanted to be able to feel better about Obama and more strongly support him than I've been able to. When I watch the stirring speeches, it has been amazing, but for the longest time he doesn't seem to me to be offering the kind of striking change we need, and I don't feel comfortable relying on the 'look who he is' and how his generation is different etc. argument.

It doesn't quite yet look to me like Obama has a really strong set of goals or plans or policies for the country, and was thrust into a bit more limelight than he was ready for.

It's all relative. I've never had a president who really had it all together and pursued great policies, so I don't know why I'm crazy enough to wish for it now, but it'd be nice.

Posted by: El Cid | Nov 2, 2007 2:23:38 PM

The Obama bumpersticker has been on my car for a while now. None of the candidates is perfect, but he's my choice.

Posted by: lux | Nov 2, 2007 3:06:27 PM

"The Obama bumpersticker has been on my car for a while now."
Car? FIAT, lux?
:D

Posted by: Gray | Nov 2, 2007 3:08:24 PM

Although undecided, I lean towards Obama, Dodd, and Edwards with the order of preference floating. Obama, however, outshines everyone to my view on foreign policy. What I find interesting and am prepared to be abused/educated on is that the critiques leveled against Obama re not offering/being able to offer real change seem to me equally valid as critiques of Edwards re domestic policy. I guess I stand sort of in awe of Edwards (or Gore for that matter) supporters who are certain their candidate is the cure all. I like Edwards policies, but honestly what in his background and congressional record convinces his supporters that he will actually deliver on the domestic front anymore than Obama's background demonstrates he can deliver on foreign policy. I'm not trying to be snide, I'd genuinely like to know.

Posted by: idabw | Nov 2, 2007 3:16:57 PM

What is interesting is knowing that Clinton has a huge lead among mainstrem Democrats and yet, no one here has enthusiatically stated their support of her.

What this would tell any reasonable observer is that the commenters here are not mainstream at all.

Posted by: El Viajero | Nov 2, 2007 3:38:36 PM

Is there somewhere where blog commenters are mainstream? Is "not mainstream" supposed to be an insult?

Posted by: KCinDC | Nov 2, 2007 3:48:51 PM

Is "not mainstream" supposed to be an insult?

Of course not, KC.

However, it's good to keep in mind that the radical proposals and opinions that one encounters here don't really reflect the majority. It's good for the reader to understand for perspective. Maybe it is obvious to you, but other readers are in the "bubble" of left wing politics and after a while, believe they somehow are the "voice of the people".....when they certainly are not.

Posted by: El Viajero | Nov 2, 2007 4:00:38 PM

El V, I think you're right in this sense (although I think you're wielding this "not mainstream" thing as a cudgel to dimiss a lot of people's thoughtful opinions as expressed): a lot of the support for Clinton comes from women, and for a variety of reasons, a lot of women don't comment on political blogs, meaning that you get a very male, and I tend to think, very similar set of perspectives. I do think, though, that you overstate the kind of support Clinton has - much of which, from what I can tell, is accepting her as inevitable, if not likable/lovable; and name recognition. My point is that the left I know (and love) doesn't do a lot of "mainstream"-ing - ask 10 Democrats about their opinions, and you'll get 11, usually, if not more. There's a lot of acceptance of Hillary Clinton becoming the nominee (even if I, generally, don't share it, or at least not wholeheartedly just yet). That's not the same as enthusiasm.

Posted by: weboy | Nov 2, 2007 4:12:44 PM

To get back on topic here, I'd like to add that I think Obama gets a little too much credit for his early stand against the invasion of Iraq. It's certainly a positive thing for him, but it was a whole lot easier to be against the invasion and against the resolution authorizing it if you weren't in the US Senate at the time.

Posted by: Herschel | Nov 2, 2007 4:26:58 PM

I'm a bit confused about why exactly you are undecided, Ezra. You seem to outline that clear case for Obama - that he is likely to be the best in foreign policy in terms of explicit policy, interest in foreign affairs and good judgment and point out that this is the area where Presidents (and their staffs!) have much more scope for doing what they please. So even if Edwards is preferable on domestic policy (which I don't concede though I certainly think that it is arguable), why would this outweigh the big differences on the foreign policy side. I think that Edwards' heart is in the right place, but, honestly, seeing him talk about foreign affairs does not inspire confidence. His performance at the VP debate in 2004 sicks in my mind - it's not that he was really bad (he was OK), but that he seemed to be repeating talking points without much understanding of the underlying policy or issues which is a big problem if he is personally going to be making a lot of the big decisions. Obama on the other hand both seems interested in the issues and know what he is talking about on a non-superficial level. Having better foreign policy people around him would only compound this difference.

Now, I could see the case if there were some clear evidence that Edwards was going to be more effective in implementing his domestic policy agenda. But I'm afraid that there really isn't - he might be and he might not be. Edwards has never been an executive and doesn't have a strong record of getting legislation through Congress - not his fault since he was only in the Senate for 6 years. Obsessing about the details of domestic policy platforms is obviously not a good idea because the more relevant issue is how much of the good stuff that all of the leading Democratic candidates basically agree on are you going to get through Congress . . .

So what is holding you back?

Posted by: ikl | Nov 2, 2007 4:32:00 PM

I think it's pretty obvious for some time now that you don't have to use the "s/" when you are talking about who you plan to vote for. (Matt as well.)

What worries me about Edwards and Obama (disclaimer, they are near the bottom of my list) is that they have never been in a political fight where they had to put their reputation on the line. It's all well and good to propose nice things and say what your audience wants to hear, but without any indication how they will handle real world political pressures I'm less inclined to "hope" they will be able to stand strong. As Ned Flanders would say, my family can't live off of good intentions.

Posted by: gqmartinez | Nov 2, 2007 4:49:25 PM

Regarding the criticisms of Edwards in the 2004 debate, one big problem there was that Kerry sent him in with a very well-defined game plan that didn't aim at anything that would ordinarily be called 'winning the debate'. By about the 14th time he said "John Kerry and I have a plan", it was pretty clear that one of John Kerry's plans was for Edwards to focus on talking him up to the exclusion of anything else.

It was a dopey-looking strategy, though Edwards executed it pretty well. Polls suggest that Edwards beat Cheney among swing voters and moved the numbers in the Kerry campaign's direction.

Regarding Obama, recent events (his raising Social Security as an unsolved problem, his nonvote on Lieberman-Kyl, his response to the McClurkin situation) reinforce that he's not going to speak with the voice of the Democratic base. The same Broderian elite-centrist tendencies that had him flying out to CT to endorse Joementum have the upper hand -- even as a non-frontrunner in a Democratic primary -- and it's hard to see him as the brass-knuckled fighter for progressive goals that Edwards is.

How does Edwards get his agenda through Congress? By going out to the states, winning the populace over to his side on the health care plan, and ginning up the kind of poll numbers in its favor that make GOP Senators fear for their seats if they filibuster. I don't see any other way that this is going to get done -- the Republicans are simply not going to cut an honest deal here, and your only option is to treat them as enemies and break them with fear. Edwards understands that, and I don't think Obama does.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 2, 2007 5:08:59 PM

Vote to end the 2 stupid so called wars, the war on drugs, by far the more destructive of the 2 and the occupation of Iraq vote for Ron Paul.

A vote for Hillary IMO is a vote to continue the insane war on drugs.

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 2, 2007 5:10:39 PM

This should not be difficult for the true liberal, true to his or her core beliefs and listening to their conscience. You have to vote for the affirmative action candidate.

Posted by: Patton | Nov 2, 2007 5:30:27 PM

"How does Edwards get his agenda through Congress? By going out to the states"

He's the Reagan of the left.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 2, 2007 5:31:45 PM

Personally I think that the foreign policies of Edwards, Obama, and Clinton will all be pretty much alike. I think Ezra and Matt are both confusing how they have chosen to campaign with how they will in fact govern. (A common problem-some people actually thought in 2000 that Gore was a conservative and Bush was compassionate.)

With the military needing years to recover from Iraq, and the example of Bush's follies for all to see, all three will be very hesitant to use force, all three will work to woo back our traditional allies (I expect Hillary would use Bill for that), and all three will reject the failed neocon agenda. I expect Hillary will not be nearly as bad as they fear, and Edwards and Obama not nearly as different as they hope.

Posted by: tdraicer | Nov 2, 2007 5:59:46 PM

Petey said it best:

You vote Edwards because it's best for the Democratic Party....

It's best for the Party because it'll dramatically shift the center of gravity in the Party away from DLC-style thinking. Edwards winning by a decent margin as a proud progressive populist will have enormous impact on how the Democratic Consultant Class wages future campaigns, and thus on how Democratic politicians choose to position themselves.

Edwards represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Hillary and Obama definitely don't.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist | Nov 2, 2007 6:06:23 PM

"How does Edwards get his agenda through Congress? By going out to the states, winning the populace over to his side on the health care plan, and ginning up the kind of poll numbers in its favor that make GOP Senators fear for their seats if they filibuster... the Republicans are simply not going to cut an honest deal here, and your only option is to treat them as enemies and break them with fear."

Maybe I know nothing, but this is the worst strategy for passing universal health care I've ever heard of. I mean, do you really think that would work? Break the other side with fear--no compromise, no negotation, just intimidation? Has this ever worked in the history of the United States? I can think of no major domestic program which was passed in this manner, and a number of failures in which such an approach was tried. But again, maybe I know nothing.

Anyway, this is a bit of a digression. My main problem with Edwards on foreign policy is that the record does not match the rhetoric. Period. That's a fact. Now you could explain this disjunction in two ways. First, you could believe that he's really changed, evolved, learned, etc. Second, you could just note that this guy has been running for President for five years. I'm sympathetic to the the first explanation, and certainly I think he's a lot better on foreign policy than before, but I just can't ignore that he has been very obviously altering his positions in tune with political expendiency. What I like most about Obama, on the other hand, is that his rhetoric matches his record which matches his correctness on the issues. That tells me he has a core set of principles and ideas which are amenable to changing facts but not so much to changing politics.

"This should not be difficult for the true liberal, true to his or her core beliefs and listening to their conscience. You have to vote for the affirmative action candidate."

Go away.

Posted by: Korha | Nov 2, 2007 6:07:54 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.