August 16, 2006
Will the Circle Be Broken? I Hope So!
John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker has a long and interesting piece up on Power Line asking whether the policies of the American Left, as personified by President Russell Feingold, would differ all that much from those of the center-right; he concludes that they probably would be very similar:
Lest there be any misunderstanding, I am not saying that there would be no important foreign policy differences between, say, a Feingold administration and a McCain, Allen or Giuliani administration. There would be. But I think the practical reality is that events in Iraq have constrained what a conservative administration can do, while the overriding need to forestall terrorist attacks constrains what a liberal administration can do. As a result, the gap in practice between the two alternatives would be, I think, much narrower than one might expect from the rhetorical gulf that separates the parties.
Thus, the two ends of the spectrum meet, forming a circle. Ack.
First, I take issue with the idea that "events in Iraq have constrained what a conservative administration can do," a claim that presupposes that Iraq is a disaster and will still be seen as such in the second decade of this century. Not only is it too early to make a final judgment on that, but even what has happened so far has produced much more of a benefit than a detriment.
As even John admits, we will have withdrawn our soldiers from most of Iraq by 2008, leaving them only in a few trouble spots, including Baghdad; and while we'll still be there, we likely will not be as visible, as vulnerable, or as violently engaged four or five years from now, during the next president's first term.
Instead, Iraq will either be a more or less democratic nation that has more or less damped down the looming (but as yet unarrived) "civil war;" or else it will have split in three -- each of which is still less threatening than an Iraq unified under Saddam Hussein was.
As more and more information trickles out about Iraq's WMD programs (and even small stockpiles), and as we see the effect of democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East, and with less direct American involvement, public support will shift in favor of the war. Thus, it will not be the deterrent that a straight-line projection of today's attitude forward implies.
But that aside, I am a little surprised that John missed the most important distinction between Left and Right in America: simple competence.
Jimmy Carter's problem wasn't so much that he wanted America to fail or that he wanted revolution to engulf the world; his biggest problem was that he is stupid. Not just intellectually, where his stupidity manifests as an incuriosity about the liberal bromides and shibboleths he gulped whole in his youth; more damaging was his complete lack of interest in foreign policy, military strategy, and intelligence gathering.
We do not study what we could not care less about, and that shouted itself loud and clear throughout his single term: he ended intelligence programs, refused to listen to briefings on looming problems, and evidently believed that fact would tumble to political theory like wheat beneath the scythe.
Consequently, we were caught flat-footed again and again by events that should have been readily apparent: Ayatollah Khomeini had been in Paris for years talking about how he would lead an Islamic revolution in Iran; yet even so, Carter and his emasculated CIA were suckerpunched twice: first by the revolution itself, which they never saw coming, and second by the seizure of the American embassy.
Too, the Soviets were well-known expansionists since before Carter was born in 1924; the Communists in Afghanistan had been growing in power since before Carter became president in 1977; and indeed, they seized power via coup d'état in 1978, more than a year before Carter was stunned by the Soviet invasion to prop them up. Only a total moron could fail to see that one coming... but that is what Carter's ideological blinders had made him into: a de facto moron.
Bill Clinton was every bit as politically savvy as Jimmy Carter; but he was also just as obtuse about events beyond the narrow calculation of political advantage. Thus, besides the policy of forcing Israel to appease the Arabs (which Clinton shared with Carter), Clinton also thought he could buy the North Koreans off their nuclear ambitions (or else he knew the "Agreed Framework" would not hold beyond 2000, but he simply didn't care); he thought that the terrorists who were pricking us with a needle would never progress to smashing us in the face with a baseball bat (or else he didn't care what happened, so long as it was after his successor took office); and he imagined that the bubble economy could float on air forever... or at least past January 20th, 2001.
(Clinton, as a New Leftist, also had no personal moral compass, no absolute right and wrong, and thought nothing of lying to the American public, cheating on his wife, raping Juanita Broaddrick, and accepting multi-million-dollar bribes from our greatest enemy, Red China, in exchange for funneling nuclear technology to them.)
The problem is not that Democrats don't want America to succeed; it's that they want other things more, and that they're really a rather incompetent bunch anyway, taken as a group.
Russell Feingold -- John's example -- voted against the Iraq War; presumably, had he been president, we would not have invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein. Would that be a better world for America? I think not.
Too, Feingold barely even believes that terrorists exist, and he certainly doesn't think them a very serious issue. John believes that a Democratic president would be just as willing to use "[t]he anti-terror tools pioneered by the Bush administration... with equal vigor":
In terms of the broader war against terror, I think the danger posed by a liberal Democrat like Feingold may also be overstated. Once a Democratic President actually takes power, his number one priority will be preventing terrorist attacks on American soil, for the best of all possible reasons: self-interest. The anti-terror tools pioneered by the Bush administration will be used with equal vigor, I think, by any Democrat, no matter how liberal, who may follow. Anyone who thinks, for example, that a Democratic President would stop eavesdropping on international conversations among terrorists, and thereby risk being blamed for another September 11, is seriously misguided.
But if Feingold's ideology tells him that by appeasing the terrorists (he would say "treating them with respect"), they would no longer hold any desire to attack us... then why would he think his "self-interest" would be served by going after them? And if he sincerely believes that our greatest strength is the magical embodiment of the volk, and that this spirit depends upon applying all elements of the Bill of Rights to terrorists captured on foreign battlefields, why would he risk America's mystic connection with the Holy Spirit by vigorously interrogating al-Qaeda members?
Yes of course, Democrats will use the eavesdropping tools... but use them for what, and against whom? Certainly not for the aggressive interdiction of terrorism that has characterized the Bush administration. Recall that the wall of separation between intelligence and criminal investigation was erected, or at least vastly expanded beyond any court-ordered height, by Bill Clinton's deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick -- who surely had only the best of intentions.
Yet at the same time, Clinton embarked upon an ingelligence-gathering program and smear campaign that rivaled that of Richard Nixon:
- The Billy Dale prosecution;
- Craig Livingstone's FBI-file seizure;
- The use of the IRS to harass political enemies;
- Violent threats and orchestrated leaks of classified information against women who might testify against Clinton;
- Black-bagging Vince Foster's office after he died of self-administered lead poisoning.
Perhaps I've grown cynical in my dotage, but I simply wouldn't trust the next Bill Clinton to restrict his use of "anti-terror tools" to suspected terrorists, rather than suspected conservatives. (Of course, every minute of manpower devoted to political intel is unavailable for anti-terrorist intel.)
Then there is the problem that, while the Left may believe in protecting America (some of them do, at least), it's just not their top priority; there are other, more important portions on their plates.
Thus, while President Bush has by and large decided political appointments by merit and practical need (Condoleezza Rice, John Bolton, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Donald Rumsfeld) -- even when he turns out to be wrong (Harriet Miers, perhaps) -- the last Democratic president decided them by which special-interest group (blacks, feminists, gays, Arabs) needed immediate appeasement; and Democratic presidents before that decided them on the basis of purity of ideology.
Thus, George W. Bush appointed John Ashcroft; Bill Clinton appointed Janet Reno (satisfying two of the special-interest groups above); and Lyndon Johnson appointed Ramsey Clark!
On federal judges, the ideological leftism of Clinton and Carter nominees is legendary; while Republican appointees sometimes "grow in office," Democratic appointees arrive fully grown and ready for instant deployment in the Kulturkampf.
I really think John missed the forest for the lawn. Everything he says is true, but incomplete... and the Devil is in the diaries: the very issues of focus and competence that he skipped over are determinative here. That is why a hard-left president like Russell Feingold (and even a center-left president like Mark Warner) would be catastrophically worse than a center-right president like Mitt Romney, or even a center-center Republican president like Rudy Giuliani.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 16, 2006, at the time of 3:11 PM
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Tracked on December 5, 2006 12:42 PM
The following hissed in response by: Mastermind2much
I really like this post. Maybe you can expand it into a book or movie. The only other point I would make is the fact that the Main Stream Media turns a blind eye to short comings in their political party. All to prop up a philosophy that shows itself to be destructive to the very people it is suppose to help. Such is the price to feel superior to everyone else.
The following hissed in response by: mareseydoats
I'm not really a librarian by nature... more of a generalist, really. But. Aren't there some hard numbers somewhere that show American military capability, year by year, from 1992 to 2000? Leadership is NOT philosophy-neutral, and spending priorities are very different between Democrats and Republicans. Although I don't have precise numbers at my fingertips, the fiscal differences are so pronounced that I suspect Hindraker of spin, rather than analysis: I think he believes the elections are a lost cause from November thru 2008.
He has a sharp mind and his article, frankly, seems pretty fuzzy to me.
PS -- LOVE the war casualty graf.
The following hissed in response by: heather
Excellent posts and Site. I think the real reason Power Line is carrying on like this is that he is so completely upset by the war's whimpering outcome. Your analysis is the one I find most agreeable, by the way.
Also, you forget the McCain Feingold Election financing bill - both those men are just plain stupid.
The following hissed in response by: MarkD
Let's be perfectly clear. Carter, the worst president in American history, directed the destruction of HUMINT capabilities of the CIA.
Then he was blindsided by events in Iran.
I lack the words to express my disgust for this incompetent. May he live a long and painful life, knowing the full measure of his guilt.
The following hissed in response by: hunter
Saying that a Feingold or clinton would be constrained by the system and inertia of the American politic from doing great damage is to ignore the reality of jimmy carter. carter has no remorse at all for the lousy, wreckless job he did. just watch what the demented bitter man is doing today. feingold is very much in the mold of carter.
The following hissed in response by: Terrye
I think you are right. And btw, I hardly ever read powerline anymore. bitch bitch bitch. I don't think that they grasp the fact that the White House is not required to do their bidding.
If John really believes there are no differences, maybe he should think about Nasrallah in the Lincoln bedroom. He might not be happy about the fact that Israel [who is never more than 7 miles from the front anyway] refrained from completely destroying Lebanon, but I can not imagine Bush having Nasrallah come for a visit the way Clinton had Arafat come. Can you? Can anyone? Well now let us think of President Feingold bidding a war welcome to God only knows who.
The above hissed in response by: Terrye at August 17, 2006 3:23 AM
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
I kind of like "bidding a war welcome."
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at August 17, 2006 4:14 AM
The following hissed in response by: Big D
Analyzing the left in this country is likely to lead to psychological ruination. It literally hurts my brain to attempt it. I appreciate the risks you take for us humble readers. I can do no less...
Why do apparently intelligent people make stupid so many decisions? I for one do not believe that stupidity and intelligence are like matter and antimatter, where the presence of one the former necessitates the absence of the latter. Exhibit A is Bill Clinton.
My experience is that there are many people who are intelligent, but for whatever reason seem to have a hard time bringing that intelligence to bear on certain problems. Many times there is a certain level of intellectual laziness involved.
Chronically stupid people also tend to be impulsive, but also show elements of chronic procrastination and dithering. To me these are all symptoms of intellectual laziness - all are based on the underlying problem of not wanting to think.
They also tend to be indulgent, and be risk takers. In many ways they are self destructive.
Back to the beginning - I would much rather have someone constrained by reality (the Republicans) than intellectual laziness (Fiengold). Reality can change, stupidity is eternal.
The following hissed in response by: Rovin
I believe you give way too much credit to the intelligence of William Jefferson Clinton. If ever a president governed this nation based upon slanted opinion polls and which way the wind blew, Clinton was it. I would give that his methods might be construde as intelligent, but he was still a (insert adjective) idiot.
The above hissed in response by: Rovin at August 17, 2006 12:07 PM
The following hissed in response by: MTF
One of your best posts yet.
BTW, and with reference to the loopy leftyness of Carter judicial appointees, did you happen to catch what Ms. Political Hack Diggs did today?
The following hissed in response by: Terrye
Ah yes, a freudian typo.
The above hissed in response by: Terrye at August 17, 2006 2:14 PM
The following hissed in response by: Big D
I've always thought of habitual liars to be highly intelligent. How else can they possibly keep the web of deceit going? I've always suspected Clinton of being in this camp.
Of course the best liars are delusional liars - those they believe their own press. Kerry would fall in here.
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