Hate to Say I Told You So

For months now, it’s confounded me that people whose opinions I value and respect, like Paul Krugman and Kevin Drum, could possibly think Hillary Clinton a more progressive candidate than Obama. I could go through all the arguments, but at the end of the day what gets me is that they’re saying this about Hillary @#$%ing Clinton. This is the wife of the most conservative Democratic president since Wilson, maybe even Cleveland. Her base of institutional support is literally the DLC and other associated centrist institutions. And here Krugman and Drum are saying that she’s more progressive Barack Obama, a man bred of Alinskyian organizing, who worked his ass off to get a right to health care enshrined in the Illinois Constitution, who risked his political career by opposing the war in Iraq when he wasn’t in a position where he needed to say anything. Really? There’s a contest here?

But at some point this week, I realized what the problem must be. What’s the difference between me and Matt Yglesias, who have consistently defended Obama’s progressive credentials, and Krugman and Drum? The obvious distinction that comes to mind is that, while Krugman is focused on domestic politics and Drum doesn’t really specialize, Yglesias and I care more about foreign policy. And in that realm, there really isn’t a contest. At the simplest level, on the greatest foreign policy question since the fall of the Soviet Union, Obama got it right, and Clinton got it wrong.

I’m a bit of a single-issue voter when it comes to initial opposition to Iraq. It just seems wrong that I, as a twelve-year-old when the administration was making its case, didn’t buy the bullshit, and the Democratic establishment did. Throughout 2002, and up until the minute Colin Powell started his speech at the UN, I just didn’t buy that we could possibly go into Iraq. My parents, my friends, everyone around me thought it would happen, but I couldn’t believe it. It was just too dumb. I had no idea if Iraq had WMDs (though I had read a little Scott Ritter and was loath to believe much of anything the administration said), but it didn’t much matter. If they didn’t (and the way inspections were going in late 2002 and early 2003, this became obvious), why the hell were we going in? And if they did, wouldn’t they use them against US troops in a last-ditch attempt to save their regime? And wouldn’t that be, you know, bad? The case was just too shoddy, and too easily refuted, for the administration to possibly follow through. But follow through they did. And they did it with the leading lights of the Democratic establishment, Clinton among them, cheering in the sidelines. This pissed me off to no end. We had no opposition party.

To this day, I’m confounded that the leadership of the Democratic party, and all but one credible Democratic presidential candidate this year, could have gotten this wrong when some nerdy 12-year-old in New Hampshire got it right. Barack Obama, and Dean in 2004, were exceptions. Even if Obama didn’t appeal to me in plenty of other ways, he would have gotten my nod by default, just as Dean did in 2004. Because I want my president to be at least as smart about foreign policy as a 12-year-old.

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