Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 26, 2007

Al Gore’s Hypothetical Candidacy

Al Gore’s Oscar was as predictable as the thunderous ovations he received at the Academy Awards last night. But it was also a reminder that there is nothing Democrats love more than a politician who isn’t actually running for President. Ever since liberals began mythologizing JFK, the party’s nominees invariably fail to measure up. It’s as if any politician who has the guts to enter the arena and dirty his hands immediately loses “purity,” and faces a cynical column from Joe Klein. As a result, come primary season, the Democratic chattering class always falls in love with a hypothetical candidate: Mario Cuomo, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Colin Powell, The West Wing’s Josiah Bartlett.
This is the real meaning behind last week’s Hillary-Obama feud. Hillary is the most successful fundraiser in the party’s history. Her name is known to 100 percent of voters—something that no Democrat has ever achieved this early in a presidential campaign. Yet no one should be surprised, now that she is in reach of becoming the party’s nominee, that the same political and financial backers who cheered her during her White House days are racing to tear her down.

Read More

Al Gore’s Oscar was as predictable as the thunderous ovations he received at the Academy Awards last night. But it was also a reminder that there is nothing Democrats love more than a politician who isn’t actually running for President. Ever since liberals began mythologizing JFK, the party’s nominees invariably fail to measure up. It’s as if any politician who has the guts to enter the arena and dirty his hands immediately loses “purity,” and faces a cynical column from Joe Klein. As a result, come primary season, the Democratic chattering class always falls in love with a hypothetical candidate: Mario Cuomo, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Colin Powell, The West Wing’s Josiah Bartlett.
This is the real meaning behind last week’s Hillary-Obama feud. Hillary is the most successful fundraiser in the party’s history. Her name is known to 100 percent of voters—something that no Democrat has ever achieved this early in a presidential campaign. Yet no one should be surprised, now that she is in reach of becoming the party’s nominee, that the same political and financial backers who cheered her during her White House days are racing to tear her down.

But this will be a short-lived story. It is a safe bet that buyer’s remorse over Barack Obama will set in by this fall as E.J. Dionne, Arianna Huffington, and Jonathan Alter complain about his failings. (In fact, Joe Klein has already started.)

In the meantime, these early grenades tossed in Hillary’s direction are, I would argue, ultimately good for her candidacy. A fractious, heated primary, with Obama, Edwards, and possibly Gore lining up to her Left allows her to pursue a centrist triangulation strategy that makes her seem measured, reasonable, and non-ideological. Were Hillary to be the party’s runaway favorite this early on, we would be reading nothing but stories about her shady dealings with cattle futures and the Rose law firm. Instead, we will be reading more about how this really ought to be Al Gore’s time.

Read Less

The New Dissidents

Over the past few weeks the German media and culture portal Sign and Sight has played host to an impassioned argument (featuring Pascal Bruckner, Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash, and others) over the conflict between Islam and the West, the nature of Enlightenment political thought and religious tolerance, and the duty of European governments to protect the Muslim dissidents in their midst. Ulrike Ackermann enters the fray today with a fascinating essay, in which she makes a trenchant point:

Whereas the freedom-loving dissidents in Central Europe were considered “trouble-makers of detente” between East and West, today’s dissidents of Islam like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasrin, Irshad Manji, Necla Kelek (more) or Seyran Ates (more) fall into disgrace because their criticism purportedly disrupts the dialogue of cultures. Their passionate defence of self-determinism and freedom of the individual against a domesticating religious collective deserves vocal support, which Pascal Bruckner offers for the “rebels of the Islamic world.” For who else can initiate self-reflection and reform in Islam, if not these courageous dissidents?

The whole piece is eminently worth reading.

Over the past few weeks the German media and culture portal Sign and Sight has played host to an impassioned argument (featuring Pascal Bruckner, Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash, and others) over the conflict between Islam and the West, the nature of Enlightenment political thought and religious tolerance, and the duty of European governments to protect the Muslim dissidents in their midst. Ulrike Ackermann enters the fray today with a fascinating essay, in which she makes a trenchant point:

Whereas the freedom-loving dissidents in Central Europe were considered “trouble-makers of detente” between East and West, today’s dissidents of Islam like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasrin, Irshad Manji, Necla Kelek (more) or Seyran Ates (more) fall into disgrace because their criticism purportedly disrupts the dialogue of cultures. Their passionate defence of self-determinism and freedom of the individual against a domesticating religious collective deserves vocal support, which Pascal Bruckner offers for the “rebels of the Islamic world.” For who else can initiate self-reflection and reform in Islam, if not these courageous dissidents?

The whole piece is eminently worth reading.

Read Less

Riding Hurd

Last year we had to endure James Baker, one of the chief culprits for the genocide in Bosnia, lecturing the Bush administration about Iraq. Now Douglas Hurd, his British counterpart in the early 1990’s, calls for a British equivalent of the Baker-Hamilton report—an inquiry that would ask the question: “How did we [the British] follow the Americans in this gross miscalculation of what would happen after the fall of Saddam Hussein?” Hurd insists that “this would not be a ‘trial of Tony Blair,’” but his denial rings hollow. “Under our next prime minister we have to learn again what we have forgotten: the art of working with the United States as an effective junior partner capable of independent thought, and of ensuring that reasonable advice is listened to, and that eventual questions are answered.”

Read More

Last year we had to endure James Baker, one of the chief culprits for the genocide in Bosnia, lecturing the Bush administration about Iraq. Now Douglas Hurd, his British counterpart in the early 1990’s, calls for a British equivalent of the Baker-Hamilton report—an inquiry that would ask the question: “How did we [the British] follow the Americans in this gross miscalculation of what would happen after the fall of Saddam Hussein?” Hurd insists that “this would not be a ‘trial of Tony Blair,’” but his denial rings hollow. “Under our next prime minister we have to learn again what we have forgotten: the art of working with the United States as an effective junior partner capable of independent thought, and of ensuring that reasonable advice is listened to, and that eventual questions are answered.”

Can this be the same Douglas Hurd who, as Conservative foreign secretary, was largely responsible for the European Union’s disastrous policy on Yugoslavia, including an arms embargo which prevented the Bosnians from defending themselves against Serbian genocide and ethnic cleansing? The same Douglas Hurd who warned against armed intervention to halt the dictator Slobodan Milosevic, first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo? The same Douglas Hurd who was told at the time by his former boss Margaret Thatcher: “Douglas, Douglas, you would make Neville Chamberlain look like a warmonger”? The same Douglas Hurd who, within a year of retirement, returned to Belgrade in 1996 on behalf of the bank that now employed him, NatWest Markets, to negotiate with Milosevic about the privatization of Serbian utilities? Not only was Mr. (now Lord) Hurd eager to profit from the Serbianctator’s desire to sell state assets in order to generate cash to preserve his brutal tyranny—he even tried to justify it by claiming that his motive was the altruistic one of “liberalizing” Serbia, and that Milosevic “could have been rehabilitated.”

As the historian Brendan Simms points out in his brilliant Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia (London, 2001), there was never any likelihood of Milosevic changing. As for Hurd’s campaign to prevent Western intervention—“the calculated caution and gravitas, the sage warnings, and the weighty caveats: this was all bluff.” Once the Blair government adopted a policy diametrically opposed to that of John Major and Douglas Hurd, which resulted in the Kosovo War and the fall of Milosevic, the bluff was called. Hurd, Baker,and the whole gang of “realists” were discredited: “None of them had the faintest idea what they were talking about.”

Read Less

Clark the Peacemaker

No one ever described the post-Vietnam Democratic party better than the late Jeane Kirkpatrick when she said “they always blame American first.”

In the 1990’s, President Bill Clinton nudged the Democrats toward rediscovering their patriotism. But when Clinton left office, the blame-America-firsters came roaring back, reasserting their grip on the party by mobilizing in the 2006 primary to oust the Democratic hawk, Senator Joseph Lieberman. (Lieberman went on to win re-election as an independent.)

With the power of the party’s antiwar wing so vividly displayed, the aspirants for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination have all been running to the Left. Out of the pack a surprising dark horse has taken an early lead in the blaming-America sweepstakes: General Wesley Clark. In a message on the website of his PAC, Clark declares: “For three years, the Bush administration has hectored and threatened Iran and Syria, and unsurprisingly, they have both worked continuously to feed the fighting in Iraq.”

Read More

No one ever described the post-Vietnam Democratic party better than the late Jeane Kirkpatrick when she said “they always blame American first.”

In the 1990’s, President Bill Clinton nudged the Democrats toward rediscovering their patriotism. But when Clinton left office, the blame-America-firsters came roaring back, reasserting their grip on the party by mobilizing in the 2006 primary to oust the Democratic hawk, Senator Joseph Lieberman. (Lieberman went on to win re-election as an independent.)

With the power of the party’s antiwar wing so vividly displayed, the aspirants for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination have all been running to the Left. Out of the pack a surprising dark horse has taken an early lead in the blaming-America sweepstakes: General Wesley Clark. In a message on the website of his PAC, Clark declares: “For three years, the Bush administration has hectored and threatened Iran and Syria, and unsurprisingly, they have both worked continuously to feed the fighting in Iraq.”

Then he adds, on the self-described “left/progressive/liberal” blog DailyKos, that “since 9/11 the Iranians have tried on several occasions to open a dialogue with the United States.” But “the Bush administration would have none of it, and branded Iran a member of the Axis of Evil.”

Complaining that Bush is “ratcheting up the pressure on Iran,” the soldier-turned-peacenik sermonizes: “The United States can do better than this.” He elaborates: “while the latest actions against Iran’s banking system show the sharp stick of U.S. power, the potential carrots are enormous, too,” because as “a proud nation,” Iran cannot “ignore a more hopeful vision of its future.” Contrary to Bush’s hectoring approach, the U.S. should “work to establish a sustained dialogue, and seek to benefit the people of Iran and the region.” He asks rhetorically: “Could not such a dialogue . . . begin a process that could, over time, help realign hardened attitudes and polarizing views within the region?”

Clark did not wait to become commander-in-chief to try out this approach. In 1994, the nemesis with which America was girding for conflict was the so-called Bosnian Serb Republic, which for two years had been raining war on Bosnia’s civilian Muslim population. Clark was an official with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ignoring State Department objections, Clark traveled at his own initiative to “Republika Serpska” for a tête-à-tête with General Ratko Mladic, the commander of Bosnian Serb forces who, as early as 1992, had already been labeled a war criminal by then-Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Clark was not there to take Mladic’s measure but rather, as his actions made clear, to “realign hardened attitudes.” He yukked it up with Mladic: the pair mugged for news cameras wearing one another’s uniform caps. “Like cavorting with Hermann Goering,” said one disgusted U.S. official to the Washington Post. Clark accepted gifts from Mladic of a bottle of brandy and an inscribed pistol. Since the inscription was in Cyrillic, it might as well have said “ethnic cleanser,” for all Clark knew.

Less than one year later, Mladic personally planned and directed the massacre of some 7,000 to 10,000 bound Serbs at Srebrenica, for which he has been indicted. But what do you expect, considering that Eagleburger had already called Mladic names, just as Bush has called Iran names, and we had ratcheted up the military pressure on Republika Serpska rather than continuing the courtship that Clark had initiated? So who is really to blame for Srebrenica? Look in the mirror, America. Then vote for Wes Clark.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.