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Change the Right Can Believe In

Bill Kristol commented on the new Obama national security team:

I like all these choices, you know? I mean, I’m not much of a hope and change guy, so it’s no problem. If I were a hope and change guy, I’d be a little bit distressed, perhaps. . . I mean, why her rather than some of the more conventional picks? Because she has been a little more hawkish than the mainstream of the Democratic Party, voted for the war in Iraq, gave a very fine speech I went and looked up last night, which I recommend that everyone — I think liberals especially, left-wing antiwar activists who think Bush was such a horrible president, who invented WMDs and all that — they should go read Hillary Clinton’s October 10th, 2002 Senate floor speech, a very good justification for the war in Iraq, which she’s never retracted, to my knowledge, tough on Iran. And that’s fine with me if she’s going to be secretary of state. And Jim Jones, who served on the Clinton and Bush administrations at very high levels in the military, obviously, as national security adviser – - that would be — that would be interesting.

For those expecting the dawning of a new age in (or a New Age) national security policy, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and James L. Jones likely don’t send a thrill up their legs. But if you are wary of a foreign policy excessively reliant on “soft power,” if you want the victory in Iraq secured and Afghanistan won, and if roll your eyes in disgust at the thought of an American President try to charm Ahmadinejad you are resting easier with this line-up in the wings.

What does the Left get from President-elect Obama? A big jobs program, primarily. (And perhaps, if they can find a trillion spare dollars or so, a nationalized health care policy.) Certainly, with the Clinton Restoration, it is not the beginning of New Politics. It isn’t what the netroots had in mind when they cheered for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, opposition to FISA and personal presidential engagement with rogue state dictators. But it is the beginning of a new administration which plainly doesn’t feel bound by rhetoric from the campaign nor compelled to do much for its liberal base.

Had you been told the new administration would have Jones at NSC and Gates at Defense, would be keeping the Bush tax cuts, would leave in place “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and would have zero truly fresh faces in the cabinet, you’d be certain that John McCain had won. It might not be everything that conservatives want, but it is more than they had any right to expect.



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