Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What Would You Do For Me Lately?

Kevin Drum quotes a portion of a Barack Obama speech today:

There is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand. They should ask themselves: who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong. This is not just a matter of debating the past. It's about who has the best judgment to make the critical decisions of the future.
To which Drums responds, in light of the polling data indicating little progress made by Obama vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton:

...[T]here's no evidence that this is getting him anywhere. Maybe it's unfair, but being "right" five years ago just doesn't seem to be a winning pitch. In a way, that doesn't surprise me. Most people react negatively to blowhards who are always reminding their friends about how smart they were on some previous occasion, and maybe that's how this sounds to a lot of people. Especially people who themselves might have supported the war back in 2002 and don't really appreciate being reminded about it.

I don't know. I'm just guessing here. But bragging about your good judgment might be a very different thing than bragging about a concrete achievement. On this score, Hillary Clinton's decision to cosponsor legislation preventing military operations against Iran without congressional approval seems pretty smart.
While Drum is right that a record of achievement might be weightier than a record of good judgment, and that "I told ya so" isn't an overly ingratiating slogan, he is leaving out a major part of the equation: although Obama may have been right about Iraq, and Clinton wrong, their respective prescriptions for dealing with the situation, going forward, are remarkably similar. Obama's harkening back to his pre-war judgment amounts to cold comfort when the majority of Americans are looking for a bold and decisive plan to get out of Iraq, and he and Clinton are both contemplating several years of "residual forces" and other exorbitantly costly entanglements.

Maybe if Obama adopted Bill Richardson's position, his good judgment on the question of invasion would form a mutually reinforcing loop with his current policy proposals, rather than offer a mere "what if" hypothetical of little value in today's dollars.

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