Thursday, December 20, 2007
The conventional wisdom de jour in Washington, DC, can be summed up in a catchphrase popularized by Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign: "It's the economy, stupid!" The former Arkansas governor was challenging then-President George H.W. Bush, who had led the United States into a military victory against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War, criticizing Bush Senior for focusing too much attention on foreign policy as opposed to dealing with the economic recession of the early 1990s. Clinton and his aides were suggesting that American voters were sick and tired of Iraq, the Middle East, and other global policy issues and wanted the election campaign to concentrate on the economy.
According to pollsters and pundits, it's déjà vu all over again at the end of George W. Bush's presidency, with the aftermath of another Gulf War, the U.S. economy entering a recession, and Democrats seeming to have a chance of regaining the White House. The promoters of this conventional wisdom insist that Iraq, the Middle East, and foreign policy issues have been pushed aside as issues in the 2007 presidential race. Bye, bye Tora Bora, Mesopotamia, Persia. Hello, subprime mortgages, troubled hedge funds, and a collapsing dollar. Out: Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice. In: Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson. Potential war presidents Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Rudy Giuliani are history. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Mike Huckabee, the rookies, are the future.
Peter Beinart, an editor of The New Republic and senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, and one of the Washington-Boston corridor's leading "liberal imperialists"—I can't wait for the "religious atheists"—started the "conversation" in a column in the Washington Post. He noted that Iraq wasn't a major focus during recent Democratic and Republican presidential debates. Hence, according to Beinart, who like many other liberal imperialists could be described as an early cheerleader of the Iraq War who later apologized but is now pro-surge and in favor of attacking Iran: "In the biggest surprise of the campaign so far, the election that almost everyone thought would be about Iraq is turning out not to be." (read the rest)