Monday, December 1, 2008

The "Left" Responds to Obama's "Centrist" Foreign Policy Team

Today, I posted a blog entry that recounts some of the harshest progressive criticism of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Since that time, I have scanned the Internet and collected some of the initial responses by progressives to the official nomination of Clinton as Secretary of State. Here are some of the items I have found.

AlterNet
(Stephen Zunes)
With the selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State . . . it is no longer possible to make any more excuses [for Obama's cabinet choices]. It is getting harder to deny that Barack Obama intends to tilt his foreign policy to the right.

This is not simply a situation where Obama desires an opportunity to listen to alternative perspectives from hawks as a means of strengthening his dovish proclivities. These hawkish perspectives have long been dominant in Washington and in the mainstream media, so even without these appointments, Obama would be getting plenty of this kind of feedback anyway. It appears that he has appointed Clinton and these other hawks because he does not have any principled objections to their disdain for human right and international law.

[Editor: Zunes is consistently extreme in his critique of Clinton. Now, he offers similarly melodramtic statements about Obama.]

The Nation
(Katrina Vanden Heuvel)
Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq but, as he told us earlier this year, "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." So it is troubling that a man of such good judgment has asked Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense -- and assembled a national security team of such narrow bandwidth. It is true that President Obama will set the policy. But this team makes it more difficult to seize the extraordinary opportunity Obama's election has offered to reengage the world and reset America's priorities. Maybe being right about the greatest foreign policy disaster in U.S. history doesn't mean much inside the Beltway? How else to explain that not a single top member of Obama's foreign policy/national security team opposed the war -- or the dubious claims leading up to it?

(John Nichols)
Obama is not assembling a team of rivals -- at least not with the Clinton pick. He is selecting a fellow senator who he came to respect and even to regard somewhat fondly during the course of a difficult but not particularly destructive primary campaign. More importantly, he is selected someone who agrees with him on almost every significant global issues and who he is certain will be able Secretary of State.

No, the man who spent the past several days consulting by phone with outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, is not staking out bold new turf with his selection of a replacement for Rice. This is not fundamental change. But no one who paid serious attention to Obama's campaigning, even in the early stages of the race, thought he was about fundamental change.

Huffington Post
[Editor: Apparently, today's theme at Huffington Post is: "it's all good." The pro-Obama blog features several essays that praise Obama's foreign policy team, even though it was a major player in the construction of Clinton as a worthless hawk and the portrayal Obama as a Leftist dove. Although Arianna Huffington criticized Obama's choice of Clinton before it became official, Huffington Post bloggers have seemingly moved fully behind the new team. One essay even offers a "progressive" take on Robert Gates.]

(James Warren)
As the season's first snow hit, Barack Obama on Monday took a shovel to the chilliest element of Bush administration national security policy: moral certitude. Rather than look to the heavens, a skillful president-elect seemed distinctly focused on the ground for inspiration.

With Sen. Hillary Clinton and six other new colleagues aligned in front of their very own American flags, Obama left little doubt that we're shifting the political center of gravity. For all Monday's talk of power, and successfully ending the "war on terror" in Afghanistan, the significance was less the obvious signals of being "muscular" than of an attempt to be flexible and, yes, multilateralist.

(Max Bergmann)
[Editor: Here's the progressive take on Gates.]
While many progressives acknowledge that Gates has said some reasonable things . . . and has been a positive influence within the Bush administration, many argue that this does not justify keeping someone on who was simply not as bad as the rest - especially when you have an opportunity to bring in someone more progressive.

But in keeping Gates, Obama, is actually indicating that he is very serious about instituting significant reform of the Pentagon.

Gates has advocated some very bold progressive reforms during the last couple of years. He has broken with the Rumsfeld emphasis on military transformation and has repeatedly talked about the need for the Pentagon to move away from procuring unnecessary weapons that are hugely expensive and have little strategic role (italics added).

[Editor: "Very bold progressive reforms"? Apparently, I missed an issue of my subscription to Bold Progressive Reforms Magazine. Also, it is pretty sad for lefties when simply disagreeing with "shock and awe" Rumsfeld gives someone progressive credentials.]

Cecile Richards
The selection of Senator Clinton [as Secretary of State] represents an important first step down a new path for American foreign policy -- an enormous shift represented by the selection of a champion of women's health and rights to be in charge of America foreign policy. . . .

Senator Clinton understands that improving the status of women is not simply a moral imperative; it is necessary to building democracies around the globe. Improving the status of women is key to creating stable families, stable communities, and stable countries. Women's ability to control the size of their families, regardless of economics, nationality, or culture, has a direct impact on their economic well-being and that of their children. Senator Clinton understands that women's quality of life directly affects the major issues confronting the globe: national security, environmental sustainability, and global poverty.

[Editor: During the Democratic primaries, Huffington Post published a number of "open letters" from feminists "for Obama" (or simply "against Clinton"). I do not recall seeing much pro-Clinton feminist commentary, except from solid Clinton supporters like Taylor Marsh.]

Concluding Thoughts: As I stated at the beginning of this entry, I have always believed that Obama and Clinton are both centrist Democrats. My view of the candidates' shared political ideology has placed me in constant opposition with other progressives.

But I do not believe that having a centrist president precludes progressive change. Accordingly, I am not writing about Obama's moderate politics in order to denounce his administration. Instead, I hope to remind the Left that dissent is a critical component of progressive politics. Because many progressives abdicated critical analysis of Obama, they are now becoming disaffected or searching for ways to reconcile their earlier praise of Obama and hatred of Clinton with the reality that he is a centrist and that she is the "fresh face" of U.S. foreign policy.

1 comment:

Tony the Tiger said...

Hutchinson, in response to argument about Gates being a progressive, said: "'Very bold progressive reforms'? Apparently, I missed an issue of my subscription to Bold Progressive Reforms Magazine. Also, it is pretty sad for lefties when simply disagreeing with 'shock and awe' Rumsfeld gives someone progressive credentials."

Very funny!

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