December 16, 2003


Politics in a Nation of Hawks (James Pinkerton, 12/16/2003, TCS)

The headline in Sunday's New York Times reads, "Dean Formulates a Nuanced Approach to Foreign Policy"; one can't buy advertising like that. In the article, readers are assured that that the Vermonter "shows a fluency in discussing the world that is certainly beyond where Mr. Bush was four years ago." Even under the new McCain-Feingold law, such contributions don't have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Yet while Dean has his strengths for the nomination, he is losing ground in the general election match-ups. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken before the Saddam capture showed Dean trailing Bush by 12 percentage points, 39-51. But a second poll taken on Sunday, after the news broke, showed Dean losing by 21 points, 31-52.

And 'twas ever thus. This is a mostly hawkish country. Dovish candidates of both major parties -- George McClellan in 1864, William Jennings Bryan in 1900, Wendell Willkie in 1940, McGovern in '72 -- have all gone down to severe defeat. It's fair to say that in wartime American history, no anti-war candidate has ever won.

One is touched by the sincerity of the first argument, you read it often these days, that Mr. Dean hasn't really pinned himself in the Left hand corner, because of his nuances. But this gives the American press and people a credit for caring about nuances that they have never demonstrated. Al Gore wasn't actually a pathological; liar nor George W. Bush an idiot in 2000, yet those were the roles they were cast in, without relent.

The second point is actually true--surprising for Mr. Pinkerton these days, but perhaps he's simply accepting why no one is buying the isolationism he's been espousing. Someone will have to help me with the source and wording of the quote, but America has been referred to as having the ethos of an army on the march. Of course, marching armies aren't known for spending much time pondering nuance, are they?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 16, 2003 8:38 PM

It's hard to nuance September 11. No, it is impossible.

Posted by: Robert D at December 19, 2003 12:55 AM