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Thursday, November 20, 2003

Dean: No peacenik?

If I thought Howard Dean — whose campaign has generated such remarkable energy and enthusiasm — could make a compelling case for a pro-active American foreign policy and not simply come across as the electable peacenik, I just might sign up. At the moment, I think it's more likely that Wesley Clark will attract similar energy and enthusiasm. But it's appealing to imagine Dean-the-nominee's "Sister Souljah" moment, as Robert Kagan forecasts it. (See "No George McGovern", Washington Post 11.17.03.)

The New Republic's blog sums up the basic argument:

Unlike the contingent of commentators screaming that Dean is the second-coming of George McGovern, Kagan recognizes that Dean is neither a radical nor, for that matter, particularly dovish. Dean has been talking tough about such foreign policy problems as terrorism and WMD proliferation for well over a year now. Unlike most of the other Democrats in the field (with the admirable exception of Joe Lieberman), he actually supported the first Gulf war. It's entirely possible, as Kagan notes, that Dean will attack Bush from the right on foreign policy—on things like the failure to use ground troops in Tora Bora, and the administration's astonishingly soft treatment of the Saudis—should he win the nomination.

In fact, we'd even go one step further. Knowing Dean and campaign manager/chief strategist Joe Trippi, we'd be surprised if Dean didn't make a fairly dramatic gesture to establish his moderate foreign policy bona fides shortly after winning the nomination—a kind of Sister Souljah strategy for the post-9/11 world. One can imagine Dean, for example, laying into some fringe antiwar group, whose views, he might explain, were toxic to the debate over foreign policy and ultimately unhelpful to the cause of stabilizing Iraq (now that we're there) and winning the larger war on terror.

Dean even foreshadowed such a move in an interview Kagan alludes to in his piece. "There are two groups of people who support me because of the war," Dean told NPR's Mara Liasson earlier this year. "One are the people who always oppose every war, and in the end I think I probably won't get all of those people." (Dean went on to say that the other group consisted of people who, like him, thought this particular war was misguided.)

What would happen if Dean spurned the affections of the left-most regions of the party? Would moderates and independents warm to him as quickly as left-liberals abandoned him for a Kucinich write-in campaign, a Nader campaign, or whatever it is they'd flee the Democratic party for?

And wouldn't it be simpler to just go with Clark?

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 20 November 2003 at 5:26 PM

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November 25, 2003 09:58 AM | Permalink for this comment

Good commentary by "a gilas girl" about Howard Dean's appeal among anti-war voters over at Daily Kos:

Now, as a candidate he is extremely attractive to left-leaning, progressive and even some left, anti-war left candidates.  But that's the form not the content, which I believe is what enables folks who really don't agree with his policies to accept him as a candidate.  That's slightly different, I think, than simply saying "Dean has lots of support in the anti-war left."  I think a more accurate statement is that Dean offers a chunk of the anti-war left something they can invest their hopes and energies in without feeling as if the whole thing just the same old story, part deux, and because Bush is such a threat, they invest heavily.

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