Thursday, March 17, 2005

Smart Hawks

The Moose argues that Democrats should pick fights that makes them stronger.

In today's New York Times, Tom Friedman echoes the Moose's contention about the Chinese debt threat,

"The excessive tax cuts for the rich, combined with a total lack of discipline on spending by the Bush team and its Republican-run Congress, have helped China become the second-largest holder of U.S. debt, with a little under $200 billion worth. No, I don't think China will start dumping its T-bills on a whim. But don't tell me that as China buys up more and more of our debt - and that is the only way we can finance the tax holiday the Bush team wants to make permanent - it won't limit our room to maneuver with Beijing, should it take aggressive steps toward Taiwan.

"What China might do with all its U.S. T-bills in the event of a clash over Taiwan is a total wild card that we have put in Beijing's hands."

This is an example of how Bushie irresponsible fiscal policies provide Democrats an opening to maneuver to the right of the Administration on national security. Another angle, of course, is that the growing deficit makes it more difficult to expand the military.

The point is that the Democrats should exploit every opportunity to get to the right of the GOP on national security. Clinton did just that effectively in '92 by positioning himself to the right of Bush I on China and the Balkans.

Moose's #1 Political Axiom - The most hawkish candidate always wins the presidency.

That means Democrats must carefully consider whether a fight with the Bushies weakens or strengthens their national security credentials. President Bush has clearly provoked the donkey with the Bolton and Wolfowitz nominations. Democrats should not take the bait.

As the Moose has previously indicated, he holds no brief for Bolton. He is a crabby nationalist and as the New Donkey has pointed out, he has dropped the ball on nuclear terrorism. Democrats should make these arguments at his hearings. But it is another matter to oppose his nomination because the Republicans will undoubtedly cast them as siding with the U.N. against the U.S.

While Wolfowitz bears responsibility for the mishandling of the aftermath of the war, he has a world outlook that is fundamentally distinct from Bolton. In truth, Wolfowitz is a humanitarian internationalist in the tradition of Truman, JFK and Scoop. When the DeLays and Lotts excoriated the Clinton Administration on Kosovo, Wolfowitz stood firmly for a humanitarian intervention to prevent genocide. He has demonstrated genuine sympathy for the downtrodden whether they are tsunami victims or the Iraqi marsh Arabs. A few years ago, the Moose witnessed Wolfowitz as the target of hecklers at a pro-Israel rally when he voiced sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians.

Some will be tempted by the tantalizing analogy between McNamara and Wolfowitz who were both appointed by Texan Presidents to head the World Bank in the midst of a war. But note this point made by Todd Purdum in the New York Times,

"For unlike Mr. McNamara, who left the Johnson administration battered and shaken by his own doubts over Vietnam, Mr. Wolfowitz leaves the Pentagon at a moment of confidence. The first Iraqi elections and other positive developments in the Middle East mean Mr. Wolfowitz and his allies can claim a measure of success in their single-minded focus on toppling Saddam Hussein."

In the next few years, there will be plenty of opportunities to oppose the Bushies. Democrats should carefully calculate their opposition to ensure it strengthens them and does not hand the Republicans more ammunition to portray them as weak on national security.

The donkey needs to be a smart hawk.
-- Posted at 8:15 AM | Link to this post | Email this post