Monday, October 18, 2004

Dan Drezner, as is the rule with professors at the University of Chicago, an exceptionally bright person. However his recent post, hemming and hawing over his decision to vote for John Kerry was too lame for words - being 60 % there ( or whatever figure) unless his readers can convince him to go one way or the other. Good grief. This is an expert in political science ! If getting paid to think, read , write and teach about politics at one of the finest universities in the world doesn't provide you with ample time to find for either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry without help from the peanut gallery, you're not really trying.

(Parenthetical aside, Drezner's follow-up post to his responses is much better - though even less decisive - than his first. Make up your mind already Professor !)

I much prefer clarity. Here are two bloggers who know their minds without recourse to polling the masses. First, for the incumbent:

Dave Schuyler of The Glittering Eye had a thoughtful, concise post on the crypto-liberal, nominally Republican, Chicago Tribune's endorsement of George W. Bush.

"The endorsements

Now that the presidential debates are over and there are just two weeks until the election the endorsements are starting to fly fast and thick. Yesterday The New York Times endorsed Kerry which surprised no one. The Chicago Tribune endorsed Bush which surprised me, anyway.

Bloggers are starting to endorse candidates, too. Or at least post strong statements of support for the candidates they've supported all along.

Greg Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch explains why he supports Bush. He doesn't think that Kerry gets it:

I don't believe, in his gut, Kerry believes that we face an existential challenge with regard to the war on terror.

Edward_ of the group blog Obsidian Wings is a blogger whose thoughts and work I've come to admire greatly. I think that Edward's heart is definitely in the right place and his head is screwed on pretty well, too. After a litany of the mistakes that Mr. Bush has made in his handling of U. S. security, he concludes a fine post, WWKD (What Would Kerry Do) with:

Really, what are these people worried Kerry would do as Commander-in-Chief that would put us in a worse position than we find ourselves under Bush? He's assured us he won't cut and run in Iraq, as some continue to insist. He's assured us he won't give any outside body a veto over his decision to take action, as some continue to insist. He's demonstrated personally, in battle, that he remains cool, collected, and focused...valuing his fellow Americans' lives above all, even when there's personal danger to himself.
What do they fear he'd do? Seriously, I just don't get it.

I'd describe myself as Bush-leaning. I've never been an ardent Bush supporter. I didn't vote for Bush last time around. I'm more in the hold-your-nose-and-vote-for-Bush camp. But I find it hard to bring myself to support Mr. Kerry.

In order to answer Edward's question I think you have to consider the circumstances under which a President Kerry would come to power and what motivates men who have the ego and ambition to seek the presidency. Foretelling the future is a chancy thing. I frequently have problems in figuring out what went on in the past. But here's my half-hearted (pick your item of anatomy) prediction. One of the following will happen:

Kerry wins by a narrow margin (40%).

This alternative assumes that Kerry takes the states that Gore took in 2000 plus Florida (or some other good-sized state that Gore didn't take).

Bush wins by a narrow margin (45%).

This alternative assumes that Bush takes the states he took in 2000 (or the equivalent). Changes in apportionment after the 2000 census would give Bush a more substantial victory than last time around. Hence the 45%.

Bush wins by a lot (15%).

This alternative assumes that Bush takes the states he took in 2000 plus several of the swing states that went for Gore last time around. That plus the apportionment point I mention above would give Bush a major victory.

I just can't envision a major victory for Kerry. It doesn't look to me like the numbers are there.

The Kerry Administration would come into power with an angry Republican opposition still in control of the House and in all likelihood in control of the Senate. The divisions within his own party suggest a situation not unlike herding cats, likely to turn on him as they did on Carter under similar circumstances.

Now presidents seek power. They want to hold onto their office and get re-elected. If they didn't they wouldn't seek the office to begin with.

So what would he do—under those circumstances—if another crisis materializes? If he refuses to react or dithers in Hamlet-like indecision, he would confirm the worst fears of his political opponents and of his moderate supporters as well. No one would cut him any slack. How strong would arguments that politics stopped at the water's edge or that you shouldn't change horses in midstream be? Kerry has campaigned against both of those propositions so they won't be available to him. There would be an immediate movement to remove him.

So what would Kerry do? I think he'd be likely to over-react in self defense. He doesn't really have any other option.

Bush doesn't have anything to prove. But Kerry does. "

Well said, Mr. Schuyler ! A fine discernment of the political realities that will govern the electoral outcomes.

On the other side of the question is Tom Barnett, whose analytical prowess I respect a great deal as well as his ability as a DoD strategist to separate the nation's interests from purely partisan ones. Dr. Barnett is the rare breed, a Democratic Hawk and his professional life has been given over to musing on the implications for American foreign, defense and national security policies when really, really, bad things happen. Here is his rationale for choosing Mr. Kerry ( slightly truncated by me):

"I have compared George Bush to Harry Truman. I liked his certainty at an uncertain time. I admired his courage in forging new rule sets at a time when they were desperately needed. He knew he was starting something for the long haul, and he was committed to seeing it begun and set on its irrevocable path.

Like Truman, Bush is facing a very difficult election, with his Dewey being John Kerry. People wonder about Kerry like they did about Dewey: Will he follow through on what's been started? Can he stay the course while somehow making it better? Can we risk the change in leadership at this dangerous time?.....

...Bush is beat up. He's looking like Carter near the end. He sees what he sees and he knows what he knows--and neither are good enough for the tasks that we face over the next four years.

America will need to listen more in the future than speak. We will need to lead more by example of change than by example of continuity. We will need to make deals all over the dial that draw the rest of the Core into the long-term struggle which we have so correctly begun in the Middle East. We will need to revamp an international security architecture much like the Clinton team did with the international financial architecture in the 1990s. In short, we need a Clinton on national security. Not the Clinton we had on national security in the 1990s, but the one we had on the economic side of globalization in the 1990s. We need that sort of visionary deal-making applied to the security side of the house now, and Bush is not by nature nor current outlook that leader.

Nor are those around him ready to lead in that manner. When you think of the key foreign policy players (Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz), all seems used up and bereft of new ideas. They seem past their prime. Like a General Manager looking over his NFL team roster for the next season, I scan this list and can't spot anyone who's likely to improve the next time around. In fact, all seem on a downward slope, meaning we are extremely unlikely to do better if we keep them on the roster--no matter how they get switched around (all of those ideas being complete losers in my mind). If they were to be replaced, it's hard to see Bush picking the GOP talent (e.g., McCain, Lugar) that could really reverse this downward slope, simply because these individuals would not be attracted to his certitude and faith. In other words, they would want to wheel and deal and they'd know their hands would be tied in a second Bush administration--if not by Bush then by Cheney.

Let me be perfectly clear: we are near a variety of breaking points in our foreign policy right now. We cannot continue this go-it-largely-alone path in Iraq. Our people are burning out. When you get troops balking in numbers at orders, that's not just a bad sign, that's the beginning of a very ugly pathway. And there is nothing coming along that will make this situation any better any time soon. Our rotation schedule for troops in Iraq is heading for a trainwreck. We have units go back for a second time and their impressions are near universal: this situation is much worse now than when they left it.

Moreover, no one else in the Core sees a happy ending, and thus they're not eager to come to our aid, knowing we are unwilling to pay the prices necessary to gain their help. So they promise help but send only small shares of it. At the same time, our bills pile up under the supposition that the rest of the Core will finance our ruinous budgetary situation ad infinitum, which is a dangerous belief at best....

...This whole global war on terrorism, not to mention the transformation of the Middle East, has all been cast primarily in terms of what America needs from the world in order to feel safer after 9/11. What 9/11 said to us was that the global security order was in deep bifurcation: between a world that felt secure and was moving ahead on globalization and a world that felt great insecurity and was feeling left behind on globalization.

The solution set that America must push over the next four years cannot be the same one we pushed over the last four years. Over the last four years we concentrated largely on getting our house in order and projecting that new order on the rest of the world. The next four years must be all about getting the Gap in order by enlisting the entire Core's aid in making that happen, and that unity won't come until we assure the rest of the Core that the new rules we're pushing in security will not only make America more secure, but them as well.

In short, the happy ending we sell over the next four years needs to be about security elsewhere, not at home, and that message is unlikely to be delivered by a second Bush Administration, simply because they're not genetically predisposed to those sorts of "humble" interactions, despite Bush's promise of four years ago. Simply put, any "Marshall Plan" for the Gap will be looked upon as a bailout for those crazy, war-happy Americans at this point, and not viewed in terms of its real motivation of making globalization truly global.

Again, I credit the Bush Administration with many great decisions and actions over the past four years, but their success in moving America off the old rule set and onto a new one puts us in far different territory than we found ourselves in following 9/11. We have laid down the bulk of the necessary new rule sets in global security over the past three years, but without the buy-in from the rest of the Core over the next four years, we may end up doing more to damage globalization's future than to secure it. For the rule set that has no widespread buy-in is not a rule set, just the proposal for one--or a rallying cry for its opposition.

So yes, it's time for nuance. It's time for deal-making. It's time for splitting differences and moving the pile. It's time for achieving progress over perfection, for compromise over certitude, for real global vision over personal belief.

It's time for war to be put back in the context of everything else, and that's not going to happen with a self-declared "war president."

All you have to do after reading this post is ask yourself: Is Bush more likely to grow out of his myopic view of this war and into the direction of "everything else," or is Kerry more likely to be forced into factoring war into his preferred definition of "everything else"?

Events tend to harden presidents, not soften them. Bush is about as hard as he can get with his certitude and his baggage, as are the major players in his administration. It's time to reset the political rule set known as party control of the Executive Branch.

That's why I voting for Kerry. Not because I'm a Democrat, but because that is what both America and the world really need right now."

I'd really like to believe that a President-elect Kerry would bring in the Democratic Party's heavy-hitters on foreign policy - the Lee Hamiltons, Sam Nunns, Zbigniew Brzezinskis, the Holbrookes, Fuerths, Bergers and Galbraiths - and listen to a wise, old, Republican or two. Except right now I don't see it. I see a Senator who talks like he hangs around too many committed partisan ideologues who think the War on Terror is simply a P.R. exercise to re-elect George Bush, masterminded by Karl Rove.

Hopefully, if Senator Kerry wins, Tom will be right and I'll be proven wrong. Hopefully President Kerry will react the way Dave has predicted. I'd be delighted because the war really is the overriding issue - no one who thinks that Mr. Bush should be ousted for spending money like a drunken sailor - which he has - will naturally gravitate to a Massachusetts liberal for comfort on fiscal discipline. Even the traditional third rails of American politics - Social Security, Race and Abortion - are faint apparitions compared with the war. The sense that our country's future well-being hangs in the balance isn't omnipresent but it's in the shadows, lurking unquietly. The rest of the world is watching too, our friends and our enemies alike - enemies who will hate us not one iota less for our electing Mr. Kerry than for re-electing Mr. Bush.

I will be voting for Mr. Bush, I believe he is the better choice and for that I make no apologies. If George W. Bush wins, I will do a jig of neoconservative glee. However, if Mr. Kerry is the winner he deserves a clean slate and a fair chance on handling the war without the Clinton-bashing, Bush-hating orgy of ridiculous partisan venom commencing the instant the polls close.

The nation is at war and he will need our help.

UPDATE: Apparently Dr. Barnett's biggest fans are uniting to take him to task on endorsing John Kerry.
I read Dr. Barnett's piece as well and also found myself disagreeing with it. I know he touched on a lot of points, but I would boil it down to whether or not you think Bush is still the best choice to continue to the policies he has initiated. In the end, Bush will still be Bush. He will exude that moral certitude and he will inevitably put some people off. But he will have to be more willing to cut deals however, because that is ultimately what will decide the fate of Iraq. We have to entice participation on the part of other countries. What the chances of this are, I don't know. Much depends on how the circumstances in Iraq unfold, but some changes in direction are inevitable. I think that some of it is becoming evident already.

Kerry, on the other hand, would innately be better at dealing with our allies (after all he has spent some of his political capital in this campaign talking to the rest of the world at the expense of his own election hopes) , but the rest of Kerry is a complete mystery to me. Where does he come down on the use of force? Does he think that Kim Jung Il has to go? What are his long term views about the nature and role of our military? To qoute Churchill, Kerry is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I just cannot decipher his rhetoric.

That brings me back to the initial question; is Bush the best fit to continue the policies he has initiated or is Kerry at this point? I would rather gamble on the chance that Bush will adopt a somewhat more conciliatory tone than gamble on whatever Kerry will see as his mission once in office. He will definitely be willing to make more deals, but to what end is the real question. You noted that TMLutas raised the claim that recent Republicans soften in their second terms. I don't know if this is trend or coincidence but you gotta think Bush can't get any harder.
Hi Andrew,

I'm dubious that Kerry has a comprehensive, strategic view of foreign policy of any kind - as opposed to a set of positions on issues over the years, generally suspicious of American power. The legislative mindset tends to gravitate not to forests or even trees but to leaves and bark which is why members of Congress tend to be good critics of presidents but poor presidential contenders.

JFK and Nixon were exceptions but they were also very mediocre legislators - Nixon was famous for Alger Hiss and tough campaigning and JFK for his charm, looks and wealth - both men were naturally suited to the executive branch. I don't think Kerry is, anymore than I could see Bush functioning well as a member of Congress.
"The solution set that America must push over the next four years cannot be the same one we pushed over the last four years. Over the last four years we concentrated largely on getting our house in order and projecting that new order on the rest of the world. The next four years must be all about getting the Gap in order by enlisting the entire Core's aid in making that happen, and that unity won't come until we assure the rest of the Core that the new rules we're pushing in security will not only make America more secure, but them as well."The problem I have with Barnett's reasoning for his endorsement of Kerry is that I do not believe Kerry with push the new security rules. In fact, I believe he will undo them because it is obvious that the Democrats simply do not endorse the new rules.

Setting aside Kerry's visceral, political, preferences in foreign policy I'm not certain that he " gets " the big picture aspect of thinking. Not to say that he isn't smart but that his perspective is cognitively skewed toward details, compartmentalization, process, examining things in isolation rather than in context.

We have that problem already with too much of our government and academic experts, particularly State - the view from a specialized niche.
So many blogs and only 10 numbers to rate them. I'll have to give you a 7 because you have good content but lack of quality posts.

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