Oh Well

Amanda has just joined the Edwards bandwagon in the most blatant way possible: by running his campaign blog. I noted in the comments that Edwards supported a military strike against Iran. As Lindsay notes, he’s just rehashing the conventional wisdom about Iraq that was proven so devastatingly wrong after the American invasion.

On Pandagon, I made a comment about Obama’s being possibly the only anti-war candidate in the race. It wasn’t long before Drew set me straight: Obama is in fact only against the Iraq war, like the rest of the field. Back in 2004, he came out in support of attacking Iran:

Obama said the United States must first address Iran’s attempt to gain nuclear capabilities by going before the United Nations Security Council and lobbying the international community to apply more pressure on Iran to cease nuclear activities. That pressure should come in the form of economic sanctions, he said.

But if those measures fall short, the United States should not rule out military strikes to destroy nuclear production sites in Iran, Obama said.

In the comments to my post about Edwards’ pro-war statements, SLC snarked, “There can be no doubt that Edwards is a conscious Zionist conspirator, and a tool of the international Zionist conspiracy.” Actually, what Obama did is worse than what Edwards did. Edwards spoke to a pro-Israeli group, which makes it possible that in fact he’s just lying to it to get its people’s money and votes. Obama has no such excuse.

This, of course, leaves Hillary Clinton as the one serious Democratic contender who hasn’t explicitly backed an attack on Iran that I know of. However, it’s extremely unlikely she’ll be anything but a war hawk; given her vote for the Iraq war and her record on American-Israeli relations, she is to be assumed pro-war until proven otherwise.

Oh well. In a comment on her own top-notch post about Edwards and Iran, Lindsay laments,

It’s the conventional wisdom factor that I’m scared of. In the run-up to the Iraq war, I began to wonder whether I was crazy because no one was asking really basic questions like “Is war the best solution to this problem?” and “Are we sure that there’s a problem?” and “You know there’s a difference between a potential threat and an imminent threat, right?” and “How is deposing Saddam Hussein supposed to reduce terrorism?”

At the time, I didn’t speak out. I mean, I went to anti-war protests and wrote to my elected officials and signed a lot of petitions. But I didn’t publicly voice the basic questions that were reverberating in my head because even so called liberals were playing along with the Saddam Threat script, even if they didn’t want to authorize the president to use force just yet.

The right wing managed to marginalize anyone who spoke out too strongly against the war. “Serious” liberals couldn’t say “This war is just a crazy idea, I don’t understand what this is supposed to accomplish.”

I keep joking with myself that liberal bloggers would do a far better job at governing than the current crop of politicians. It’s really too bad Lindsay’s too young to run (not that she could win if she did – atheists don’t generally win elections in the US – but still). Drafting a more established politician of the same nominal religion as Lindsay and was a possible candidate at one point would have a better chance, but I honestly don’t see such a politician pull an upset victory at this stage.

Amanda says,

Why John Edwards?  Well, look again at that list of political obsessions and you have your answer.  John Edwards is the only Democrat in the field of potential nominees who is interested in pursuing the right policies in all these areas.  Especially important to me is that he is interested in fighting poverty in America and putting that middle class dream in the hands of all Americans.

I don’t want to snark too much at someone who opposes wars of aggression, but Amanda’s focusing on the wrong people. Yes, if you want two or three million Americans to be lifted out of poverty, you should support Edwards. But if you want two or three hundred thousand Iranians not to be bombed to death, and Iranian women to have a decent chance at achieving legal equality, you should do whatever you can to derail his candidacy, as well as these of all other war hawks.

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17 Responses to Oh Well

  1. Tyler DiPietro says:

    This is one of the reasons I’m thinking about supporting the Republican in the next presidential election. It’s unlikely that the Democrats will lose control of either house of congress, and even less likely that they’ll lose both. But keeping a divided government could keep the prisoners dilemma in place long enough that politicians will be sufficiently weary about pursuing an almost guaranteed catastrophe like war against Iran.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    I’m not sure it’s such a good idea. The Senate that voted to authorize a war on Iraq was 51-49 Democratic. The current Senate is more partisan than the Senate of 2002, but it’s not more liberal. The 51 Democrats include some war hawks, such as Lieberman, who will gladly back a war on Iran.

    The best place to fight the war on Iran is then the House, where the Democrats command a fairly solid majority, and where the Speaker is far more powerful than the Senate leadership.

  3. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Yes, but the context was a bit different. Namely, 9/11 had just happened, and it wasn’t obvious that Iraq was going to be a fiasco. Iran will almost certainly have catastrophic effects on not only mid-east geopolitics, but the global economy. Thus both the executive and the legislature at the time will have to blame it on one another to deflect populist outrage. If we have a divided government, whoever wants to seek war on Iran in our current state will have to soft-pedal in mine-field.

    And that is another difference, as the Democrats lost the Senate in 2002 and the Republicans kept it for 4 years afterward. And the Republicans also controlled the house. If the Democrats had kept control of either or both houses it would have taken advantage of Bush screw ups much sooner.

  4. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Clarification: When I say “it wasn’t obvious that Iraq was going to be a fiasco”, I should have said “politicians didn’t take it for granted as we do now, even though they should have.”

  5. Edwards is still my favorite Democrat in the field so far.

    I don’t fault Amanda for taking an Edwards job. On the contrary, I think it’s great that Amanda’s joining the campaign.

    I’d work for Edwards. The way I see it, a lot of politically active folks our age want to get maximally involved with the next presidential race.

    As I’m finding now, it’s practically not sustainable to be a young, freelance journalist/full-time blogger with a liberal or democratic agenda. I quit advertising and I swore I wouldn’t go back. I’m working 16 hours a day, and I’m not even making enough to cover my student loans and my rent, let alone buy health insurance.

    If you want to pursue liberal political activism as a career, you’ve got to reach out to some institution or other. Maybe that means cultivating a relationship with a campaign, or a think tank, or a media outlet. (Assuming you’re not independently wealthy…)

    The alternative, as I’ve also discovered, is actively working for truly evil corporations and knowing that some percentage of the money they make off you goes into Republican campaign coffers, lobbyists, and other nefarious stuff.

    If everyone was a satisficer rather than a purist, we’d probably live in a Rawlsian utopia already. I’m only half joking, and there’s a long personal backstory, but there you go.

  6. Alon Levy says:

    Iran will almost certainly have catastrophic effects on not only mid-east geopolitics, but the global economy.

    Actually, Iran is expected to become a net oil importer in the next few years. The government even uses that as an excuse to enrich uranium, ostensibly for peaceful purposes. Every year that passes, the regime weakens. Unfortunately, nobody in the US seems to think it’s a good idea to wait five years, by which time Iran could have a color revolution.

    If we have a divided government, whoever wants to seek war on Iran in our current state will have to soft-pedal in mine-field.

    Again, that could’ve been true for Iraq, too. The government was divided, and it wasn’t at all clear the Republicans would retake the Senate. But Bush didn’t soft-pedal in a minefield – instead, he pushed through, and made sure that he had a few stooges and political opponents to throw on every mine in his way.

  7. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Lindsay, I see you have an M.A. in philosophy, and you’ve already established some degree of writing credibility with your blog. There has to be some think tank or media outlet out there that will pay you a regular salary.

  8. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Actually, Iran is expected to become a net oil importer in the next few years.

    But thanks to the Iraq war, they now have quite a bit of influence over the majority of the Shia population there, which sits on oil rich land. The land also gives them an open window with which they can further disrupt oil supplies in the region.

    Plus an attack will further radicalize the mid-east, at the very least securing the current regime in it’s power. And there seems to be a lingering assumption that any attack on Iran will necessarily be successful in what it aims to do. Given that the only plausible route is an air campaign, this isn’t guaranteed by any means.

    No matter what, it will be a disaster.

    Again, that could’ve been true for Iraq, too. The government was divided, and it wasn’t at all clear the Republicans would retake the Senate. But Bush didn’t soft-pedal in a minefield – instead, he pushed through, and made sure that he had a few stooges and political opponents to throw on every mine in his way.

    But the Democrats had a weak majority in the Senate only, and the Republicans control over the house pretty much incapacitated the Democrats even though they had it. I think an opposing party with strong control over both houses of congress would be more likely to oppose whoever occupies to executive office more vigorously (at least more than they did in 2002).

  9. Alon Levy says:

    If you want to pursue liberal political activism as a career, you’ve got to reach out to some institution or other. Maybe that means cultivating a relationship with a campaign, or a think tank, or a media outlet. (Assuming you’re not independently wealthy…)

    There are always other routes… I know I’m neither especially involved in the blogosphere nor especially struggling with my subsidized job, but there are non-partisan institutions, or even book deals. Jessica seems to keep herself afloat by doing stuff for various and sundry feminist organizations.

    If everyone was a satisficer rather than a purist, we’d probably live in a Rawlsian utopia already.

    It’s not a question of purism. Once Giuliani and Romney and McCain start taking stances on issues, you’ll see what words I use to describe people I really hate. Rather, it’s that I have a fairly good idea which political issues I care about the most in American elections. For instance, keeping abortion legal is a top priority as long as Stevens lives, universal health care is a high priority, gay marriage is a mid-level priority, the capital gains tax is a low priority, and gun control is off my register.

    As it happens, the Democrats are disappointing on the top priority issues, and in some cases are indistinguishable from Republicans. All three Democrats are pro-choice, but I don’t trust any of them to spend a cent of political capital on protecting abortion rights; Giuliani is in the same category as the Democrats, while McCain and Romney are noticeably worse. On Iran, my other top priority, I can’t detect any difference between any of the candidates, regardless of party. The differences only start to materialize on universal health care, on which I trust Edwards somewhat more than I do the others, but that’s only issue number four or five for me.

  10. I don’t trust any of them to spend a cent of political capital on protecting abortion rights

    Edwards spent it, Alon. He racked up a 100% rating from NARAL as a senator from North Carolina. It’s one thing to do that when you’re representing New York, and it’s another to do it when you’re representing a state in the Bible Belt. I’m sure it’s part of why Kate Michelman, and now Amanda, are working for his campaign.

  11. Alon Levy says:

    I saw the relevant votes. They’re decent, but they don’t tell me he’s seriously going to get into a fight over Supreme Court nominations, not if it’s a tradeoff between that or an economic issue.

    I evaluate candidates partly based on what fights they take an active role in – for example, Clinton is slightly better than Edwards and Obama on abortion. That she’s from New York is irrelevant; she was preparing for a Presidential campaign, just like Kerry voted for the Iraq War for reasons of national popularity. When a candidate deemphasizes the issue the way Obama and Edwards do, it makes it likely that he thinks the issue is relatively unimportant. Every politician has to make tradeoffs when he picks his fights. Edwards is indicating that he’ll neglect everything except economic populism.

  12. SLC says:

    Re Supreme Court nominations.

    The response to Mr. Levys’ concerns is very simple. Clinton – Breyer and Ginsburg; Bush – Roberts and Alito. Nuff said. Ralph Nader has much to answer for!

  13. When it comes to a presidential candidate, I care more about economic populism than I do about abortion rights. I don’t know if I’d vote for anti-choicer who was great on economic issues. But all the Democratic candidates are relatively pro-choice. The subtle gradations off pro-choiceness aren’t really that important.

    I trust Edwards to pick decent nominees for the Supreme Court. As president, his most important contribution to choice would be to pick Supreme Court justices that will defend Roe. He could take some leadership on reversing the US’s ruinous international family planning policies and help rebuild the CDC, the FDA, and the other health-related institutions that the Bush administration has trashed. I can’t see any of the other Democratic front-runners sticking their necks out any further than Edwards.

    A workable healthcare plan would probably do more for real reproductive choice in this country than virtually any precedent or policy decision.

  14. Alon Levy says:

    I seriously doubt that universal health care would do much for reproductive choice. Including family planning, birth control, and abortion in any government health care plan will be an uphill battle as it is. With any luck, Edwards will stand his ground on these issues instead of excluding everything anti-choicers object to from his universal health care scheme. But it’s a question of luck; I know he’s better than McCain and probably Romney, not to mention Brownback, but the differences between the other candidates are too small for me to get agitated over them.

    Obviously, universal health care matters on its own. There the differences are pretty stark, and Edwards is the candidate I trust the most on the issue, followed by Obama (Clinton has more experience, but that experience is negative). Iraq matters on its own too, though there I support Obama somewhat more.

    If the New York primary were held tomorrow and I were eligible to vote, I’d pull the lever for Edwards, probably. But I’d do so very grudgingly. If Brownback gets the Republican nomination, it will be like the Chirac versus Le Pen runoff, where it wasn’t so much that Chirac was good as that Le Pen was a fascist. If Giuliani or Romney or McCain does, it will be more like Carter versus Ford.

    When I estimate the utilities of the candidates at 55 to 45 on a 100-point scale, it’s still irrational not to support the candidate who’s at 55. But in that case I reserve the right not to get excited over him and not to pretend he’s anything but a modest improvement over the Republican.

  15. I know John Edwards and every other mainstream liberal in this country would stand up for birth control and basic reproductive health care. Heck, even early-term abortions are politically popular.

    The big fear about Roe being overturned is that the issue would “go back to the states.” I forget the exact estimate, but if that were to happen today, at least a plurality of states would outlaw abortion. As Scott Lemieux is fond of arguing at LGM, a legal ban on abortion is never a ban as far as white, educated, middle or upper class women are concerned. It’s only a ban for poor women who can’t afford to take time off work or go to another state to be taken care of.

    Abortion access is still a huge problem today, even though Roe still stands. A big part of that problem is economic. When people are flat broke and dispirited, they’re more susceptible to accidents. When women have no opportunity to advance in their careers, they’re more likely to acquiesce to unplanned pregnancies that they might not have found acceptable if they’d had minimally decent alternative options. (Read LeBlanc’s “Random Family” for a several vivid case studies of these trends.)

    Of course, basic reproductive healthcare expands reproductive choice dramatically. Suppose universal health care/preventive medicine includes birth control, health counseling, screening for STDs/reproductive cancers, and occupational health and safety to guard against birth defects and other fertility impairing hazards, etc. In that case, ordinary people will be able to stop pregnancies when they don’t want them and safeguard their fertility until they are ready to start healthy families. To me, that’s what reproductive choice really means.

  16. Alon Levy says:

    It will go back to the states, most of which will of course immediately ban abortion. But it’s wrong to view such a ban as just another issue of quantity rather than quality, which is no different from how people in many areas in the US and Canada* lack access to abortion. As conservative policies from the last 30 years show, the states’ rights formulation is only ever invoked when one is on the defensive.

    A ban will embolden the right to immediately look for national restrictions. A national ban on dilation and extraction without a maternal life exception can pass both houses of Congress with nearly veto-proof majorities; the question is just if Edwards will veto such a bill. Moving from that to dilation and evacuation is easy – if I’m not mistaken, part of the reason the D&X ban got stricken down was that it would also cover D&E procedures. That will shift the center to the right, enabling further national bans; right now, when the center is artifically shifted left because of Roe, first-trimester abortion polls at 49-47.

    Granted, a big part of the problem is economics. But on economic issues, the gamut of mainstream politics in the US is woefully narrow. I’d probably be more excited about Edwards’ poverty reduction programs if they didn’t leave me yawning. For example, take education. Edwards’ proposal to give a full scholarship to every student who works 20 hours a week is an improvement over the current situation, but only a small one. The abortion equivalent of that is legalizing abortion in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy in a country where it’s legal in the first 13.

    That’s why I consider Roe such a big deal: the gamut of political views on abortion in the US is so wide compared to the gamut on other views, that the issue tends to overwhelm all others. The gamut on foreign policy is normally somewhere in between, but right now I can’t distinguish the views on Iran of any of the current candidates. The other issue I list as a top priority, civil liberties, normally has a narrow gamut, and is there mostly as a symbolic nod to the fact that American politicians don’t give a damn about civil liberties.

    In contrast, take universal health care. It’s a done deal, assuming politicians can converge on a single program instead of consider the status quo a good compromise. President Edwards will likely help pass a more progressive health care bill than President McCain, but the need to get the approval of 51 Senators and 218 Representatives will blunt the differences. So the ideal universal health care situation we can imagine – single-payer with aggressive screening for STDs and funding for birth control, plus a revamped OSHA – isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    The “safe, legal, and rare” paradigm is good, but in practice the “rare” part is the hardest to implement. Too few people want real sex education. Contraceptive access laws that will matter to more than five people will raise the ire of the same left-wing Dominionists Democrats try to woo by decentering Roe. It’ll be hard enough for a universal health care scheme to guarantee coverage for birth control as good as what Medicaid offers now, not to mention improving coverage.

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