Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Wuss Factor

Wussiness is a matter of perspective. If Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Bill Clinton’s choice for president, has thus far appeared to be a tad less wussy than the other empty wallets with whom she has shared the stage during the Democrat primaries, it is because Hillary’s position on the Iraq war has been more attentive to consequences than, say, that of Sen. Chris Dodd.

Dodd’s position on the war is: Run away.

No ambiguity there.

More precisely, Dodd’s ambition is to do everything legislatively to force the president to withdraw from Iraq – short of passing a bill definancing the war, which would create a multitude of problems for his comrades in the Senate and House. That kind of a bill would be a) constitutional, b) effective in ending the war and c) politically disastrous for the future of the Democrat Party.

Dodd, an old anti-Vietnam war protestor, knows that the American public was loathed to turn against that lost cause until very late in the season. Generally, Americans do not like to lose wars, because they understand the subtext of Hillary’s cautious approach to abject surrender: Those who lose wars pay the piper, and the chief consequence of a lost war is that the loser does not have an opportunity to shape the future.

Deep in her bones, one senses Hillary understands that the war against jihadism is a war like no other.

This is no Vietnam. The loss in Vietnam surrendered the future of East Asia -- Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia -- to communist overlords who did not spank New York City by blowing up the World Trade Center Towers.

The jihadists are ancient enemies. The West – which is to say, most hot vacation spots visited by ugly Americans for the last 400 years – has both vanquished and been vanquished by a resurgent, militaristic Islam. This interpenetration means that resurgent Islam is a Western, not an Eastern, phenomenon. The sons and daughters of Mohammed ruled much of the West until they were pushed back into Africa by Spain’s monarchs around the time Columbus set sail to discover a route to the Indies and happened upon America, now a cause of great lamentation among some groups during Columbus Day and other festive national celebrations.

Dodd knows this; Hillary knows this; and, presumably, even progressives urging a military surrender to jihadists know this.

But all the knowing bumps up against primary elections, during which politicians are expected to throw raw meat in the direction of those supporters who will decide which champions will represent them in the general election.

In the general election, when Democrats are expected to face Republicans in debate formats that reach a wider non-partisan audience, those politicians who have not been weeded out in primaries will confront seriously the consequences of the programs they have been pushing in primaries.

And the messages will change. Primaries are dreamscapes; general elections are daytime realities. Primaries distort reality In the daytime, consequences matter. It is always a jarring experience to witness the transformation of a primary hero into a general election wuss. In the journalism arena, we call this backpedaling, abandoning the ideals or – the worst curse of all -- hypocrisy, than which there is no greater sin in the journalist’s lexion of political vices.

The first shall be last and the last shall be first is a prophecy fulfilled both in heaven and in general elections following primaries.

It is primaries, not a universal moral degradation, that has twisted our politics. It is because most serious patriots recognize that primaries are a distortion medium that Hillary -- whose view of foreign policy appears to be more realistic and serious than the other fantasists she has shared the primary stage with – is leading in popularity polls.

Lost wars are not in the long run popular. And most Americans are not willing to surrender their future to fantasists who will treat jihadists as if they were members of the US Senate’s club of incumbents.


Dave Moelling said...

Isn't it time for the parties to end primaries? Perhaps non-binding caucuses or some other means of publically gaging voter opinon? The only useful purpose primaries seem to have is serving as the real election for mono-party cities.

The reforms of the '70s with crossover voting in many states further diluted the value of primaries.

Perhaps this can start in places like CT that have no influence on the presidential race via primaries anyway.

Don Pesci said...

Well, that makes two votes; but realistically, I doubt your measure will pass.

Newt Gingrich, the idea man of the Republican Party, suggests no more Dem on Dem or Repub on Repub debates. There should be cross over debates during primaries -- say, Dodd with Guliani and Hillary with (pick your favorite Republican). In this way the primary message will no longer be addressed to DailyKos by Dodd.

It may have the same effect as the measure you propose and at the same time be more doable.

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