Sunday, February 11, 2007

Can Hillary win with her lack of strong anti-war rhetoric?

There are certainly plenty of anti-war activists who will accept nothing less than a commitment to getting out of Iraq right now. Alas, the pragmatists and centrist such as Hillary, feel an obligation to tell the truth and tell us that it an't so simple. That will certainly cost her votes in the primaries, much as it cost Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut senatorial primary, but it isn't clear that it would cost her much at the national level or in the general election. She could very well lose all of those hard-core anti-war activists in the primaries, but the truth is that those activists will be split between Obama and Edwards, turning it into more of a three-way race. And, there will be plenty of states where pragmatism and centrism will carry the day. Further, there are plenty of Democrats who would rather simply win the presidency in 2008 even if it requires compromising on things like the feistiness of anti-war rhetoric.

In my personal view, the anti-war focus on Iraq is extremely misguided. The real focus should be on keeping out of Iran. Mistakes were made with Iraq, on both sides of the aisle. Did we learn anything from them? If so, let's apply those lessons to how we deal with Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, and the whole so-called "war on terror." Why aren't the anti-war activists focusing the lion share of their attention on the efforts of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby to fight a war with Iran? I'd like to hear their answers.

My own personal support for Hillary is tempored by her ties to the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. That is one source for her unwillingness to put more distance between herself and the "liberation" of Iraq. The good news is that her ties are relatively weak, mostly financial and pragmatic, and not deep ideological commitments such as is the case with the Neoconservatives.

Edwards is too much of a slick lawyer for me and not enough of a pragmatist or centrist. There is no way I can support his "type"... unless he starting changing his stripes and shifts towards more of a mainstream pragmatist and centrist. I think that is unlikely given his support base, but it's possible.

Obama is... a great unknown. He is clearly surfing the anti-war political winds quite well, but I haven't heard much to convince me that he has the kind of pragmatic, centrist credentials to carry the general election. Most of the press coverage focuses on his being "a new face" without political baggage and who he is as a person, but I don't care about any of that and am interested in his policy aspirations, in particular whether or not he has a deep commitment to pragmatism and centrism as opposed to left-wing activism and rhetoric.

I've voted Democrat for president since 1976. I'd vote for Hillary, but if the election were tomorrow and the choices were Edwards or Obama vs. McCain, I'd reluctantly switch parties and vote for McCain. I'm not attracted to McCain's policies per se, but I couldn't vote for Edwards and I'm too unimpressed with Obama to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The good news is that the activists are putting plenty of pressure on Hillary and that can only make her stronger and even more pragmatic. I'd much rather see her play the underdog in the primaries and grow through that process than simply float up to the nomination on a wave of euphoric acclamation.

Sure, a lot of people don't want to vote for Hillary and a lot of her "baggage", but winning the general election in 2008 is the real and only true objective... at least for most of us apart from a minority of left-wing activists.

Who will I vote for in the primary? I don't vote in the primaries since I'm an independent and I don't consider myself a "member" of any "party."

I still see the 2008 general election as being Hillary vs. McCain, the winner being... a coin flip. If the "surge" in Iraq works, McCain will be golden, but that appears to be a low probability scenario. If it doesn't, people are likely to want to simply vote against the Republicans, but it will be a coin flip whether they would really be willing to vote for Edwards or Obama. With Edwards or Obama against McCain on a failed surge in Iraq, my belief is that some portion of voters will simply not vote at all. That allows them to withhold their vote from the Republicans, but also withhold their vote from a weak Democrat as well.

It will be all so confusing if Hillary isn't the Democratic Nominee, but it is in fact up to the Democrats to make their own choice.

-- Jack Krupansky


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