By Mark Green
Maliki out-Abadi in; Gregory out-Todd in; Sterling out-Ballmer in. In a week of strife, Bob Shrum and David Frum debate two other enduring clashes: was Hillary's comment on Obama's "not doing stupid 'stuff'" nasty or innocent (she thinks the latter); how should cops patrol minority communities after Brown/Garner?
On Hillary/Barack/Iraq. The Host recalls saying well-intentioned things which ended up looking awful in cold, hard print (details in memoir). So what about the Obama-Friedman and Clinton-Goldberg foreign policy interviews, respectively, in the Times and Atlantic? Was Hillary being conversational or strategic?
As for the politics of the exchange, Bob thinks her comments were "meh" since "they were straightforward and honest comments she'd already made in her book," Hard Choices. He wonders why this brouhaha since others in her shoes -- Humprey-LBJ, GHWBush-Reagan, Gore-Clinton -- also put some distance between them and their presidents, albeit later in the cycle.
David is also non-plussed by her interview because it was largely a reflection that "Obama's turned out to be a left-wing president" and Hillary's a bit more interventionist than he is, like on arming Syrian rebels against Assad (which she thinks could have frustrated ISIS while Obama thinks that's "horseshit.") Frum speculates that her position isn't likely to win her many votes in Democratic primaries but does reflect the opinion of general election voters who want America to project strong leadership.
Bob disagrees. "Obama's doing what the public wants" after the calamities of our Iraq and Afghanistan occupations... though ironically his overall foreign policy rating is only in the mid-thirties; here the whole is less than the sum of its parts. He dismisses the possibility that Hillary's views have created much of a space for a McGovern-Dean-like anti-war candidate. "Republicans may hope that she runs as a full-throated interventionist in 2016 but she won't," and, he adds, she'll be more of an economic populist than most now assume.
Last on the policy content of the dueling Times-Atlantic interviews: Frum denounces Obama for allowing ISIS a toe-hold in Iraq and creating an Iran-Iraq alliance "with us getting nothing in return." But the original sin, counters Bob, were the decade-long occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan based on "a bodyguard of lies" about WMDs and 9/11.
David is asked about why the bi-partisan ethic that "politics ends at the water's edge" (see Reagan in Grenada, Bush initially in Afghanistan) has vanished with POTUS 44 as Republicans seem to race to cable news green rooms to denounce any move he makes during international conflicts. "I'll agree to the myth about the 'water's edge' consensus," says a scornful Frum, "but not really in my lifetime. Maybe sometime in the 1880s."
We also play what-if/sliding doors history discussing if there had been no Iraqi invasion and occupation. Assuming Saddam survived, would the U.S. now be better off... would Iraqis? Saddam or ISIS? Pick your poison. But, at the least, Saddam was not expansionist and as a secular Sunni leader stood in the way of a radical Islamic crescent in the region, now inflamed by the Shia Iraqi leadership. Talk about unintended consequences.
On police-minorities after Brown/Garner. Unlike their debate over HRC-BHO and "who lost Iraq?", Shrum-Frum largely concur on the racial turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri and NYC after the Brown and Garner deaths.
Bob lauds Obama's comments that urge calm but decry both the violence of looters and the periodic violence of police against young minority males. He thinks that the Left-Right denunciations of the para-militarization of law enforcement in the first few nights in Ferguson reflect a growing consensus on how to handle these fraught racial confrontations.
Frum agrees, but adds that police departments deserve some slack because there is an arms race where they confront citizens with murderous weapons because of the NRA. "I love the tradition of the unarmed Bobbies [in Canada and England] but that's now unrealistic in these communities."
Shrum thinks that the greater violence in Missouri may owe to the racial reputation of that police force as compared to what de Blasio and Bratton are trying to do in NYC, while Frum cautions against dropping "Broken Windows" policing because its goal was to get cops out of their cars and engage citizens in policing too. He notes that that's the opposite of the militarization all are now condemning.
Quick Takes on Koch Bros, Impeachment, Robin Williams
- Given their hard-right politics and historic spending in elections, should nonprofit civic groups -- involving the arts, health care, education -- reject "tainted" big Koch Bros contributions? Our rhyming panel thinks not because that would further the polarization of our society and deny good works for people in need. Adds Frum: "would this rule only apply to bad Republican donors?"
- Is the talk of Impeachment real or ridiculous? Again, Schrum-Frum agree that GOP operatives think the prospect is self-wounding given the backlash to a similar push against President Clinton in 1999. Problem is, some leaders like Palin and Huckabee are talking it up and a majority of Republicans, stirred up by right-wing talk radio and TV, want it. "I'm worried that it could end up like the debt ceiling fight," frets Frum, which went on too long because of base politics.
- Memories of Robin Williams. Bob recalls when he hosted a Ted Kennedy fundraiser in 1982 and grabbed the senator's remarks and read the first paragraph, forcing Kennedy to begin his comments, "as I was saying..." David lauds the national conversation about depression as an organic illness that can strike anyone and that causes so many other problems that go unacknowledged.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.
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