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The Politics of Abjection

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As a response to Clinton’s claim that we should respond to the fact that catastrophic Republican policy failure will be seen in many quarters and advantage for Republicans by accepting this as inevitable, I think this is 100% right:

Two points in response. The first is that I think the Democrat best positioned to deal with GOP political mobilization in a post-attack environment is going to be the one who isn’t reflexively inclined to see failed Republican policies resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Americans as a political advantage for the Republicans.

The other is that I think there’s a pretty clear sense in which the further one is from Bush’s Iraq policy, the easier it is politically to say that the failures of Bush’s national security policy should be blamed on Bush’s failed policies. Obama has a straight shot (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I said”) and Edwards (and Matt Yglesias) has a straightish one (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I think in retrospect”) whereas I’m not 100 percent sure what the Clinton message would be. Most of all, though, I think the politics of national security call for a strong, self-confident posture that genuinely believes liberal solutions are politically saleable and substantively workable, not the kind of worry-wort attitude that says we need to cower in fear every time Republicans say “terror.”

Clinton is correct in the sense that the idea that everything is good for Republicans will get a more respectful hearing than it deserves. But it also seems obvious that the only way to counter that is for major Democrats to challenge the narrative rather than accept it as a fact of life. Which is another reason why Clinton’s front-runner status is regrettable.

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