Atrios gets right to the heart of the “people with no power are ruining Democratic foreign policy” thesis:
Let me add just one thing: Beinart’s obsession is that it’s the “softs” who have prevented Democrats from having a coherent and distinct and sufficiently muscular foreign/anti-terrorism policy.
Beinart’s got it exactly wrong. The primary thing which prevented the Democrats from having that was the insistence by people like Beinart that it was necessary to support the Iraq war, in order, presumably, to not be “soft.”
Obviously, the claim that Michael Moore and his supporters greatly restricted the options of Democratic candidates has a lot of holes; this is what happens when claims are demonstrably, self-evidently false. But the first hurdle proponents of this thesis have to jump is explaining the foreign policy platform Kerry/Edwards actually ran on. You would think, based on Beinart’s argument, that the Democrats (correctly) opposed Iraq but(incorrectly) opposed Afghanistan, but of course that didn’t happen. Democratic foreign policy currently has a problem with false positives, not false negatives. Similarly, one would think based on Beinhart that the base grumbled and Nader’s numbers jumped whenever Kerry and Edwards talked about hunting down and killing bin Laden and placing a greater priority on fighting Islamic terrorism. But, in fact, this didn’t happen either. The tiny pacifist faction of the Democratic Party is completely irrelevant to the inability of Dems to articulate a coherent foreign policy. The Dems have enough actual problems without obsessively focusing on problems that don’t exist.
I also want to suggest an additional negative side-effect of this nonsense. First, as Matt Welch pointed out, it reinforces the media’s Reynoldsian belief that everything that anyone plausibly linked to “the left” says is the responsibility of the Democratic candidate for President, something that is a much greater problem than Michael Moore’s alleged nefarious influence on Democratic foreign policy. Worse, however, is the fact that at best it draws a moral equivalence between people like Moore and people like Tom Coburn. Yes, Moore is wrong about trade and wrong to imply that the Afghanistan war was fought to build a pipeline (and nobody’s saying you can’t point this out; the issue isn’t disagreeing with Moore, it’s overestimating his power that makes one a de facto Republican double agent.) But this is hardly equivalent to saying that performing abortions should be a capital crime and that pregnant single women shouldn’t be allowed to teach in schools. When it comes focusing on attacking our base, I’ll start once the Republicans stop sending theocratic crackpots to the Senate…