US Democratic Debate: Observations of an Uninformed Canadian
I watched most of last nightâ€™s debate among Democratic Party presidential candidates and vaguely got wind today of Clinton panning Obamaâ€™s indication that he would meet with the presidents of Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. What struck me was that all the candidates who answered this question seemed to accept the lumping together of all these leaders into the same “beyond the pale” category, regardless of which were democratically elected and of fundamental differences between their regimes. However, I suppose that this categorization is not at all surprising in American politics.
The other thing that struck me was the shortage of direct questions about another instance Clintonâ€™s “get tough” approach foreign policy: her initial advocacy of military action against Iraq. At the outset, Kucinich identified his consistent opposition to the war and record of always voting against funding it as setting him apart from the other candidates. Later on, Obama obliquely commented that “too many of us” went along with the push for war.
For years, the Iraq war has been the strongest issue for the Democrats against the Republicans. However, it will be much harder for the Democrats to capitalize on this issue if they are led by someone on record as having supported the war. Because Kerry had grudgingly supported the 2003 invasion, his 2004 campaign focussed more on how to manage the conflict than on whether or not to engage it. Clinton not only went along with the 2003 invasion, but hawkishly promoted it. How can she credibly lead the Democratic opposition to the war?
I am sure that evaluating past positions on Iraq would be extremely divisive for Democrats. However, it would be better for the Democrats to debate these hard questions during the primaries than during the presidential election.