Like Kelley, I’m not sure what to make of Hillary’s victory in Pennsylvania. We’ll probably have to wait for the reactions from those superdelegates. Unless the Democrats want to commit electoral suicide, they need to conclude this race sooner than later.
In any case, some of the results of the exit polls on CNN and CNBC suggest that Iraq didn’t seem to play a major issue in the campaign. But Simon Jenkins in a report from Washington in the British Guardian provides a very original commentary on the impact of the Iraq War, etc. on the election campaign, arguing that the War is the conceptual framework for this presidential race:
Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia. And a candidate’s stance on foreign policy is a proxy for his or her character.
To this the candidates must pander. Hence Clinton emphasises her “role” in Kosovo and her “mis-remembered” landing in Bosnia under fire. Obama stresses his links to three world continents and a seminal visit as a young man to Karachi. McCain trumps them by having been tortured by the Vietnamese, a sanctification whose only drawback is that it recalls his age (71).
All must appear trigger happy. McCain may distance himself from the unilateralism of George Bush and remark that Americans must show “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” (in Bush’s America the remark was worth reporting). But his team is penetrated by such neocons as Robert Kagan and John Bolton, on the basis that “if we can’t beat him, we can persuade him”. The only thing to be said with confidence about McCain is that his position on everything is uncertain.
Desperate not to be outflanked on defence, Clinton said yesterday that she would “totally obliterate” Iran if Iran bombed Israel. Last week she offered an astonishing nuclear-shield guarantee for neighbours of a nuclear Tehran. Obama duly chided her as “Annie Oakley with a gun”. Yet he has tended to follow her positions with a ready me-tooism, as on Tibet. He offered to bomb Pakistan terrorist hideouts on the basis that even if that country’s President Musharraf “won’t act, we will”. He wanted two more brigades sent to Afghanistan.
I find his analysis of Obama’s dilemmas very, very sensible:
Enthusiasts for Obama, more plentiful beyond America’s shores than within them, regard him as the most plausible candidate to pilot America to a new and more internationalist haven than this. He has spoken of an endgame to America’s hostile relations with the Muslim world and dismisses democratic nation-building in Iraq as “a bunch of happy talk”. He says simply: “We cannot bend the world to our will.”
This may be true, but it is increasingly dangerous for Obama. His handling of foreign policy has been naive and reactive. His weakness is that he seems unknown, not quite American, exotic, elitist, intelligent. He can write his own books, but can he hack his own war?
Hence Clinton’s notorious “red-phone-at-3am” advertisement – implying that a black man with a foreign name could not be trusted with the nation’s defence – was so lethal, especially her aside that “as far as I know” he is “not a Muslim”. It is why, were Obama to emerge from this week’s still uncertain events as the Democratic candidate, the smart money in Washington is still on McCain to win a dirty election.
At a distance I continue to find Obama one of the most exciting and potentially able men to run for the American presidency in a generation. His capacity to transform America’s self-image and world image is colossal. But to do so he must confront America atavistic love affair with war, and that will be hard.