Daniel Larison

Ecumenical Anti-Jihad?

I’m at the Madrid airport with just a few minutes before boarding begins, but I wanted to say something about Ross’ last column and Noah Millman’s response to it. My impression is that Ross wanted to discuss Pope Benedict’s outreach to conservative Christians, whether they are tradtionalist Catholic or Anglican, and he would usually settle for seeing these moves in terms of Western culture wars, but perhaps he wanted to be a bit provocative and make more out of the outreach than it requires. Just as the Pope’s Regensburg address was frequently misconstrued as principally anti-Islamic rather than a meditation on the Christian understanding of reason, Ross seems to be making forthright Catholic proselytism into something other than what it is to make it seem relevant to non-Catholic readers. I would take the same event and see it as another step in the progression of pan-conservative ecumenism in which political-cum-cultural issues carry more weight than theological ones. Of course, Pope Benedict is engaging in this consistent with his obligations as pontiff, so it is not quite that watered down, but it is these political/cultural issues that are the fault lines that have created the opportunity to lure conservative Anglicans away from the Communion.

Whether or not Anglican conservatives in the “global south” and throughout the world crave Pope Benedict’s type of leadership (and it wouldn’t surprise me if some did), we should bear in mind how swiftly the Vatican backtracked in the wake of the Regensburg address. Stressing that it was an exercise in philosophical reflection, the Vatican actively distanced itself from the claims of both protesters and admirers that the address represented a great intellectual blow in a clash of civilizations. It’s also worth considering that any ecumenical anti-jihad of this kind has the same problems as the “ecumenical jihad” to which it bears some resemblance: it is fundamentally negative in its foundations and attempts to give a religious character to what is primarily a political project. Were there to be a “united Anglican-Catholic front” against Islam, my guess is that it would be as damaging and destructive to the integrity of these confessions as Byzantine unionism was to the integrity of Orthodoxy in the 13th and 15th centuries. One need not prefer the turban to the mitre to see that attempting to end schisms even partly for anti-Islamic purposes does nothing to heal Christian divisions and instead tends to deepen and embitter both parties.


Is Europe Worse Off? Hardly

Obama’s handling of the policy reversal on missile defense, in particular, has drawn sharp rebukes from the region, mostly on the execution rather than the policy itself. A Polish official was quoted by United Press International proclaiming that, “Waking Czech Prime Minister Fisher at midnight European time, and calling President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Tusk — who refused to take the call — 70 years to the day that Russia invaded Poland — is politically inept and very offensive.” Another official added, “this simply confirms how unimportant Europe is to the U.S., despite President Obama’s words to the contrary.” ~James Joyner

James calls this “somewhat overstated,” when it seems to me that absurdly overblown would be a better way of describing it. You cannot gauge the importance or unimportance of Europe to the United States on the largely cosmetic, superficial and procedural clashes Washington has had with various European states in the last nine months. Under the previous administration, Europe continued to be “important” to the U.S. even when major EU powers opposed administration policy in very public, dramatic ways. To the extent that Obama is losing ground with Europeans, he had far more goodwill and support to lose; in almost every European country, he continues to rate higher after the drop-off from unrealistic expectations than Bush did at almost any point. Obviously relations were and remained far more strained under the last administration than they have been so far under this one. We notice the minor clashes that have taken place because there was a widely-shared, unreasonable expectation that amity and concord with Europe would prevail under Obama.

Just as Obama’s policies have not changed very much from those of his predecessor, neither have the points of contention with European allies changed. NATO members were uninterested in committing more forces to Afghanistan last year, and they remain uninterested in doing so. Complaints of having to wait for Obama’s decision are a cover for the indecision and unwillingness of most European governments to participate more fully in the mission. Had Obama speedily decided on an increase in troop levels, the same governments that complain of delay would probably be annoyed by Obama’s hastiness.

European and especially German interests were flatly ignored by Bush when it came to handling Russia. Promises to Ukraine and Georgia of eventual membership in NATO were given over strenuous German opposition. Were European interests and opinions being heeded then? No. The missile defense ploy prompted Moscow to threaten abandoning its commitments under the European conventional forces treaty and elicited a great deal of bluster from Medvedev about targeting Russian missiles on European soil. Was European security strengthened by any of this? No. What matter then if Bush went through the motions and observed the right formalities when he was getting the major decisions wrong?

Most western European allies were not seriously consulted, nor were their objections given much weight, when the Bush administration decided to push ahead with the missile defense plan. In all of the new commentary claiming that Europe has soured on Obama, this seems not to count at all. The last administration probably would have preferred not to have these missile defense arrangements made bilaterally, but they had to be because most major NATO nations wanted nothing to do with it, which was why the system had to be set up as a joint venture among the three states involved. In fact, on the substance of the decision most Europeans and a plurality of Poles and Czechs welcomed Obama’s reversal. It remains true that Obama has stepped on some toes and handled things poorly when it comes to matters of protocol, but the U.S.-European disagreements of the last few years have centered on substantive and frequently major differences in worldview. Many of these remain, because the interests and values of America and Europe are not identical. That will always be true, no matter who is in the White House.

P.S. James also claims that Bush made eastern and central Europe a “priority” and cites the missile defense plan and proposed NATO expansion into Ukraine and Georgia as examples. It is true that Bush paid a great deal of attention to this part of Europe by way of stoking irresponsible nationalist politics in all of the states involved and provoking Russia in ways detrimental to the security of these states. God protect these nations from any more of that kind of attention. The last administration also recognized Kosovo’s independence, which contributed significantly to Russia’s later partition of Georgia. If the last administration “prioritized” eastern and central Europe in such dangerous and counterproductive ways, perhaps a certain degree of neglect would be better.

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The GOP Is Adrift

In the short of it, President Obama’s cancellation of America’s agreements with the Polish and Czech governments was a serious blow to the hopes and aspirations of millions of Europeans. ~Dick Cheney

Cheney’s recent speech at the Center for Security Policy is much what you would expect from him, but that is not what interests me here. What I find interesting is how obsessed Republicans have become in making the missile defense decision into a central part of their foreign policy indictment of Obama. Pence, Romney, Santorum and Pawlenty have all taken a whack at it, leading members of the conservative movement have denounced the move, and it has been one of the favorites in many columnists’ repertoires. You have never seen so many people suddenly discover the necessity of consulting with allies. Of course, these allies are not counseling Washington against rash, foolish actions, but they are instead helping Washington to antagonize another major power and encouraging our government in its own worst instincts. Naturally, the latter appeals to people who cheered on one blunder after another for the last eight years.

So far, the missile defense decision is one of the very few major substantive foreign policy acts Obama has made, and it was clearly the right one as far as relations with Russia, European security and American spending were concerned. Using this as the cudgel with which to batter Obama’s “foreign policy drift” is a sign of how far removed the GOP has become from common sense in this area. Were it limited to Cheney, one could write it off as sour grapes from a failed, old man, but it isn’t. It’s as if the Democrats had fixated on the nuclear deal with India (one of the few genuinely constructive moves the last administration made in regulating proliferation and shoring up relations with India), and then began mouthing Islamabad’s talking points on why this was a disastrous course of action. Had they done so, they would have made it clear that there was absolutely nothing the administration attempted that they would not subject to pathetic, reflexive opposition. As it happens, while there were critics of the deal, it never became a significant part of the list of Bush’s foreign policy errors, much less a leading, central element of the attacks against him.

There is no sense of proportion in Cheney’s remarks on this decision. He refers to an irrelevant interceptor system designed to counter a threat that doesn’t exist in the same breath as the Soviet invasion of Poland, which was ruinous for Poland and one of the great crimes of the last century. Aside from a coincidence in timing, there was and is no connection between the two things and it is pure demagoguery even to mention them together. Cheney speaks of the Czechs and Poles “walking the plank,” which implies execution and destruction, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Washington’s guarantees to central and eastern European NATO allies are as meaningful as they ever were, and this decision does not make the Czech Republic and Poland even slightly more vulnerable to Russia than they were before. As proponents of the missile defense system kept saying ad nauseam, the system posed no real threat to Russia, and they would have us believe that it was not even aimed at antagonizing the Russians. Now that this system will never come into existence, we are supposed to think that Obama has handed over two allied nations to Russia on a plate, when all that it does is return things to the status quo of 2005-06. What is so infuriating about the criticism of the missile defense decision is that it is the criticism actually creates the doubts about Washington’s willingness to fulfill American obligations that the critics are trying to lay at the administration’s door.

Cheney’s speech is useful as an example of how government activists always operate. They propose a scheme that is costly, unnecessary and probably dangerous to the common good, their successors attempt to scale back or modify the wasteful baggage with which they have been saddled, and then allies and members of the previous administration wail about the “abandonment” of this group and the “betrayal” of that one to defend the scheme they concocted, when no one was benefiting from the scheme in the first place and never would have benefited. Indeed, more often than not the scheme will hurt those it is supposed to aid, its costs will be far higher than originally projected, and it will create a number of negative consequences for which the schemers are unprepared and never considered. Where Republicans are concerned, this activism tends to be limited to military schemes and foreign policy boondoggles, but it applies just as well in other areas of policy. The constant ratchet effect this has ensures that no new scheme or proposed spending can ever be eliminated without tremendous effort and expenditure of political capital, and the end result is to make the state larger, more activist and an entity with its own set of interests increasingly divorced from the people it governs.

Looking at some larger questions, I find the missile defense quarrel to be a good example for thinking about the place of dissident conservatives in contemporary debates. Defending Europe from an Iranian threat that doesn’t exist and wouldn’t be directed at them if it did with a system that probably wouldn’t work is the sort of thing that one would think American conservatives would find laughably unnecessary. It is the purest sort of irrelevant government activity that does nothing for the United States, wastes the public’s money, and inflames other nations against us. The system’s relative, albeit still quite limited, popularity in the countries in question feeds off of Old World antagonisms that most Americans neither understand nor care to learn about. For most mainstream conservatives, none of this matters. The decision is “weak” and it is “appeasement,” therefore they oppose it.

There is a quote from George Kennan that is relevant here. Kennan was speaking of popular anticommunists of his day, but he could just as easily have been referring to anti-jihadists during this decade or Republican hawks generally right now:

They distort and exaggerate the dimensions of the problem with which they profess to deal. They confuse internal and external aspects of the communist threat. They insist on portraying as contemporary things that had their actuality years ago [bold mine-DL]….And having thus incorrectly stated the problem, it is no wonder that these people consistently find the wrong answers.

Replace the word communist with jihadist, Russian, Iranian or, God help us, Venezuelan, and you have a succinct description of what ails Republican and mainstream conservative foreign policy thinking. The anachronistic thinking may be the worst thing of all, because it means that they are taking foreign policy positions that have no bearing on the world as it is. People haunted by Saigon and Munich have little to tell us about a world in which Europe is united and communism is moribund. People haunted by Yalta, as the critics of the missile defense decision seem to be, have even less to tell us.

Many of us here at TAC and elsewhere have ended up as “dissident” conservatives often enough because of intense disagreements with mainstream conservatives over foreign policy. Iraq did not so much create ruptures between conservatives as it clarified why those ruptures already existed. Instead of subsiding as Iraq has (temporarily) moved to the periphery of our national debates, these ruptures are perhaps greater than ever. Aside from a general agreement that containing the USSR was desirable and common defense was a legitimate function of government, a great many people in the conservative movement don’t really share that many assumptions about the use of force, international relations and national security. Anyone following these things with any regularity knows this, but it might be useful to be reminded of it again.

Unlike almost every other area of policy under Bush, foreign policy remains one where most mainstream conservatives do not claim that Bush was insufficiently conservative. Despite reasonable arguments that Bush was not a conservative in any important respect, mainstream conservatives have shown no desire to distance themselves from him when he was at his most revolutionary and destructive. This is important to keep in mind, because it tells us that mainstream conservatives did not simply “go along” with Bush’s disastrous foreign policy primarily for reasons of tribal or partisan “team” loyalty. They embraced it and believe to this day that it was essentially correct, even if it was perhaps poorly managed here and there.

Foreign policy is not the only source of intense disagreement, but it tends to be a prominent point of contention because it is of particular importance to many of the dissident conservatives, because it is one area of disagreement where fundamental differences are not tolerated on the right, and because it is the only time when dissident conservative arguments seem to interest non-conservatives. As such, foreign policy has an outsized role in defining dissident conservative arguments, and this is probably most true for my own commentary, which has the perverse effect of letting mainstream conservatives classify us as crypto-leftists whenever it suits them because they have already defined any non-hawkish, non-nationalist, non-hegemonist position as left-wing and therefore absolutely unacceptable. The point here is not to rehearse all the reasons why hawkish, nationalist and hegemonist views are antithetical to a conservative disposition and damaging to all of the things conservatives claim to want to preserve, true as these claims are, but to recognize that there is no persuading such people when many of the fundamental assumptions they hold are diametrically opposed to ours and utterly wrong. There no longer seems any value in making the effort to persuade them.


The Anti-Huckabee Party?

Andrew Stuttaford cites a new Rasmussen poll of Republican presidential preferences showing some sizeable support for Huckabee, and he wonders if this means that the GOP will become the “party of Huckabee.” I think this is extremely unlikely. While Huckabee was officially the second-biggest vote-getter in the primaries last year, he achieved this mostly through perseverance and concentrated support from evangelical voters. Had Romney continued to compete and waste his money on what would still have been a losing bid, it is not certain that Huckabee could have managed his second place finish.

Approximately a third of Republican primary voters backed Huckabee, and slightly less than a third of the Republican respondents would now like to see him as the nominee, so he retains a considerable base of support that he had built up last year. Does this mean that the GOP is or is going to be the “party of Huckabee”? Only in the sense that in terms of sheer numbers Huckabee’s voters and sympathizers make up the largest bloc of Republicans. The trouble is that Huckabee consolidates this bloc behind him at the expense of losing most others. The strange thing is that Huckabee’s charisma and style make it less likely that this would be replicated in a general election: where Palin won enduring Republican devotion by being strident and combative, the good culture warrior, Huckabee has typically cultivated a style on the national stage laced with humor and self-deprecation that seemed to make him less polarizing.

He is able to do this because his record on social issues is already solid and does not need to be emphasized (as McCain’s was), exaggerated (as Palin’s was) or invented out of thin air (as Romney’s was). I have thought for a while that Huckabee’s personality could have some of the appealing all-things-to-all-people quality that Obama had during the election. If the economy remains a major issue in the next election, as it most likely will be, the sheer disgust economic conservatives still have for him could be worn almost as a badge of pride in the general election. An early opponent of the bailout, Huckabee could tap into populist dissatisfaction with the coziness of corporations and government without being pigeonholed as nothing more than an obsessed tax-cutter.

Huckabee isn’t going to have that chance. Even if it seems irrational, movement activists who are not primarily interested in social issues distrust Huckabee intensely, and they will work to block him and deny him funding just as they did last time. The anti-Huckabee sentiment among movement activists is a useful reminder that all the Republican culture war defenses of Palin during the general election were aimed at mobilizing all the people whose candidate, Huckabee, they had just spent the previous 18 months mocking and ridiculing with all of the same language used against Palin. For turnout purposes, the GOP still finds Huckabee’s people useful, but its leaders and activists will not tolerate Huckabee taking the lead in the party as the nominee.

The effect this will have, as Stuttaford’s post suggests, is that most Catholic, mainline Protestant and secular Republicans will rally to whichever anti-Huckabee candidate appears strongest. This will most likely mean a coalition of voters arrayed behind Romney, who will then be a far weaker draw in the general election than Huckabee would have been. At first, that sounds implausible. Surely the more “moderate,” less “sectarian” candidate should be able to win more support, right? No, not really, because the things that make Romney more attractive to non-evangelicals in the GOP also force him to spend more time trying to prove that evangelicals and social conservatives can accept him. Aside from the complication that his religion introduces into this, this means that Romney has to emphasize social issues, on which he has no credibility, and public professions of religious faith, which are some of the things that so many Republicans and independents find viscerally unappealing about what they perceive to be the norm in Republican politics. Huckabee does not need to do as much of this because he would already have much of the right locked down. Like McCain, Romney will continually be trying to satisfy people on the right who cannot muster much enthusiasm for him, but who will wrongly conclude that he is more “electable.” That could involve another desperate VP nomination to generate interest or a campaign that actually moves right after the primaries are over. Fear of their own evangelicals could lead Republicans to embrace a technoratic wonk whom most voters will not be able to trust and whom most conservatives grudgingly accept because he is not Huckabee.


Pro and Anti

It is raining and overcast here in Athens (Koukaki), so I am inside this morning and thought I would check in. As I’m on vacation, I won’t be writing much over the next couple of weeks, but I did see something that I wanted to address. Philip Klein complained that National Security Advisor Jim Jones (Gen., U.S. Army-Ret.) was going to speak at an “anti-Israel conference.” I thought that sounded odd, so I read on and found that he will be addressing J Street. J Street, Klein informs us, is “a liberal organization actively campaigning against Israel’s right to defend itself.” The second part of this is absolutely false, and it is one of the most tired tropes in the book. The first part is less debatable, since it is largely true that the place where you are most likely to find anything like a remotely sane view of Israel-Palestine, among other Near Eastern matters, is among American liberals and progressives. If J Street is overwhelmingly liberal, this is a result of how ideologically committed most Americans have become to dead-end, counterproductive and harmful policies that work against the long-term interests of Israel. These policies also work against U.S. interests in the region and the world to the extent that our government is tied to the enabling of the policies. I don’t think these policies are the source of most of our troubles in the Near East, and I don’t think those troubles would end even if these policies were changed for the better, but the perception and reality that our government tacitly permits them are aggravating factors that make things harder for the U.S. around the region than they need to be.

There is one reliable thing about the label “anti-Israel” when it is used to refer to other Americans in debate: the people being so described are almost guaranteed to believe that Israel has a right to defend itself, a right to exist and, more often than not, a right to constitute itself as an officially Jewish state. In other words, they accept all of the basic assumptions that every “pro-Israel” person accepts. For what it’s worth, I don’t really disagree with any of those propositions, either, but that won’t keep me from being labeled “anti-Israel.” What makes J Street “anti-Israel” in Klein’s view is that they believe that the Israeli government cannot simply do whatever it pleases to its neighbors and to the people under its occupation benevolent protection, and they might even suggest that continuing to violate every agreement Israel has ever made on settlements is not necessarily ideal. If one is ideologically driven to define support for Israel in such a self-defeating way, anything outside those exceedingly narrow boundaries has to be counted as “anti-Israel.”

This is what I find so irritating about these labels: they are used deliberately to avoid discussing the merits of the respective policy views, because there is clearly a fear among hawks that their policy preferences cannot withstand scrutiny and have to be pushed through debate with this sort of browbeating. Klein could reasonably argue that he thinks J Street’s recommendations are misguided, wrong and bad for the U.S. and Israel, and I assume he thinks this, but he isn’t satisfied unless he has completely delegitimized and insultewd his opposition by saying that they are “anti-Israel” as such.

On the other side, J Street et al. make plain that they regard the recommendations of Israel hawks to be disastrous, but to the best of my knowledge they refrain from accusing their opponents of being “anti-Israel.” They do challenge the idea that hawks have some monopoly on real support for Israel, and they point out how damaging to Israeli security their preferred policies have proved to be, but even when they do this they take for granted that hawks believe themselves to be working in the best interests of America and Israel. The issue, of course, is whether they actually are working in the best interests of both countries, but even if they are mistaken their positions cannot be written off as inherently “anti-Israel.” Likewise, those who advance aggressive and hawkish policies for the U.S. are not therefore “anti-American” despite the very real damage their policies have done to the United States. They are in error, but they are not opposed to the existence and security of their country. Of course, it seems to be in the nature of being a hawk that the same respect must never be extended to the other side.

P.S. Klein also finds it obnoxious that the conference will also include Salam al-Maryati, who made a statement immediately following September 11 which he regretted making and for which he quickly apologized. Typically, Maryati’s one mistake made at a time when feelings were running exceptionally high is enough to make him politically radioactive forever in the estimation of many “pro-Israel” advocates, which is one of the many reasons why fewer and fewer people listen to what such advocates have to say and why organizations such as J Street are gaining a hearing.



Later today I’ll be flying to Athens for a two-week visit to see my girlfriend in Greece. I may check in once or twice from the road, but I will be away most of this time. Check in at The Week to see my next couple of columns.


What If?

What if the Republicans come up with a conservative standard bearer who is smart, attractive, and dedicated to debunking Obama’s weakling foreign policy — and female? ~Jennifer Rubin

Via Jack Ross

I think they tried that twice last year in different ways. First there was Clinton, who received some fairly fawning admiration from Republican hawks whenever she would try to belittle Obama as an inexperienced weakling, and then there was Sarah “He Pals Around With Terrorists” Palin who attempted to make Obama’s appropriate concern about Afghan civilian casualties from U.S. and NATO actions into some kind of anti-military insult. (That concern for protecting Afghan civilians also happens to be at the heart of McChrystal’s current thinking.) Palin certainly did her best to engage in all of the hawkish posturing she could. Combined with her shaky grasp of policy detail, this was not reassuring, but reminded voters of why she and McCain made them nervous. McCain attempted in vain to persuade voters that his reflexive bellicosity would be a steady, reliable guide for U.S. foreign policy. It might just be that no one buys the idea that Obama has a “weakling foreign policy,” so it won’t matter who the messenger is. It could also be that when this is the best Liz Cheney can offer by way of criticism, she does not fit Rubin’s description in any case.


Russia And Iran

Philip Klein asks the question that Obama’s critics were inevitably going to ask:

So President Obama agreed to negotiate with the Iranians, and he agreed to abandon a missile shield in Eastern Europe. What did he get for all this good will? Bubkes, it turns out.

Klein’s post is entitled, “Russia thwarts Obama on Iran,” which sounds dramatic until you realize that it is about as newsworthy as “sun rises in the east.” It is also a little strange to describe the maintenance of Russia’s long-standing position on sanctions as an effort to “thwart” anyone in particular. As I said when the missile shield decision came down and in the days that followed, it would not do any good to portray the decision as a concession to Russia aimed at “getting” something on pressuring Iran:

If the administration insists that Russian support for tightening sanctions or isolating Iran is the “payoff” for abandoning the shield, the decision will be judged to have been a quid pro quo that gained us nothing. If we see it instead not as a concession to Moscow, but rather as a concession to reality and common sense, it does not have to produce Russian cooperation on Iran’s nuclear program to be regarded as the correct and appropriate move.

I warned enthusiastic administration supporters not to make too much of minor statements coming from the Kremlin:

Andrew and Zakaria are also attaching far too much importance to Russian statements on Iran. Zakaria called recent Kremlin statements a “striking shift,” but there has been no shift, and while Andrew is more skeptical he has cited Medvedev’s remark about inevitable sanctions as if it meant something. Like the administration they are praising, they are holding out unrealistic hopes of Russian cooperation on an issue where this cooperation is not going to be forthcoming. The administration and its supporters are setting themselves up for a fall, and they open themselves to the jeers of an otherwise hapless opposition that Moscow has played Obama for a fool. Russian cooperation may be forthcoming in other areas, and repairing relations with Moscow might yield some desirable results, but to measure the success of Obama’s Russia policy by Moscow’s willingness to do something it has no intention of doing is to rig the game in favor of the hawks who preach confrontation and aggression.

Moscow has no interest in pressuring or isolating Iran, which was clear all along. This is not a problem in Russian policy towards Iran, but draws attention to the flaws in our Iran policy. We insist on stopping something that we do not have the means to stop, and we are defining our relationship with Iran according to whether or not Iran ceases doing something it is never going to cease doing. We then compound this mistake by making the quality of our relationship with Russia dependent on whether or not Russia will cooperate in our dead-end Iran policy.

It also happens to be true that harsher sanctions on Iran would be “counterproductive” in several ways. If the sanctions are designed to hamper Iran’s nuclear program, they will instead show Iran that it needs a deterrent all the more. If they are aimed at aiding internal political opposition and weakening the regime, they will have the opposite effect. Unless the goal is to secure Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in their positions of power and accelerate the advance of Iran’s nuclear program, sanctions would seem to make no sense at all. If Russian opposition to sanctions helps us realize the futility of such an approach that much sooner, so much the better for us.


Son Of McCain

When talk turned to probable presidential contenders, no one last night seemed to give Tim Pawlenty much of a chance. Nonetheless, it appears that Pawlenty is moving to re-assemble many members of the McCain campaign as part of his preliminary efforts in preparing a bid. This makes sense, as Pawlenty was one of the true McCain loyalists during the last election. While many elected officials had either abandoned McCain early on or refused to back him until he was already the de facto nominee, Pawlenty was unusual in his consistent and public support. The story from The Hill had this passage that should remove any doubt about the kind of foreign policy thinking Pawlenty will be entertaining:

Among those interested in getting to know Pawlenty are Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Randy Scheunemann [bold mine-DL], two top policy advisers from the McCain presidential campaign who have joined the Minnesota governor’s host committee.

If you are interested in angry Russophobia and needless provocation of other major powers, Pawlenty might well be the candidate for you.

What might be more interesting is whether or not Republican activists and primary voters will recoil from a campaign filled with top McCain staffers. As a losing nominee unpopular with conservative activists, McCain would have much to offer Pawlenty in terms of prestige, so I wonder how much of a liability close association with McCain and his advisors could be. Add to that the instinctve revulsion many economic conservative activists seem to have for any candidate who expresses interest in addressing the concerns of working-class voters, and Pawlenty could have some significant difficulties.


On The Way Home

I’ll have more to say soon about the Princeton panel, which was very enjoyable. Thanks again to the Committee on Public Lectures, Prof. Wang, our moderators, Professors Kruse and Zelizer, and my fellow panelists for a good discussion. In the meantime, see the remarks by Mark Thompson of the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, who attended the lecture, and take a look at Tim Lee’s new blog. Tim and Mark were both there, along with a few regular readers and commenters, and it was a pleasure to meet all of them in person after all this time.

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