A Very Weird Endorsement
The New York Timespublished a weird double endorsement of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar last night. Neither candidate benefits much from a half-hearted half-endorsement, and it is in keeping with the confusion of the Times‘ editorial board that after all of the build-up to making “the choice” they ended up refusing to make one. One thing that struck me about the endorsement is how it engaged in irresponsible threat inflation at the same time that it barely paid any attention to the foreign policy views of any of the candidates. For instance, this line stood out as a ridiculous bit of fear-mongering:
The Middle East is more unstable at this moment than at any other time in the past decade, with a nuclear arms race looking more when than if.
Have their editors been asleep for the last decade? This is a sweeping and inaccurate statement that requires us to forget the peak of the war in Syria, ISIS’ control over a swathe of Iraq and Syria, the first several years of the war on Yemen, and the upheavals of the protests at the beginning of the decade. Some parts of the region are more unstable than they were at the start of the decade, and others are arguably more stable than they were just a few years ago. The assumption that a “nuclear arms race” is just a matter of time has nothing to support it. We have heard again and again about a nuclear arms race in the region, but almost no one acknowledges that there has been a nuclear weapons state in the region for half a century without setting off such a race. Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons for decades, and there has not been an arms race yet. Proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region is not inevitable, and it makes no sense to talk about it as if it were.
Since the endorsement brings up a potential “nuclear arms race,” you would think that it would have something to say about their preferred candidates’ views on nonproliferation and arms control, right? Well, you’d be wrong about that. The endorsement makes a passing reference to Warren’s competency on foreign policy issues, but it has virtually nothing to say about the positions she has taken. This is quite the oversight in an endorsement that purports to explain why they think that she would be a good presidential nominee. Foreign policy is where the president has the greatest leeway and can potentially do the most harm. The endorsement doesn’t even mention Warren’s serious proposal for reforming and rebuilding the State Department.
Sen. Klobuchar has made a point to talk about the importance of extending New START (a treaty that she voted to ratify), and like the other candidates she has endorsed rejoining the JCPOA, but that never comes up in their description of her views. She has gone out of her way to talk about the importance of arms control, but you would never know that from the write-up that the editorial board gives her. Their account of Klobuchar’s foreign policy record is very limited, and it includes some odd details that don’t make any sense. For example, they claim that Klobuchar cast votes on military action in Libya and Syria:
In 13 years as a senator, she has sponsored and voted on dozens of national defense measures, including military action in Libya and Syria.
It’s not clear how she could have voted on military action in Libya and Syria since the Senate famously never voted on either one of these. The Senate resolution to authorize the ongoing military intervention in Libya never went anywhere, and its House version was voted down by a wide margin. Klobuchar never cast a vote on that because there was never an opportunity for her to vote on it either way, and she was not one of the resolution’s co-sponsors. There might have been an opportunity to vote on military action in Syria in 2013, but the president called off the strike before Congress could vote because there was so much popular opposition to the proposed attack. There was a Syria authorization resolution introduced in early September 2013, but then it was forgotten because it was no longer needed. It is strange that the editorial board felt that they needed to embellish Klobuchar’s Senate record by claiming votes for her that she could not have cast. They ignore real parts of her record and then make up others, and in the end they tell their audience as little as possible about what she would do as president.
Perhaps the weirdest part of the weird endorsement is that the editorial board doesn’t seem to be very familiar with the foreign policy views of the two senators that they have endorsed.