None of the responders [bold mine-DL] has specifically denied that the administration has been making more moderate appointments (except for valid objections regarding Negroponte’s role in Honduras, which, I agree, was anything but moderate, although in his current incarnation he has been fighting the Cheneyites). Nor do they deny that the State Department’s policies in Asia and on Iran, as well as Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates’ efforts to close Guantanamo, are policies that Democrats have been advocating for some time. The seeming inability to recognize these facts reflects a destructive partisanship that makes it almost impossible to give the other side credit for anything — and that demonizes party members (on the right and the left) who dare to break that taboo. ~Ann-Marie Slaughter

Perhaps Dean Slaughter makes the first claim because she is talking about responses from the left, and I am not on the left, so I suppose my fairly specific answers to her claim that Gates, Negroponte and Zoellick are “seasoned moderates” don’t count.  From my perspective, a fervent advocate of the Doha round of free trade talks is by definition not a moderate in his political and economic views.  His views may be conventional, but just because something is common in the establishment doesn’t necessarily make it politically moderate.   She has a point that Gates and Negroponte have been less baleful influences in their current positions, but this is to define “moderation” as the virtue of being only slightly more sane than Dick Cheney.  Saying that they are “more moderate” means that they appear more moderate when compared to, say, John Bolton or Feith, which does not necessarily make them moderates as such. 

If no one denies that the new State Department initiatives are moves towards what have been Democratic positions, how has anyone shown an inability to recognise these realities?  Her claim about these initiatives in foreign policy did not strike me as controversial, but once again it was defined poorly–it was not an example of reaching across the aisle, but one of intra-Republican policy struggles between the “realists” around Rice and the “Cheneyites” as Slaughter dubs them.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but my criticism focused on the rather bizarre definition of partisanship that Slaughter used throughout the first op-ed.  That is, after all, what most of the article was about: complaining, as the title would suggest, that partisanship was out of control and was poisoning our politics. 

Yet every example she gave was not an example of runaway partisanship, but sharp divisions within both parties over foreign policy.  Progressive criticism of the DLC is not primarily that it is excessively bipartisan, but that the policies it supports are bad and destructive policies, especially in international relations (these happen to be policies endorsed by a majority of the GOP, but their association with the other party is not the main reason why many of these critics find such policies terrible).  Likewise, Lind’s criticism of Daalder et al. was not that they were collaborating with Republicans, but that they embraced the toxic ideas of “liberal hegemonism” and “democratic imperialism” that were, according to Lind, giving liberal internationalism a bad name.  For daring to disagree with other members of their own party, several individuals merited Slaughter’s scorn for their “partisanship,” when, as Yglesias pointed out at the time, their intra-party feuding was a sign of a lack of partisan loyalty and a refusal to suppress disagreements for the sake of party unity. 

In each case, the “partisan” was reacting against a policy decision or argument or position that he thought was foolish and dangerous; whether or not it involved a move towards or away from the other party actually was a distant secondary or perhaps tertiary concern.  Those named in the op-ed otherwise had nothing in common: Bolton and Wurmser on one side represented ueber-hawks in the GOP that have been losing some strength in the administration, while Smith and Lind represented what might reasonably be called the progressive and moderate liberal critiques of the Democratic foreign policy establishment’s complicity in Bush Era foreign policy disasters.  The same process is going on in both parties, though it is less thoroughgoing in the GOP: irresponsible, incompetent and belligerent foreign policymakers are feeling a backlash from their opponents within both parties and are being marginalised as relatively more sane ideas begin to prevail.  The GOP “partisans” she cites are, for the moment, on the losing side of this battle in their party, while the Democratic “partisans” she cites are the ones attacking the irresponsible “centrists” who did enable the architects of the Iraq war and who advocate for an equally dangerous foreign policy direction in the future.  This does not mean that administration policy c. 2007 has become “moderate” or even really very bipartisan (Joe Lieberman working with the White House does not count), but simply that it has become less appalling than it was in 2006.

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