Home/Daniel Larison/The ‘Blob’ Embraces Buttigieg

The ‘Blob’ Embraces Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg has received the endorsement of more than 200 foreign policy professionals:

More than 200 foreign policy and national security professionals, including dozens of veterans of the Obama administration, on Monday are endorsing Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg for president.

The text of their joint letter targets President Donald Trump, but the subtext is aimed at former Vice President Joe Biden, who touts his foreign policy experience during the Obama administration as a major asset in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The endorsements are designed to burnish Buttigieg’s credentials as a potential commander in chief and portray him as the leader of a new generation.

The letter is interesting for what it says about Buttigieg’s increasingly conventional and hawkish foreign policy and the preferences of many Democratic foreign policy experts. Even though Bernie Sanders is far more credible and experienced on foreign policy than many of the other candidates, it would apparently never occur to these people to endorse him because he is explicitly running on a platform of overhauling of U.S. foreign policy. Warren has made more specific and important proposals on foreign policy than Buttigieg, including her proposal to reform and revive the State Department, but for some reason that doesn’t command as much respect as Buttigieg’s empty rhetoric. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has spelled out a more detailed and comprehensive foreign policy vision than Buttigieg, whose foreign policy answers range from the vague to the terrible. Any one of them has a better argument on foreign policy grounds to be president than Buttigieg, but all of them get passed over anyway.

It is hard to take the letter seriously for the simple reason that Buttigieg is wildly unqualified to be president and all of the signatories to this letter must know that. The strange thing about this letter is that foreign policy professionals are usually among the last to dismiss the importance of foreign policy experience, but here they endorse someone who has none to speak of. It is fair to say that this is a significant vote of no-confidence in Biden, but by endorsing Buttigieg as the alternative it makes it much easier for everyone else to dismiss it.

Consider some of what the letter says as a justification for the endorsement:

Pete Buttigieg’s intelligence, steadiness, demeanor and understanding of the forces now shaping the world resonate profoundly with us. We applaud the application of his long-term approach to the generational consequences of near-term decisions. He sees the big picture and plays the long game: essential traits for implementing consistent and effective national security and foreign policies. When he spoke about American engagement in the world at Indiana University in June, he demonstrated a grasp of the integrated idealism and pragmatism that has been key to the success of American foreign policy initiatives from the Marshall Plan to the Paris climate accord. This Midwestern native’s vision for the future of American global engagement –grounded in these values and in the interests of his fellow Americans in communities throughout the country –defines the framework necessary to restore our country’s leadership abroad.

One could scarcely ask for a more cliched and vapid description of a candidate and his views. He “sees the big picture and plays the long game”? Seriously? How could the second part possibly be true when he is trying to catapult from being mayor of South Bend to becoming president? The endorsers are reduced to making such statements because there is no record for them to point to, no example of real leadership that they can cite, and no particular reason why the young mayor is the right choice for president except that they think he is smart and pragmatic. It isn’t their fault that their case for Buttigieg’s candidacy is so weak, but it underscores that their endorsement makes no sense.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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