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The Warren Mirage

Damon Linker talks up a Warren-Webb alternative to Clinton. I found this section to be the least persuasive:

As for foreign policy — well, let’s just say that given her left-leaning preferences in every other area of policy, I don’t fully believe Warren’s wan statements in defense of the status quo. I think she’s probably given foreign affairs little thought, and she’s picking her battles. And anyway, in my dream she’d have Jim Webb around to try and convince her to revisit her conventionally hawkish positions.

That’s not very compelling. Linker admits earlier that Warren has “said very little to indicate that she diverges from the bipartisan Washington consensus in favor of endless warfare.” That’s true, and it’s probably because she doesn’t reject that consensus, or because changing U.S. foreign policy has never been one of her priorities. She may be a progressive hero on some domestic issues, but there is no reason to assume that she shares progressive criticisms of Clinton’s record across the board. Linker then rationalizes this by saying that she probably hasn’t thought about these things very much, as if that were a good defense when arguing for her to seek the presidency. It is almost guaranteed that a first-term senator who hasn’t given much thought to foreign policy would be politically cautious on these issues to a fault, and if that senator doesn’t have much of a background in these issues that would make her that much more likely to defer to “centrist” hawks in her party. To the extent that Warren is perceived to be a progressive on foreign policy, she would probably have to go out of her way to “reassure” Democratic hawks by copying many of their positions.

There’s no question that the Democrats need to have some challengers to run against Clinton, and ideally they would nominate someone less beholden to Wall Street and much less inclined to meddle overseas, but the focus on Warren is misplaced. It distracts much-needed attention from the would-be presidential candidates that Democrats actually have available. If Warren were somehow lured into doing what some of her fans claim to want, it would be a huge waste of her time and would make her a less effective advocate for her preferred causes in the Senate. One might almost think that all the “draft Warren” enthusiasm was a clever way to keep anti-Clinton Democrats preoccupied with a fantasy so that they neglect the real alternatives.

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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