Monday, January 12, 2009

Kristol Blue Persuasion

William Kristol is simply delighted that Barack Obama isn’t sounding like the socialistic fist-bumping terrorist Muslim baby-killer radical that performs same-sex marriages while having tea with Fidel Castro.

And he seems to be going for the no-dramatic-change-in-policy-in-the-White-House alternative as well. Consider Obama’s reaction when George Stephanopoulos played a clip of Dick Cheney counseling Obama not to implement his campaign rhetoric until he’s fully briefed on the details of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policy.

“I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what’s going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn’t be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric. So I’ve got no quibble with that particular quote,” said Obama. Usually, presidents pretend their campaign positions are more than “campaign rhetoric.” Not Obama.

Obama did note that he differs with Cheney on “some things that we know happened,” including waterboarding. And he did reiterate his pledge to close Guantánamo. But he warned that it was “more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” explaining that while he was committed to the rule of law, he wasn’t interested “in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”

And at one point he returned, unbidden, to the much-maligned vice president, commenting, “I thought that Dick Cheney’s advice was good.”

And he notes with approval that Mr. Obama said that as president he will wake up every morning with the safety and security of the United States as his first priority. Well, that’s a relief, because we all thought that it was spinning around in the big leather chair in the Oval Office or playing Halo on the NSA computers in the Situation Room.

It’s particularly ironic that Mr. Kristol, along with Cokie Roberts on NPR and Stuart Taylor at Newsweek, are so relieved that the new administration might learn something from what the Bush administration has done since in 2001 the Bush/Cheney people did everything they could to assiduously avoid doing anything or taking any advice from the outgoing Clinton administration. In fact, they bragged about it, considering that anything from the previous eight years was tainted… or stained, as it were. So out with anything that had to do with intelligence regarding al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, or financial policies that gave us a budget surplus, or climate change. Theirs was a new administration, determined to change the tone in Washington and bring about a “humble” foreign policy that avoided nation-building and respected the rights of the citizens, and above all, restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office.

I know it rankles some people, including some commentators that I respect a great deal, that Mr. Obama sounds like he may be drifting to some wishy-washy “centrism” for the purpose of making a smooth transition. We shall see, but I also remember a similar complaint about Franklin Roosevelt who, according to one observer would listen to both Democrats and Republicans and said “Fine! Fine!” to any of their ideas about how to end the Depression… and then went ahead with his plans for the New Deal. To paraphrase Lerner and Loewe from My Fair Lady,

He will beg you for advice;
Your reply will be concise.
He will listen very nicely
Then go out and do precisely
What he wants.