Iraq, change, and Hillary

A lot of the blogosphere is awash in discussions of change and how the different Democratic candidate

By Alec Brandon

A lot of the blogosphere is awash in discussions of change and how the different Democratic candidates approach change (here, here, here, and here are a couple of tastes). The problem is that everyone is talking about change in domestic policy and the candidates almost entirely agree on domestic policy. Everyone wants to reform to the health care system, reform the tax code, repeal NCLB, etc. The candidates only differ in how they present these proposals, but honestly, who cares?As someone (I don’t recall who) pointed out, Bush presented himself as a compassionate conservative in 2000. So yeah, presentation has very little to do with the end result.But, something that can give you an idea of a candidate are the people they listen to. Frank Rich does a great job of parsing through who Obama is listening to and who Hillary is listening to on foreign policy.To summarize, Hillary claims to be some sort of change agent but that doesn’t really seem to gel with the people she has hired on foreign policy:

Mrs. Clinton’s current team was less prescient. Though it includes one of the earlier military critics of Bush policy, Gen. Wesley Clark, he is balanced by Gen. Jack Keane, an author of the Bush “surge.” The Clinton campaign’s foreign policy and national security director is a former Madeleine Albright aide, Lee Feinstein, who in November 2002 was gullible enough to say on CNBC that “we should take the president at his word, which is that he sees war as a last resort” — an argument anticipating the one Mrs. Clinton still uses to defend her vote on the Iraq war authorization.In late April 2003, a week before “Mission Accomplished,” Mr. Feinstein could be found on CNN saying that he was “fairly confident” that W.M.D. would turn up in Iraq. Asked if the war would be a failure if no weapons were found, he said, “I don’t think that that’s a situation we’ll confront.” Forced to confront exactly that situation over the next year, he dug in deeper, co-writing an essay for Foreign Affairs (available on its Web site) arguing that “the biggest problem with the Bush pre-emption strategy may be that it does not go far enough.”

This is particularly interesting to me because one of the reasons people might be forgetting about this major policy distinction is that things in Iraq are actually improving.In the past, every time there was a story of violence in Iraq, the Obama camp could play up their Iraq war credentials. As Iraq has faded from the front pages, the debate has become about domestic change which is a major strength of the Hillary campaign. As the primary battle stretches on, it will be interesting to see how the condition of Iraq changes the dynamic of the campaigns.Update: This could be a big reason for the McCain surge lately.