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Obama makes his case?

By Thomas E. Brewton
web posted May 26, 2008

Barack ObamaPeter S. Canellos, the left-wing Boston Globe's Washington bureau chief, in his National Perspective column for May 20, 2008, depicts Senator Barack Obama as a bold and even heroic voice for sound foreign policy.

Despite the headline – "Obama makes case for diplomacy, loud and clear" – the writer reports only Senator Obama's now familiar, vacuous phrases eschewing military force and relying exclusively upon diplomatic negotiations.  Most of Mr. Canellos's column instead concerns Senator Obama's ripostes to thrusts from Senators Clinton and McCain.  The Senator may have dealt effectively with the political debate, but that hardly vindicates what amounts to appeasement of thugs like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.

Mr. Canellos writes:

Barack Obama may still be proposing policies that strike conservatives as weak and foolish. But after his aggressive response to President Bush's apparent criticisms of his foreign policies last week, it's clear that he's doing so in a forceful and politically savvy way.

Obama's approach to foreign policy - which emphasizes negotiations more than threats of military action - first emerged as a campaign issue last summer, when Hillary Clinton was looking to show off her expertise and make Obama look like a neophyte...

"Strong countries and strong presidents meet and talk with our adversaries," Obama said at an Aug. 19 debate. "We shouldn't be afraid to do so. We've tried the other way. It didn't work."

...Obama is trying to argue for a kind of muscular liberalism - that by being more open to the world, and more credible as a negotiating partner, the United States can achieve greater safety and security.

There you have it, folks.   Muscular liberalism is being open to the world and credible, whatever that may mean in practice. 

Perhaps it means Democrat/Socialists in Congress approving fast-track trade negotiations with Colombia, then stiff-arming that nation by failing to honor their promise to bring the trade agreement to a speedy vote.  Perhaps the Senator believes that torpedoing our major trading partners by reneging on our negotiating commitments will, in a muscular way, build the diplomatic credibility of the United States.

In any event, muscular liberalism is depressingly flabby compared to the approach of our first liberal-progressive President, Teddy Roosevelt.  Teddy is famous for the foreign policy admonition that we should speak softly, but carry a big stick. 

In his 1904 State of the Union message, Teddy announced the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine: "Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society...may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to exercise an international police power."  In various Latin American trouble spots, Teddy didn't hesitate to send in America Marines to quell revolutions and to take control of local government operations to protect what he conceived to be American interests. 

While such conduct is hardly recommendable, it is decisively true that the rest of the world, for the first time, began to take the United States seriously in foreign affairs and to tread lightly whenever their actions might infringe upon our national interests.

An enduring effect of his activism was that Teddy became the model for his young cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Both had been marinated in the exhilarating and then novel doctrines of socialism while at Harvard.  According to liberal-progressive historian Samuel Eliot Morison (The Oxford History of the American People), Teddy had long been radical in his domestic policy views.

In his 1912 Bull Moose Party campaign for the Presidency, Morison wrote,

[Teddy's] ideas, clarified and systematized as the "New Nationalism," included...the relatively new conception of social justice - the reconstruction of society by political action...He declared that the rich man "holds his wealth subject to the general right of the community to regulate its business use as the public welfare requires," and that the police power of the state should be broadened to embrace all necessary forms of regulation.

Teddy would have approved Senator Obama's socialistic program of higher taxes, greater regulation, price controls, and deficit spending to redistribute income.  But Teddy would have taken one look at the foreign policy sensitivity of Senator Obama and his liberal-progressive colleagues and dismissed them as a bunch of spineless namby-pambies. ESR

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is The View From 1776. Email comments to viewfrom1776@thomasbrewton.com.


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