The March of Centrism

Look, I won’t dispute that Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates are centrist foreign policy figures, and I understand the point Ezra is trying to make here, but I still think this needs some push back.

Conversely, Obama’s foreign policy picks have been aggressively centrist. Obama ran against Clinton’s conventional foreign policy instincts in the primary, but is ready to elevate her to secretary of state. And all reporting suggests that Robert Gates may well remain as secretary of defense. Both may be good choices, but they’re a sharp break with the campaign’s primary posturing.

There is some element of truth to this inasmuch as Clinton might staff the State Department with her people, but Ezra only applies half of the observation that positions in the primary are “impossible to disentangle [from those] motivated by principle and which by politics.” That is, it’s very likely that Clinton and Obama feel the same way about Iraq, it’s probably just that Hillary was forced to defend her vote for the war because politicians generally assume that stubborn adherence to the Jedi Mind Trick strategy of communication is better than admitting error. This is especially true if a pillar of your campaign is the superior wisdom granted by experience as was Hillary’s. Meanwhile, it’s also true that if your campaign is running against someone who posits their incorrect position on Iraq as a good thing, you would probably elevate the significance of your opposition to the war, as did Obama. Anyway, in light of the fact that the presumed foreign policy appointees are quite amicable to the ideas outlined by Obama during the campaign it’s really more likely that Clinton is politically breaking to the left than Obama is breaking to the right.

The other alternative — which is far less popular in the media and I also believe to be correct — is that the center itslef has shifted, and thus, “centrist” politicians representing views that were previously left of center are still adorned by the coveted the mantle of centrism.


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