A working class hero is something to be ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Both Tom Edsall of HuffPo, here, and The Wall Street Journal, here, take a look at Obama and Hillary's foreign policy advisers and try to draw conclusions about what the personalities mean for a future presidency. While many of them served in the Clinton administration, and most of them serve in respectable Democrat-oriented think tanks, universities, and investment banks, as out-of-power Democratic foreign policy advisers have traditionally done, I think it's fair to say that here Clinton really would be Clinton II and if you liked that, you'll like this. It's the Democratic Establishment, for better and for worse. Obama's faces are fresher and more open to questioning the verities of the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations. It's not that they define themselves in opposition to these places; it's just that they are less invested in the kinds of analyses that have traditionally defined bipartisan Establishment thinking. If the secretary of state is not Holbrooke, it'll be Biden. You could do far worse, and believe me, we have. (The Republicans abandoned their bipartisans long ago, and its members had to either fight or switch. Most switched, and ended up lending their legitimacy to the Bush debacle until its debacle-like qualities were evident to all.)

Obama's refusal to endorse the war, his early embrace of Samantha Power during his first year in the Senate and his association with Sarah Sewall and Larry Korb, mentioned above, speak extremely well both of his self-confidence and his willingness to look at problems anew. An Obama presidency may have a steeper learning curve than a Clinton presidency in foreign policy, but it may learn more worthwhile things. (I wish I could include Edwards in this post, but I have no idea who his foreign policy advisers are, and after reading his Foreign Affairs piece, I'm still not sure what he thinks our foreign policy ought to be, except different ...)

Meanwhile, while I both like and admire Hillary, and have no doubts whatever that she'd make a highly competent president, I find it harder to "forgive" her support for the war than do many other liberals because I've still not heard a convincing answer from her about what's she's learned not to do next time. It's one thing to make a mistake that leads to the worst strategic catastrophe in the history of this country. I suppose anyone can do that. But if you do, you have to say what you know now that you didn't know then, and if all it is the fact that the Bush administration is peopled by lying extremist incompetents, well, that's not good enough, because you certainly should have known that. And you should also have had the courage to say so at the time, when it mattered.

I went to an enormously moving event last night at the Morgan Library for the premiere of HBO's Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq. It's a film by James Gandolfini in which he interviews 10 badly injured young veterans who are home from the Iraq war, and it was both painful and exhilarating to watch. Since I think almost all of them were there -- their names are Sgt. Bryan Anderson, Cpl. Jonathan Bartlett, Spc. Crystal Davis, 1st Lt. Dawn Halfaker, Cpl. Michael Jernigan, Staff Sgt. John Jones, Pvt. Dexter Pitts, Sgt. Eddie Ryan, Cpl. Jacob Schick, and Staff Sgt. Jay Wilkerson -- we could applaud their courage in person. Watching a legless father go ice-skating with his two kids, among many other such scenes of courage, grit, and determination, restores your faith in humanity in a fashion that few things I have ever seen have ever done. At the same time, watching and listening to the struggles they've been forced to undertake all because of the lying, extremism, and incompetence of this administration and the cowardice of its enablers in the media is infuriating beyond words, particularly when you remember that including the Iraqis themselves, these stories need to be multiplied by the hundreds of thousands.

The event was wonderful, however, because of the honor that was shown to these people, and because Gandolfini and HBO corralled virtually the entire Sopranos cast to come and this gave the heroes of the film a chance to feel themselves admired and appreciated by people whom they must have understood were cultural icons, even if they never heard of the rest of us. Kudos to everyone involved at HBO.

The Spine, the gift that keeps on giving: Has Marty Peretz reached a new height in conflict-of-interest log-rolling? You be the judge. Personally, I would not have thought it possible that he would dare write a shameless plug of Ruth Wisse without mentioning the fact that the lady in question happens also to be, in fact, the "Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature" at Harvard. But once again, I would have been wrong.

I realize it's not much of an honor, but it's there, and you can hardly argue that you didn't have the space to mention it on a blog, for goodness sake. (Does Marty have no friends at all to save him from himself?)

I would be dishonest if I pretended to have had high hopes, ever, for the Politico, but I never expected it to be as awful as this. If there's anything the world did not need right now, it's more unsourced, ad hominem, evidenceless attacks on unnamed "critics" of the kind of Washington conventional wisdom that has saddled the country with the worst leadership we've ever had.

But I guess someone disagrees.... Anyway, here's some old Alterman on Broder.

All hail Josh Marshall, genuine savior of journalism and a hero of sorts; the Izzy Stone comparison is actually apt. If you visit the Café wing of Josh's many mansions today, you'll find a symposium on Todd Gitlin's new book, called The Bulldozer and the Big Tent, about the current state of the Democrats, et al, and also both Todd and MJ Rosenberg musing on whether Bush intends to attack Iran. Again, the genius of this administration is to be so awful in so many ways no one can keep up with them. Attacking Iran. Can you imagine how awful that will be when they strike back in a way Iraq never could?

Shorter Yglesias: Bush not as competent as Stalin.

We were disappointed with Vanity Fair's story on Gore and the media yesterday, so we should mention that we remain thrilled that they found a place for Don Bartlett and James Steele and when Time decided they could not afford them. Here are the fruits of VF's investment: "Billions over Baghdad," here.

(Not a bad cover, either, guys.)

From our sponsors: When it comes to news from Iraq, the disconnect continues to widen between American news consumers and the mainstream media. On average during the summer, 31 percent paid very close attention to the situation in Iraq, making it far and away the hottest news topic throughout the season. Yet on average, the situation in Iraq represented just 4.5 percent of the overall news coverage. Read more here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Geraldo
Hometown: Winnipeg

Charles McEniry simply does not understand that companies must maintain an annual "status" payment that helps to inflate the value of the company's stock simply by being attached to the company. This Company Expense Obligation can cost from several hundred thousand to up to 600 million dollars annually. Although the Company Expense Obligation may not affect the actual performance of the company, shareholders believe that the more money the Company Expense Obligation costs the company, the more valuable the stock.

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT

Eric,

With all due respect to Mr. Pierce (and that is a very great amount indeed), Jefferson's "self-evident" in the preamble of our Declaration does not mean "obvious," it means "clear to the rational process." In other words, he was pointing out that the radical assertions to follow were not derived from Faith or Emotion, but from Reason.

Name: Chris Marshall
Hometown: Durham, NC

Awhile back you recommended James P. Young's book, Reconsidering American Liberalism, which caused me to dig it out of my library and reread it -- an exercise that turned out to be well worth it. Could you recommend a book that you have found particularly valuable for understanding the methodology of the study of history? I'm thinking less of a classic work like Collingwood and more along the lines of a smart, relatively recently published survey, kind of like Young's book or perhaps an edited volume with several contributors.

Eric replies: Thanks for asking, and let me recommend, in the strongest possible terms, Peter Novick's That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession, one of the most impressive works of intellectual history I've ever read. It's not that recent, though.

Name: Dave Lytle
Hometown: Madison WI

The line in the President's speech about the US Military being the greatest force for human liberation is nothing more than "White Man's Burden" from the early 1900's. In the past I believe that the President made reference to "brown skin" being a reason some people didn't want to help Iraq.

Let's face it. Iraq doesn't want what we have (republican democracy), although we want what they have (oil). It's time to come to some sort of end to this folly and redeploy before we don't have a military.

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