Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Overcoming President Malaise

David Adesnik (scroll down) at OxBlog isn't old enough to have heard or remembered Jimmy Carter's malaise speech, and apparently it hasn't had a dramatic effect on him in writing. Adesnik makes an interesting point that Carter injected idealism and moral language into American foreign policy after the realism of Nixon and Kissinger. Nevertheless, Adesnik confuses President Malaise with Scoop Jackson. If Carter were the hawk Adesnik makes him out to be, he might have given Reagan a better fight. Carter may have been "idealistic" as Adesnik suggests, but he was a rather pessimistic idealist.

In any case, foreign policy is moving front and center, and the Democrats are finally searching for a new approach -- or trying to reclaim an older, pre-'60's legacy. Perhaps this has something to do with Edwards' showing in Wisconsin. Edwards has no foreign policy experience, but maybe that's better or fresher than Kerry's tired and debilitating liberal pessimism -- or perhaps we could call it Carter-like malaise.

Therapists and counselors like to say that the first step to overcoming a problem is to admit that you have a problem. If one can extrapolate this dictum to political parties, it is possible that we are currently witnessing Democrats slowly, awkwardly taking this first step. Their survival as a party that can legitimately compete for the White House in a dangerous world depends upon it.


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