In case it wasn’t clear from Noah’s post how grumpy Obamaworld is these days about foreign-policy criticism, here’s a vivid intramural example. Remember this bit from Hillary’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg?
JG: Is the lesson for you, like it is for President Obama, “Don’t do stupid shit”?
HRC: That’s a good lesson but it’s more complicated than that. Because your stupid may not be mine, and vice versa. I don’t think it was stupid for the United States to do everything we could to remove Qaddafi because that came from the bottom up. That was people asking us to help. It was stupid to do what we did in Iraq and to have no plan about what to do after we did it. That was really stupid. I don’t think you can quickly jump to conclusions about what falls into the stupid and non-stupid categories. That’s what I’m arguing…
JG: I think that defeating fascism and communism is a pretty big deal.
HRC: That’s how I feel! Maybe this is old-fashioned. Okay, I feel that this might be an old-fashioned idea—but I’m about to find out, in more ways than one.
Great nations need organizing principles, and “Don’t do stupid stuff” is not an organizing principle. It may be a necessary brake on the actions you might take in order to promote a vision.
Fast-forward a few days. This appeared at the top of Axelrod’s Twitter feed earlier this morning, conveniently shorn of any context for maximum deniability of who the target is:
Just to clarify: "Don't do stupid stuff" means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 12, 2014
I … did not expect to see big-name Democratic strategists needling the party’s next nominee over her biggest foreign policy liability in a public forum, but maybe Ax figures he has nothing to lose. He’s not going to have a role in a new Clinton administration; his crime against the throne in steering Obama to victory over her six years ago is too great to be forgiven. He’s better off protecting his and O’s legacy, he probably figures, by reminding a skeptical base that she voted for “Bush’s war” while Obama opposed it.
Just one really obvious problem with that logic, though. Jake Tapper, who normally stays out of political food fights on Twitter, couldn’t resist the obvious counterpoint:
Hmmmmm and can you think of any former senators/secretaries of state who voted to do that? https://t.co/wV39HaJ228
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 12, 2014
O’s inner circle was and is a who’s who of believers in “stupid sh*t.” His first Secretary of State voted for war in Iraq, as did her successor (who was, by the way, the party’s nominee for president in 2004). So did his handpicked VP. Obama’s never been as remotely perturbed by support for the war as the passionate lefties to whom he pandered successfully in 2008. In fact, my pal Karl dug up this clip from his candidate days, in which Tim Russert grilled him on whether he might have voted for the war himself had he been in the Senate at the time. Does anyone seriously doubt that he would have? I know, I know — he gave a speech opposing the war in 2002, when he was a state senator. I’m willing to grant that that was his heartfelt position; what I’m asking is, would he have voted for the war anyway? Would he have given that speech if he was already a U.S. Senator eyeing a run for the presidency down the line? Electoral politics were surely a factor in Hillary’s, Kerry’s, and Biden’s votes for the war; they all ended up running for president later, which means they were probably already mulling it at the time of the vote. Go figure that they sided with the majority when support for the war was well over 60 percent. And of course, with gay marriage, we already have a famous example of Obama concealing his true position on a hot-button issue because he thought it was too risky in a general election. There’s no good reason to think he would have resisted doing “stupid sh*t” if he thought it would benefit him politically. When has he ever?