Grandfatherly Bill Tells the Kids about the World

28 Aug

For “foreign policy” night, there wasn’t too much red meat on the foreign policy bone tonight. And, for all of Bill Clinton’s oratorical brilliance and humor, I just cringe to hear in 2008 the same old juxtaposition between nationalism and internationalism.

He will work for an America with more partners and fewer adversaries. He will rebuild our frayed alliances and revitalize the international institutions which help to share the costs of the world’s problems and to leverage our power and influence. He will put us back in the forefront of the world’s fight to reduce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and to stop global warming. He will continue and enhance our nation’s global leadership in an area in which I am deeply involved, the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria, including a renewal of the battle against HIV/AIDS here at home. He will choose diplomacy first and military force as a last resort. But in a world troubled by terror; by trafficking in weapons, drugs and people; by human rights abuses; by other threats to our security, our interests, and our values, when he cannot convert adversaries into partners, he will stand up to them.

“People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” is a catchy pun, but the Republicans can spin it around endlessly and still have an honorable rejoinder.

My fellow Democrats, sixteen years ago, you gave me the profound honor to lead our party to victory and to lead our nation to a new era of peace and broadly shared prosperity.

Together, we prevailed in a campaign in which the Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief. Sound familiar? It didn’t work in 1992, because we were on the right side of history. And it won’t work in 2008, because Barack Obama is on the right side of history.

This fatalistic argument will go nowhere. Firstly, President Clinton did make mistakes due to his lack of foreign policy experience and a cabinet divided between progressives and moderates. Just recall who didn’t reverse decades of bad policy on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It will take more than God and a little international cooperation for the US to grasp how the world is different in 2008. it will take more than humor to deal with more problems with less real power and fewer options. It will take more than unity at home to grapple with a fractious, multipolar world.

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