THE PLANK NOVEMBER 19, 2008
Ross Douthat has a smart post on the incoming president's political strategy:
Here's a fearless prediction: On an awful lot of issues, the Obama foreign policy will end cutting to the right of Bill Clinton's foreign policy, which was already more center-left than left. Even with the GOP brand in the toilet, Republicans are still trusted as much or more than Dems on foreign policy, mostly for somewhat nebulous "toughness" reasons. So why give the Right a chance to play what's just about its only winning card ...And with his right flank safely guarded (assuming, of course, that Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran doesn't become his Administration's Iraq), he'll have that much more political for the big-ticket goals that will guarantee his place in the liberal pantheon - universal health care, a New Deal for energy policy, a succession of young liberal judges who will tilt the Supreme Court leftward for a generation, etc. Among right-wing hawks, there will be strange-new-respectful talk about Obama's centrist instincts, his Scoop Jackson-ish tendencies, his Reaganesque blend of idealism, pragmatism and strength. Meanwhile, the rest of the right-wing coalition will be getting steamrolled.
I think this may well be Obama's play. I do think, however, that conservative hawks are much more partisan than Douthat thinks they are. Obama won't win the conservative punditry regardless of what he does, but he can win the public on foreign policy.