The Atlanticist

In “The Warrior and the Priest” Ramesh Ponnuru contrasts Senator Hillary Clinton’s and Senator Barack Obama’s core support. I suppose it is fair to describe Obama as a “secular priest” of sorts.

For secular, left-leaning and some not so left-leaning, affluent white Americans, supporting Obama is an exercise in moral narcissism, affirming they are good people. They wear their Obama support on their sleeves as a badge of that goodness. For a great many it’s about sentiment, not policy. And, just as they eagerly share that they’ve installed solar panels and drive a hybrid, Chablis in hand Marin and San Francisco elites gush over Obama. The black American vote is more straightforward. It has been owned lock, stock and barrel by the Democrats since WW2. Why do most blacks support Obama over Democrat stalwart Clinton? Identify politics. His skin is brown. Hers isn’t.

The next leader of the free world may well be decided by this infantile political dynamic. In the general election McCain’s conservative support will be less than enthusiastic and many independents and Lincoln Chaffee Republicans will be susceptible to the Obama spell.

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  1. I wonder what do you think, which candidate would strengthen most on the transatlantic relationship? I tried to make out what the ten candidates wrote about foreign policy and climate change, but did not get very far. It seems that the three moderate mainstraem candidates, McCain, Clinton and Obama do not differ to much from this point of view, especially not on climate change. In Obama’s foreign policy essay you hardly find anything on the transatlantic relationship, apart from such trivial statements like “We should pursue an integrated strategy that reinforces our troops in Afghanistan and works to remove the limitations placed by some NATO allies on their forces”.

  2. Adaniel,

    Concerning the notion anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a primary cause of global warming and further that they pose an existential threat to mankind, you are absolutely right. There is little difference between Senators Obama, Clinton and McCain.

    However, their positions on nuclear power are light years apart. While Obama refuses to categorically rule out nuclear power, he says it needs further study. Clinton describes herself as an agnostic. Whatever they really think, both are unwilling to cross America’s Green activists who are pathologically hostile to nuclear power. In stark contrast, McCain is a vocal nuclear power partisan and rarely misses an opportunity to tout it as a key part of a national energy policy.

    None of the three candidates have made transatlantic relations a signature issue.

    But, on the foreign policy front, differences between Obama and Clinton on the one hand and McCain on the other are large and consequential. Clinton and particularly Obama put great stock in the importance, efficacy and goodness of the United Nations and other international organizations. While McCain is not expressly hostile to the U.N. – as a great many Americans are, he has spoken of the need for a global organization of like-minded democratic countries that believe in the rule of law, possibly expanding NATO to include Israel, India, Australia, Japan, et al.

    McCain explicitly recognizes global Islamist jihadism is an existential threat to the West. Neither Clinton nor Obama do. Both talk of terrorism as a criminal justice issue, certainly not as a transcendent menace animated by resurgent Islamist ideology.

    McCain is an unabashed free trader. While Clinton has tried to hedge her rhetoric a bit, both Obama and Clinton have shamelessly pandered to hard-core protectionists.


  3. Well, thank you for the long reply!

    I think the McCain proposal would go down very well in Central Europe, actually current Czech, Polish and Hungarian presidents have similar proposals. We had to live under Soviet-imposed dictators for four decades and people see how ruining it was. Lacking rule of law not only hearts when you are stripped from your liberties – it has a devastating effect on society and economy decades after you start to cultivate it again. Such proposals do not go very far in the EU. It is Václav Havel’s yearly duty to remind the EU that Cuban regime is not cool at all.

    I think the public opinion is very divided in the EU. While the Czech Republic and Poland are participating in the new US-initiated missile-shield and they name places after Ronald Reagen, Western Europeans are very much Democratic-leaning in American issues and do not take regional defence very seriously.

    What you write about free trade is really worrying. I think that the US and EU will be the biggest losers if they let the Doha Round die in WTO yet it seems that the two current biggest economic blocks cannot form a stable cooperation.

    I still wonder what the EU will do with Islam. Some European countries have a much bigger exposure to Islam radicalism than the US is (at least on the home front) and I think that the politics, the policy and the public attitude is slowly forming in Europe. I don’t think that anybody would treat this issue either as a criminal justice issue or as an existential threat in Europe, but the European public can turn very nasty and intolerant.

    I think that Obama and McCain have been Europe’s favorite candidates in the primaries, but in this order. Not as if we had a vote, but I guess Europeans should know more about the policy issues in the US.

  4. I hate to break it to you, but two things are at play here:

    1) transatlantic relations really don’t matter very much to Americans. We expect nothing but passivity and occasional obstruction from governments (most of the 28 of them that overlap the zone, and the myriad of alphabet soup talking-shop operations populated by them to enhance their leverage). From the population, we expect little more than the usual sort of hatred and belittlement that has always been there – before GWB, and will still be there afterward.

    2) very simply – you don’t vote in the US. There is absolutely no reason for a candiate to form any sort of international message right now that isn’t meant to simply look like one, but is actually directed at their potential voters.

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