The Clinton-Bush Overlap II

David Brooks has another perceptive column today - on the very different temperaments of the two candidates left in the Democratic race:

The implicit Clinton argument is that politics is an inherently nasty business. Human nature, as she said Sunday, means that progress comes only through conquest. You’d better elect a leader who can intimidate. You’d better elect someone who has given herself permission to be brutal.

Obama’s campaign grows out of the longstanding reform tradition. His implicit argument is that politics doesn’t have to be this way. Dishonesty and brutality aren’t inevitable; they’re what gets in the way. Obama’s friend and supporter Cass Sunstein described the Obama ideal in The New Republic: “Obama believes that real change usually requires consensus, learning and accommodation.”

That’s regarded as naïve drivel in parts of Camp Clinton.

Temperamentally, I'm much more like Clinton, and admire pugnacity in politics, if carefully honed. But in our current post-9/11, post-Iraq debacle world, which approach is likely to benefit the US more in foreign policy? Here's Fareed, a chastened interventionist like so many of us, reflecting on the challenges of this moment. From Kakutani's review:

In his new book, “The Post-American World,” Mr. Zakaria writes that America remains a politico-military superpower, but “in every other dimension industrial, financial, educational, social, cultural the distribution of power is shifting, moving away from American dominance.”

With the rise of China, India and other emerging markets, with economic growth sweeping much of the planet, and the world becoming increasingly decentralized and interconnected, he contends, “we are moving into a post-American world, one defined and directed from many places and by many people.”

One core reason I believe we are lucky to have Obama at this moment in history is that he not only has the potential to calm some of the polarizing paralysis on our domestic politics - the kind of red-blue culture war that has made it very hard to focus on pragmatic solutions to pressing problems - but because his approach and biography make possible a new un-Bush reorientation to the rest of the world.

If you want another "with us or against us" president, a resurgence of aggression as the chief weapon of US foreign policy, then Clinton and McCain are your candidates. If you think we need a new direction - one that is less defensive, less force-oriented, more interested in dialogue, Obama is the obvious choice. There are times for both impulses. The question is: after eight years of Bush-Cheney, what is right for the US now?