I don't think it's terribly controversial or clever or naive to posit that sometimes an elected official's understanding of good politics will conflict with her understanding of good policy; that sometimes a politician will have to choose between the two; and that sometimes including when the stakes are highest politicians choose against political advantage. In Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes, Clinton asserts credibly, I think that he acted against his short-term political interest in the Mexican bailout, the Aristide restoration, and the bombing of Serb targets in Bosnia; he also confesses that he was unwilling to expend the necessary political capital to reverse a policy he considered stupid, the Cuban embargo. I think George W. Bush is also credible in asserting that he placed the national interest as he perceived it against the short-term interests of his party. I think these points are so self-evident that I suspect Bernstein will claim that I've oversimplified or misrepresented his presentation of the relationship between politics and policy. And it may be so but not in the posts I cited.
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