Pakistan and the American Presidency

JPod, on Bhutto and the American presidential election:

American politics would dearly love to take a holiday from history, just as it did in the 1990s. But our enemies are not going to allow us to do so. The murder of Bhutto moves foreign policy, the war on terror, and the threat of Islamofascism back into the center of the 2008 campaign. How candidates respond to it, and issues like it that will come up in the next 10 months, will determine whether they are fit for the presidency.

This seems to be the conventional wisdom on the domestic political fallout of Bhutto's assassination, with the obvious corollary being that the turmoil in Pakistan helps those candidates running on foreign-policy experience (i.e. McCain and Hillary, and possibly even Biden) and hurts the candidates running on domestic-policy change (Obama, Huckabee, and arguably Romney). This view of the situation is probably right, but it seems worth airing an alternative possibility: That yesterday's tragedy, which leaves the Bush Administration's delicate plans for stabilizing to Pakistan in fragments, will prompt at least some voters to view America's attempts at managing the affairs of complex, chaotic, and far-off nations - places about which even the McCains and Bidens of the D.C. community presumably know relatively little - not as a hard duty that requires toughness and experience, but as a folly to be avoided.

"How candidates respond" to Bhutto's assassination, JPod suggests, should determine their fitness for the Oval Office. Well, all the leading contenders have responded, and all of them have dodged, in one fashion or another, any strategic question about where U.S. policy should go from here, beyond platitudinous references to supporting democracy and opposing terror. Not that I blame them: Our Pakistan problem is a vexatious question, ill-suited to being addressed in sound bites and press releases. But it's precisely because it's so impossibly vexatious, and likely to remain so no matter who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania, that the news from Rawalpindi fleetingly inspired me to greater sympathy not for "ready to lead" politicians like John McCain or Hillary Clinton, but for the "come home, America" candidacy of one Dr. Ron Paul.