Don't Call It a Comeback

From the laugh or cry file, comes today's Fred Hiatt column, which to understand properly you need to recall that Hiatt spent years and years insinuating the opponents of the Iraq War were all obviously pacifists or isolationists and probably hated America and freedom besides. Then he reads Barack Obama's Foreign Affairs article, sees that Obama is not an isolationist or a pacificist, and concludes that Obama has the same views as Mitt Romney and his views are also "strikingly similar to Bush administration policy."

Absolutely every point of comparison Hiatt sees between Obama and Bush/Romney, meanwhile, would apply equally to John Edwards or Hillary Clinton. Obama wants to reform the UN! Obama wants to secure loose nuclear material! Obama wants "to defeat al-Qaeda" and says he'll build an alliance to do so! Apparently, there are no foreign policy disagreements between any mainstream political figure in America!

In essence, Hiatt is under assault from straw men of his own devising. Having mischaracterized the opponents of the Bush foreign policy, he's now confronted with what such opponents actually think and concluded that they don't oppose Bush's policy at all. But there's obviously a huge difference between the Bush/Romney approach of defining the United States as locked in endless combat with an amorphous and endlessly-growing set of frightening Muslims and saying you're going to dedicate serious energy to focusing on and targeting al-Qaeda. These aren't just different things, they're opposing sentiments. So, yes, the range of debate from Edwards/Obama to the Bush Republican mainstream is certainly circumscribed, but there are still large and meaningful differences here.