Obama's Progressive Critique

I've gotten some pushback from Obama supporters for my less-than-enthusiastic response to his foreign policy messaging in this piece. And, indeed, there's a pretty strong section of his stump speech:

I am running for President because I am sick and tired of democrats thinking that the only way to look tough on national security is by talking, and acting, and voting like George Bush Republicans.

When I am this party's nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq; or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that we don't like. And he will not be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it is ok for America to torture - because it is never ok. That's why I am in it.

This is, I think, a great criticism of Hillary Clinton and it nicely expresses the key set of reasons why I'd rather see Obama be the nominee. But that said, this is still all pretty meta -- it's talking about how he'd talk about foreign policy, or talking about which things can and can't be said about him. A primary campaign has plenty of space for that kind of thing, but in a general election one does need to directly engage with Republican arguments. Now I know that one of Obama's quirks is that, for the purposes of the primary, he does much less direct Bush-bashing than one would expect and the foreign policy section of his speech reflects that. And if that's the choice he wants to make, that's the choice he wants to make. But it still does leave me sitting here a bit nervous about what the argument will look like when he's up against a Republican.

All that said, as I've said several times before, I think he's been clearly superior to Clinton on foreign policy issues throughout the campaign.