Daniel Henninger has a really brilliant article about the fact that the focus of the Presidential primaries, on both sides of the political divide, is entirely wrong, with form (and the hunt for public humiliation) dominating when substance should matter:
The world beyond America’s borders isn’t dormant; it is a globalized world trembling with problems and troubles that will remain after George Bush leaves office. Iraq’s future, Iran’s bomb, homicidal Islam, conniving North Korea, unhelpful Russia, rising China, booming India, Venezuela’s oil, Mexico’s human export. In our system, these matters are the responsibility of a president. But the campaign is devolving into a campaign about nothing. Rudy’s kids? Hillary’s “apology”? Set against the moment of the office they wish to hold, this is infantile.
Republican candidate policy is unavoidably yoked to the Bush patrimony, more or less. (John McCain is the undisputed master of the art of more or less.) The greater burden of proof falls on the Democratic contenders. The Democratic Party has built opposition to the presidency of George Bush wholly around the war in Iraq. So much so that the Democratic Party’s worldview by now resembles a Steinberg New Yorker cartoon–a wavy circle around Iraq, or even just Baghdad, with nothing beyond but vaporous nation shapes. It’s no accident that their major foreign-policy effort should be “non-binding.”
For the purposes of picking the next president, we should be glad that Democrats have made the presidency itself–its foreign-policy decisions and the use of presidential authority (Guantanamo, wiretapping, the war decision)–the core of their criticism. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are their standard bearers. Logically, one wonders: What do they think a presidency should be? What are their views on the exercise of presidential authority? Let’s find out now, before it’s too late.
Historically, a U.S. president’s tools are two: soft power and hard power. Soft power is diplomacy. Hard power is the military. The question that one wants answered soon is: Have the Democrats become a soft-power-only party? Hillary Clinton especially has berated the Bush presidency for not being willing to “talk” to the likes of Iran and Syria. Reading Democratic foreign-policy intellectuals of late, it is hard to find the conditions under which they would deploy U.S. military resources. The military option may be on the Democrats’ table, but it’s buried beneath a foot-high pile of talking points. Have the Democrats, in their opposition to the Bush Doctrine, forced anyone seeking their nomination into a soft-power-only corner? Someone should ask them.
Read the rest here.
UPDATE: To understand how silly non-issue primaries are, enjoy the first item in today’s Best of the Web.