Not to be outdone, the Clinton campaign* has decided that they too must use Benazir Bhutto’s assassination to attack other presidential candidates, just as the Obama campaign did. Clinton supporter Sen. Evan Bayh had this to say about the Bhutto assassination (H/T: TPM Election Central, TalkLeft):
“When there are unfortunate calamities like this, the Republicans [will say], ‘See. See what we told you? We have to have someone who’s strong to defend America at a time of concern.’ Well, Senator Clinton is strong,” he said. “And she’s experienced. And she’s tough enough to defend this country and do it in a way that’s true to our values, the civil liberties we cherish, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m supporting her.”
Where to even begin? By making this statement, Bayh is legitimizing the Republicans’ claim to national security dominance and cementing the idea that only a war hawk can protect us. He is, in other words, loading the gun for the Republicans to use on Democrats and on the eventual Democratic nominee, even if that nominee is Hillary Clinton. He is equating strength with bad decisions and refusal to apologize for those bad decisions once it’s revealed just how bad they were.
Moreover, Bayh seems to be arguing that a good president, a “tough” president, has to adopt a foreign policy of neoconservatism or cold realism in order to keep America safe. He is dismissing internationalism as a valid foreign policy philosophy. He is, in other words, dismissing those within his own party who believe that the best way to keep America safe is to work with our allies and follow the international rule of law in fighting terrorism and other threats to our national security. Here again, he does the Republicans’ work for them.
Finally, I want to discuss for a moment the notion that Hillary Clinton is somehow stronger on national security than the other Democratic candidates, and especially the idea that she will “defend this country and do it in a way that’s true to our values, the civil liberties we cherish.”
What exactly is it that makes Sen. Clinton so much stronger on national security? For the life of me, the only things I can think of are her votes for the Iraq War and for the resolution that paved the way for war with Iran by declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. If decisions such as these are what supposedly make Sen. Clinton stronger on national security, then I hope Sen. Bayh is joking. Authorizing the Iraq War was a disastrous congressional mistake that has made America less secure. Declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and thus giving Bush legislative space to move toward aggression against Iran could prove even more disastrous.
And what’s this “true to our values, the civil liberties we cherish” business? Let’s not forget, please, that it was the Clinton administration that began the practice of extraordinary rendition, in which detainees are kidnapped and taken to foreign countries to be tortured. It was Bill Clinton who brought us to where we are today, to actually having to argue with each other about whether or not torture is legitimate. Do I trust his wife to be “true to our values, the civil liberties we cherish”? Absolutely not.
Evan Bayh should be ashamed of himself for distorting the merits of Clinton’s candidacy and making her look like some kind of war hawk superhero. He should be doubly ashamed of himself for using Benazir Bhutto’s assassination to attack other Democrats. And in case anyone is keeping score, the Edwards campaign is the only top tier campaign that hasn’t used the Bhutto assassination as a weapon to beat other Democrats with. I’m just sayin’.
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* Yes, I do know that Evan Bayh was not officially speaking for the Clinton campaign. I also know that this is how political campaigns say things they know they shouldn’t be saying – by getting a supporter like Bayh to say it in an unofficial capacity, thus giving them room to distance themselves from the comment if reaction turns too ugly. Anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton isn’t thrilled that Evan Bayh said this is deluding himself.