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Posted by on Oct 31, 2009 in International, Places, Politics, Society, War | 1 comment

John Hannah’s Tone-Deaf Political Strategy

John Hannah is being roundly mocked for his NRO piece today in which he complains that Hillary Clinton is doing harm to U.S. interests abroad by contrasting Pres. Obama’s foreign policies with those of the previous administration, to the latter’s discredit. In her recent trip to Pakistan, Clinton told a group of students that she spent her entire Senate career opposing Bush’s policies, and that the difference between those policies and the Obama administration’s are as different from each other as night from day.

“Does anyone advising President Obama and the secretary of state really believe,” Hannah frets, “that this kind of partisanship and trash-talking abroad about another American president is really going to buy us much long-term goodwill among either our friends or our adversaries? Do they imagine that this sort of thing really helps to advance U.S. national interests?”

TNR’s Michael Crowley’s answer: Hell, yeah, it will!

Personally, I really do think it might buy us longterm goodwill. It’s a fact that people around the world loathed Bush (and Hannah’s former boss), and the foreign policy associated with them. A change of faces in Washington certainly won’t solve all our problems, but I think it can help along the margins. Hillary was, after all, applauded when she said this. If Hannah has a theory about why this harms American interests he might want to offer it, rather than pose rhetorical questions whose answers aren’t as obvious as he seems to presume.

How badly was George W. Bush hated by the end of his two terms in office? Let us not mince words:

By the time he left office, George W. Bush was hideously unpopular among the American people. Indeed, people hated him so much that the public continues to haveextremely low confidence in the political party to which he belonged. Indeed, UFO conspiracy theories are more popular than the Republican Party. But as unpopular as Bush was at home, he was much more unpopular abroad.

Barack Obama’s election has drastically improved the world’s view of America to the extent that the Nobel Committee even saw fit to grant him a premature-seeming Nobel Peace Prize. Under the circumstances, any reasonable representative of American policy would try to emphasize as much as possible that he or she shared the world’s extremely low opinion of Obama’s predecessor and emphasize that whatever you may say about Obama, he’s not George W. Bush.

Spencer Ackerman asks Hannah which he wants more — the attacks on Bush to stop, or Bush’s policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to be continued?

But look: the dirty not-so-secret is, indeed, Barack Obama is continuing the drone war against al-Qaeda in the Pakistani tribal areas that George Bush began. The Taliban’s miscalculations have bought some time in the court of Pakistani public opinion for what remains an unpopular operation. But George Bush remains a despised symbol of American ugliness — thereby presenting a strategic opportunity for the Obama administration. Unless Hannah has suddenly developed some hidden Exumite/Kilcullenish tendencies, he wants the drone war to continue. Well, the short term strategy is obvious: cheer the Obama administration in denouncing Bush! If he doesn’t do that, we should freeze his bank accounts on the suspicion that he’s actually helping al-Qaeda. You know, the Cheney way.