The blogosphere knows Michael O'Hanlon as a liberal hawk who has supported Bush's escalation in Iraq in the most public way possible. What the blogosphere is somewhat less aware of is that Michael O'Hanlon is one of the major foreign policy advisors to Hillary Clinton's campaign (UPDATE: O'Hanlon is not on the paid staff of the Clinton campaign in any way. He seems to be simply a supporter with an informal role that many higher ups in Democratic politics have on many campaigns. The line between adviser and informal supporter is not always clear, however). Now, wink wink nudge nudge, he is praising the three Democratic frontrunners for their flexibility on Iraq:
The top three Democratic White House hopefuls have faced withering criticism for refusing to commit to withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq by 2013, the end of the next presidential term. But at least one prominent war proponent is commending Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards for their newfound "flexibility."
Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and ubiquitous voice on Iraq war policy, spoke favorably of the Democratic frontrunners' recent statements on Iraq. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he touted the top-tier candidates for waiting to see the complete fallout of the President Bush's troop surge and for not committing to a war policy more than a year in advance.
"There is still fifteen months before [Clinton, Obama or Edwards] will be President. It's just factual that they cannot predict exactly what they are going to do in Iraq," O'Hanlon said. "I think the Democratic position allows all three of the top people to move in the Republican direction if things move around in the next twelve months... Clearly they aren't likely to do that unless things get dramatically better."
Which, wink wink nudge nudge, sounds almost exactly like Hillary Clinton (and Barack Obama) when asked about residual forces:
The leading Democratic White House hopefuls conceded Wednesday night they cannot guarantee to pull all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of the next presidential term in 2013.
"I think it's hard to project four years from now," said Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in the opening moments of a campaign debate in the nation's first primary state.
"It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting," added Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
"I cannot make that commitment," said former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
Clearly, Michael O'Hanlon's position is widespread among Democratic foreign policy circles. Clinton and Obama sound exactly like him, in particular. It is also reminiscent of another one of Clinton's
senior foreign policy advisors prominent but informal supporters, Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, who stated that she didn't think Clinton was against the war. Advisors like O'Hanlon and Kennedy have more say over Democratic foreign policy than do tens of millions of Americans combined. They also have more say than the entire Democratic primary electorate, since it appears that Democratic primary voters don't care about details like these when it comes to Iraq (yes, that statement was as bitter as it seemed).
This rather overt, elite fueled non-opposition to the war from leading Democratic contenders is of course extremely disturbing. However, there is another aspect of it that is almost as disturbing. Once again, every single centrist or right-wing idea put out by someone in the DLC-nexus is framed not as the right thing to do, but instead as something that can help Democrats be elected (emphasis mine):
O'Hanlon -- whose New York Times op-ed with colleague Ken Pollack, entitled "A War We Might Just Win," was promoted enthusiastically by supporters of Bush's strategy -- acknowledged that his own views on Iraq fall well to the "right" of the Democratic field. But he praised the presidential frontrunners for resisting a firm pledge on Iraq withdraw, something consistently favored by the majority of Americans in public opinion polls.
"The only thing that would have concerned me would have been a repeat of 2003, where the populist's message of 'get out now' would overtake the Democratic Party... And low and behold we get to the election and Iraq is looking better and low and behold the Democrats lose the election," said O'Hanlon, who has given modestly in the 2008 cycle - two $200 contributions earlier this year to Senator Hillary Clinton.
Winning the election is the only thing that concerns him on Iraq? This is a consistent pattern whenever DLC-nexus types are discussing policy of any sort. First and foremost, the policy is couched in terms of how it will help Democrats win elections. I have been documenting this for a long time. It is demonstrative of just how ideological bankrupt that wing of the party actually is: winning is all that matters.
And they suck at winning, too. It is actually hysterical to see O'Hanlon talk about his only concern being to win the election and, in the same paragraph, talk about the need to resist a "populist's message" in order to do so. Mind-blowing. Someone please explain to me how someone wins an election by shunning popular messages, while simultaneously stating, in public, that their policy positions are created in order to win elections. People love it when you intentionally avoid popular positions, and then tell them that you hold your positions in order to win elections. If someone can think of a dumber and more self-defeating electoral strategy, I'd like to hear it.
Oh wait-I guess it would be dumber to say that you oppose withdrawing troops from Iraq altogether. Even the crappy message I outlined above can beat that one. And thus, many Democrats continue to win despite themselves.
Update: Post updated since O'Hanlon is not on the Clinton campaign's paid staff. However, I still say the relationship between many of these policy types and campaigns is murky, to say the least.