In the Arena

Why People Hate Columnists

  • Share
  • Read Later

Charles Krauthammer is working on the basis of, like, zero information when he says:

Obama has no intention of being a foreign policy president. Unlike, say, Nixon or Reagan, he does not have aspirations abroad. He simply wants quiet on his eastern and western fronts so that he can proceed with what he really cares about — his domestic agenda.

Actually, my sense was that, prior to the financial crisis, Obama seemed far more interested–personally interested–in foreign policy, in rectifying the massive overseas failures of the Bush Administration, than he was in things like health insurance. Krauthammer–one of those one-idea-at-a-time ideologues–does some mad extrapolation here: because Obama will be a domestic activist, he won’t be a foreign policy activist. Bolshoi. After all, Obama has already said that he’ll give a major speech in an Islamic capital in his first 100 days–a speech that may, or may not, be as important as Reagan’s “Evil Empire” or Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speeches in setting a new diplomatic tone. Obama has plans to use his leverage–and global post-Bushian relief–to change the dynamic in NATO, South Asia and Iran, among other venues. He will surely delegate some of the details of these responsibilities–but unlike Bush, who simply said to his vice president, “You do it,” I suspect that Obama will not only stay abreast of developments, but also relish the nuance of developments. Why? Because he’s intellectually curious. Because he enjoys learning new things and chewing over difficult problems. Because he already is doing so. 

Also, Krauthammer betrays his ignorance of the domestic policy challenges with this tidbit:

Obama claimed, “If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge” — the perfect non sequitur that gives carte blanche to whatever health-care reform and spending the Obama team dreams up. 

But, of course, this is a “non sequitur” only in the minds of hermetically sealed conservative ideologues. Ask General Motors about its ability to compete, given the burdens of the current health insurance system. Ask any economist who knows even the slightest bit about this subject about the “opportunity costs” of locking potential entrepreneurs into uncreative corporate jobs because they don’t want to lose their health insurance. We don’t know that this will happen, but it’s entirely possible that a national health insurance system will have the corollary effect of unleashing a gush of entrepreneurialism. At least, that’s some people’s opinion…and I tend to hope it’s true. But then, I’m not nearly as certain of anything in this world as Krauthammer is about, well, everything.