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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, September 01, 2003


International experience

posted by G at Monday, September 01, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
We here at Dean Nation try very hard to stay positive. We fervently believe that to win the nomination and the presidency we simply need to be sure that the true Howard Dean is heard, over the furious sounds of spinning from the White House, the DLC and other candidates. Our unofficial policy is to never attack other candidates, but to respond when our man is slammed. Today offers such a case.

In appearances Sunday, Kerry said, "Howard Dean has zero experience in international affairs. The presidency is not the place for on-the-job training in this new security world." According to Time Magazine, his "favorite applause line of late" is "I learned something about aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin — I learned about them for real."

So how about it? Is this a weakness for Dean? As a former governor, Dean's international experience is on the same level of that of Presidents Clinton and Reagan at the time they took office. It is vastly greater than that of aWol, who had only traveled outside the country three times before being elected (if I remember correctly, once to visit his dad in China, once to Mexico, and once to Europe for a governors' conference.) As chairman of the National Governors' Association and the Democratic National Governors' Association, Dean has traveled widely, visiting over 50 countries. He offhandedly noted at the Harkin forum that he is the only candidate of either party to personally know the new president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner.

Dean has layed out a comprehensive foreign policy vision much broader than anything offered by any other candidates. So Kerry's suggestion that Dean doesn't know enough or have enough ideas about international policy is demonstrably false.

If Kerry means to say that the problem is that Dean doesn't have any experience conducting foreign policy at the national level, as opposed to the extensive state-to-state contacts he did with the NGA, OK, fair enough, but then who does? Except in a very limited capacity, senators don't conduct foreign policy. Other than those who'd been vice president, the only president I can recall with any experience carrying out foreign policy was George I, who was ambassador to the UN 1971-72.

The real question, of course, is not whether Dean has "experience" in international affairs, but whether he will be a competent and thoughtful leader on the world stage. Every sign suggests that he will.

With Kerry, I have strong doubts. Every time he mentions the Gulf of Tonkin, there must be some part of his brain that remembers that it was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, justified based on a non-existent attack on an American boat in the Gulf, that gave LBJ carte blanche to go ahead full throttle in Vietnam.

What is truly disheartening is that despite all his military service and his brave turn against the Vietnam war as a vet, when it came time to vote for the Iraq war resolution, he seems to have forgotten everything that Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin should have taught him.

Kerry's position on the Iraq war now, as a best as I can make it out, seems to be that it was a bad idea in retrospect but he voted for it because he was fooled by the president's lies. I wasn't fooled. Dean wasn't fooled. Millions of people in the U.S. and around the world weren't fooled. So is Kerry's international "experience" the kind we want the next president to have?

UPDATE: The folks at JUSIPER discuss this in the 2nd installment of their 4 part series "How Dean Can Win."

UPDATE 2: Upon further digging, I found that in 2000 Bush's campaign claimed his overseas trips included Mexico plus China to visit his dad, Gambia on official visit while his dad was president, the Mideast for a governors' conference, with a stopover in Italy to visit his daughter. In 2001 a Bush spokesperson made vague claims of other travel as well. The NY Times reported that his “overseas experience was pretty much limited to trying to date Chinese women (unsuccessfully) during a visit to Beijing in 1975.”


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.