Democratic Convention 2008

The Truman Project

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No, that's not another unwanted movie sequel. It's a three-year-old outfit that bills itself as "the nation's only organization that recruits, trains, and positions a new generation of progressives across America to lead on national security." The idea is political pushback:

For forty years, conservatives have focused their efforts on building human capital. they have poured hundreds of millions into leadership development institutes and universities to train a generation of media-savvy leaders steeped in conservative policy and values, who repeatedly use the issue of national security as their primary weapon against progressives.

Italics theirs, to indicate just how pissed they are about it. Which is actually reflected in one of the biggest early differences between the Democratic Convention in 2008 and those in 2004 and 2000: Democrats seem to be engaging on foreign policy to a much more energetic degree. Right now, I'm sitting in the overflow room for an already large-roomed Truman Project-sponsored foreign policy discussion with former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, and even the overflow room is overflowed. The National Democratic Institute panels are being attended by hundreds; similar gabfests the last two Democratic conventions might be lucky to attract 50 people.

And some of the discussion is good. Danzig, a big Obama foreign policy guy, talks sensibly about the dangers of Bush's "personalization" of relationships with countries such as Pakistan, and warns of John McCain seeing a threat behind every corner. Perry observes that the military has a serious readiness problem.

But. At every foreign policy confab, you will hear the following platitudes:

* We need to restore our leadership in the world.

* The Marshall Plan was awesome.

* We need to rebuild the military.

* We ought not start a new Cold War.

* We need energy security.

Well, yes! And the sky needs to be blue, and the women need to be above-average. You also need to get there, and not just confuse hoped-for results with the policies that produce them.

As an addendum: William Perry pillories George W. Bush for the Russia-Georgia crisis, and says "Russia really wants respect….We start off by treating Russia with respect."

That's not change I can believe in! (More on this topic to come.)