Monday, January 28, 2008

Political Climates

Maybe I have the gift of stating the obvious, and all the world clearly understands that there is such a thing as "the current political climate." Sometimes I wonder, though, because every day I hear comparisons between W and Bill Clinton that completely overlook the differences in the prevailing political climates then and now.

A conversation is unfolding elsewhere about Samantha Power, in which one person observed that Power didn't criticize Clinton for not going into Rwanda and Sudan to stop the genocides. He could have, and he should have. But he didn't, and a primary reason was the political climate. Republicans controlled Congress throughout his presidency, and railed incessantly about his going into Bosnia to stop that genocide. Maybe the criticism would better target those Republicans for creating a political climate that made further overseas interventions more expensive than Clinton's political capital could afford. There hadn't been anything approaching a 9-11. Not even minor attacks on foreign-based US assets can compare. They simply do not have the catalyzing power that an attack on home turf possesses, and so they don't create the political capital necessary for taking the nation to war.

This political capital thing is one point at which "we, the people" intersect with our elected officials to bring about or retard action. Instead of blaming Clinton--which has replaced thinking--we might blame ourselves for not raising such a loud outcry that not even Mitch O'Connell, Trent Lott, and Tom DeLay could have ignored it.