If you’ve been around this blog from (almost) the beginning, you’ll remember that I took issue back in February with Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic over his “all hope, no substance” criticism of Barack Obama’s foreign policy strategy. Clearly lacking in substance and short on details, Wieseltier misrepresented and, in places, just flat got wrong many of Obama’s positions on things like Pakistan, Iran, and Darfur. At the time, Ezra Klein wrote of Wieseltier’s criticism,
His skepticism of the Obama campaign on these grounds is among the most powerful arguments I’ve yet heard for Obama’s candidacy.
All of this comes back to me today as I read in The New Republic that Wieseltier is endorsing Obama for president in a piece called “Ballot Blues.” He is actually less endorsing that settling for, having found in neither McCain nor Obama the candidate of his dreams, though he admits that he has never, in his life, found that candidate. He says of McCain:
McCain feels with his heart, but he thinks with his base. And when he picked Sarah Palin, he told the United States of America to go fuck itself …. But McCain is looking more and more like his America, which is Bush’s America: a country of capitalists and Christians. I do not know how to explain what has become of him.
And of Obama:
I dread the prospect of Obama’s West Wing education in foreign policy: even when he spoke well about these matters in the debates, it all sounded so new to him, so light. He must not mistake the global adulation of his person with the end of anti-Americanism. And he must not mistake his hope for the world with his analysis of the world.
Sounds familiar. He’s still beating the same drum, or at least the same model of one, that he was beating last February. In the end, though, Wieseltier (whose name I will one day learn to type without reference) comes to this:
Obama is a smart man. He is a decent man. He is an undangerous man, in the manner of all pragmatists and opportunists. He reveres reason, though he often confuses it with conversation. His domestic goals are good, though the titans of American finance, the greedy geniuses of Wall Street, may have made many of those goals fantastic. He will see to it that some liberalism survives at the Supreme Court …. OK, then: Obama, and another anxious visit to the ballot box, with–in the stinging words of Du Bois–“a hope not hopeless but unhopeful.”
Buck up, Leon. Hope is where it’s at.