A Foreign-Policy Quagmire

Foreign policy has been a stumbling block to Democrats for fully 50 years now.  In 1968, the party of Lyndon Johnson was the party of the Vietnam War, and replacing Johnson with Hubert Humphrey at the top of the ticket that November was not enough to get Americans to give the Democrats four more years of war.  Instead, the public went for Nixon, and while Nixon too got mired in the Southeast Asian misadventure, the Democrats overcompensated for their war guilt in 1972 by nominating George McGovern, the candidate of “acid, amnesty, and abortion.”  (Those were not the exact words that fellow Democrat Thomas Eagleton used in describing McGovern to columnist Robert Novak, but the pithier, popularized version was accurate as to his meaning.) 

Since then the Democrats have continued to fail the tests of foreign affairs from both directions: The party has an activist anti-American wing that keeps alive the worst of the McGovern legacy, but it also has a humanitarian-interventionist tendency that represents the worst qualities of Johnson’s attempt to bring the Great Society to Southeast Asia.  The three Democrats to hold the White House since Johnson have all been foreign-policy failures, though none were of the same magnitude as Johnson.  Carter gave us a botched attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran with a small helicopter force.  Clinton bombed sundry Third World countries to no...

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