With Three Sentences, Gail Collins Nails Republican/Democratic Foreign Policy Divide




After a several month hiatus, September heralds the return of The Conversation, The New York Times debate series featuring regular columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins. While the banter is often playful, the ideological divisions of the two pundits are serious and stark. Brooks represents what he thinks is the moderate, humanist right (another column for another time), while Collins takes up the mantle of the frustrated left.

The liberal grievances that Collins bespeaks in deceptively simple, pointed prose are sundry and do not always land at the feet of the intractable, regressive GOP. Collins’ voice has been notable in her willingness to take on cowering Democratic leadership, challenging them to stand for common-sense legislation around issues such as gun reform, immigration, health care and women’s rights. She doesn’t let either party off the hook for our nation’s stagnant and conflicted approach to social and economic progress. And she does so in approachable language that’s as clearheaded as it is egalitarian. Take this gem from Collin’s 2009 book, America’s Women:

“The history of American women is about the fight for freedom, but it’s less a war against oppressive men than a struggle to straighten out the perpetually mixed message about women’s role that was accepted by almost everybody of both genders.”

Collins dares all Americans to take a certain level of responsibility for our situation. If we don’t like the way things work, we are at least partly complicit in tolerating the status quo. And this week, she holds our feet to the fire once again in her latest Conversation with Brooks, “Our Reluctant National Security President.” After the conservative Brooks offers yet another rote, uninspired argument against America’s “leadership problem” under President Obama (to be fair, he lumps W and Clinton in this bucket as well), Collins succinctly destroys it. She writes:

“You’re looking at a decline of presidential leadership since World War II. I see a western world that has learned painfully, over and over again, how impossible it is to fight a ground war in other people’s countries. Particularly on a planet where your friends aren’t the only ones with weapons of mass destruction.

So maybe it’s not the presidents who have changed, but the world they confront.”

Yes! And the subtext embedded in this truth bomb (bombs are so much more enticing when they come in the form of learned dissent) is an indictment of a democratic leadership that seems determined to remain on the defensive, despite:

  1. Being, with few exceptions, aligned with the wishes of the voting public (such as nonintervention in foreign conflicts that do not directly and immediately impact our national security).
  2. Repeatedly failing to learn by case study (health care reform, immigration, the rollback of female reproductive rights) that the softer voices in the room are not heard. Those who talk loudest and most repetitively often win the messaging war.

The Democratic candidates presently running from the record of Obama, which includes significant economic recovery, a solid record in the war on terrorism (all crazy things Summer 2014 aside) and the greatest expansion to the social safety net in a generation, would do well to remember that every time they bob and weave, choosing “centrist” pandering over countermessaging, a soldier of Karl Rove gets his or her wings. And it allows the tone of the conversation to drift ever farther to the right.

Where Brooks views a lack of Presidential machismo as the ludicrous underpinning for our modern inability to order countries around, Collins sees a new reality. One in which America’s role – for financial, humanitarian, and yes geopolitical reasons – must be different. Most Democrats privately agree with this assessment.

One of the most important questions facing the party in the run up to the November elections is “Will we retain a Senate majority?” Instead, it ought to be, “Can we dispense with fear and expediency long enough to talk to voters and show them the real differences that exist between left and right?” The words don’t have to be lofty and long-winded as Collin’s continuous example proves. We need to do more than hold onto the Chamber. We need to change the conversation.

13 Replies to “With Three Sentences, Gail Collins Nails Republican/Democratic Foreign Policy Divide”

  1. I have been asking for a while now, why don’t we have our POTUS’s back? I am truly offended by those Democrats running for re-election who vocally criticize him and his administration and that includes Allison Grimes. There’s many accomplishments to tout but no one does it, instead they shirk. The GOTP has an entire daily broadcast devoted to their propaganda and outrageous lies but you never see anyone refuting them. The RWNJ politicians get their coverage on a regular basis, in fact that’s the only coverage you see. It’s bull.

  2. The real problem is the increasing shallowness of our gene pool. Then the economic injustices of our system (see Norway if you want to do it right) and the purchase of the media by right wing fanatics from the US and abroad, Australia and Arab Nations.

  3. It’s simple, my friend: They all fear what the GOP and their Dark Money allies will do to them. To side with the President is to basically cut yourself and bleed into the ocean since, you know, the GOP are like blood thirsty sharks.

    Now, I agree. We need to have the President’s back because he’s a good man. You may not agree with his policies and that’s OK. It’s part of what makes America great. We all have our little issues and then we learn to compromise and everyone enjoys the freedoms that we have. To shy away from all the good Obama has done for our nation is not the best thing to do.

    In fact, people like you and I ought to do more to promote all the good he has done and this is with conservatives doing everything in their power to basically punish the country for voting for a black Democrat twice.

  4. The democratic members of Congress are so used to being brow-beaten, they constantly walk around with their tail between their legs. We need some fight, some fire in those chambers. Take the gloves off and call a crook a crook. Throw some stones. We need to win some battles. After all, who won the civil war?

  5. I like a president who thinks through decisions making sure he is doing the best thing for the country. Unlike some presidents who go off half-cocked, or in the case of Bush43 who went off without a cock.

  6. She is totally correct. I’ve always wondered where in the hell was this ” liberal media”? So many republicons get away with saying anything unchallenged, even on NPR. It’s up to each individual to challenge these goofball statements. I often hear racist statements because I’m white, and it makes me sick. I usually don’t let them get away with it and confront them, just to let them know that not everyone thinks as they do.

  7. Gail Collins has been my favorite for years. Just to read her commentaries kept me getting the New York Times for many years. This year even the occasional Gail couldn’t do it. I do miss Gail but I certainly don’t miss the NYT lies and BS every day. Even just skimming headlines.

  8. It rubs me the wrong way when talking heads, journalists and media strategists talk about the American people being down on the Obama economy…which part? All of the public? How are corporations doing? When will they be interviewed about their lack of “economic patriotism” especially as our country is once again threatened by extremists. We need those who recognize this as an opportunity to invest in America and create jobs to do so. GOTV!!!

  9. I’m with you, leucippus67 …

    When I hear the “liberal” media, I have to laugh. I once tuned into NPR to get a “no-spin” rendition of what’s happening in the world. Sadly, even NPR bends over sideways for conservatives now.

    Do people recall that when Fox went on the air they billed themselves as “News with a conservative POV”?

    News should NEVER have a POINT OF VIEW.
    If it does, it’s OPINION. Opinion is NOT news.

    If NPR or any other organization needs to edit the truth to avoid appearing too “liberal” – they no longer respect the truth.

    The most bitter irony is that “reality”, like science, is often labeled as “too liberal”. That’s a full-on indictment of the way Cons see the world.

  10. With respect, I actually think it’s great that Democrats disagree publicly. (Hopefully Allison Grimes’ loyalty is to the VOTERS and not to the party!) That’s a major difference between us and the GOTP.

    GOTP talking points are issued; the right wing echo chamber instantly goes into overdrive. Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush & Fox repeat the same utter nonsense: word for word!!

    Democrats aren’t like that. Obama’s done some great things. But he’s also let us down on some things. Healthcare, for example. The ACA is one big giveaway to the insurance industry. Obama acknowledges being hoodwinked by his insurance advisors. (Well, duh! Corporations look out for #1 and that’s NOT consumers!)

    It’s a matter of pride that the left doesn’t march in lock step. Righties allow themselves to be told how to vote and what to think – even when it’s completely contrary to common sense.

  11. Gail Collins is the primary reason I still subscribe to The New York Times. Everyday I have the same debate with myself as you did.

  12. The party that does not believe in science (Republicans) have been employing the techniques of brain science for many years. They have become proficient in framing their messages to be matters of morality. Then the message is repeated over and over and over. (Repeat a lie enough and people will believe it is true.)

    Every Democratic and Independent legislator needs to attend training to learn how to frame a message. George Lakoff comes to mind to lead the training.

  13. While I agree with you on some of what you said. Real people with real health issues are now getting healthcare. Ask my son, daughter’s boyfriend who now have peace of mind, thanks to the ACA, that Obama has “let them down” and they’d laugh at you. Obama only “let down” those who already had health care. Is it perfect? No, but it’s a great start. If Dems would give a majority to Dems, we could get it tweaked to work even better. This is not PBO’s fault, but the GOPs refusal to even work with him from the beginning of his presidency.

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