Okay, time for a thought experiment. Imagine that you're a weasel, that you love fighting sending others off to fight in wars of choice and think John McCain is the greatest, and that you're the sort of weasel who'll say and do just about anything to perpetuate your wars of choice and get your people elected. You're also not stupid, even if you are a weasel: you understand how things work in Washington, and what the business of war-perpetuating and people-electing requires. So why, then, would you tell the adoring throngs at AIPAC that there was little of consequence separating the foreign policy views of your preferred presidential candidate from those of his soon-to-be-presumptive opponent?
Kristol eventually even found himself in the position of defending Obama's national security bona fides relative to past Democratic candidates. Comparing the policy gulf that separates Obama and McCain to national security differences between the two major parties in past cycles, Kristol told the crowd:
"There are actually no disputes of that nature...with the exception of Iraq this time. Obama's not for cutting the defense budget; Obama's not for pulling troops back from our forward positions around the world, with the exception of Iraq. Obama and McCain don't actually differ, at least on paper, even on Iran, where they're arguing about whether they would talk to [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad or not -- and I think that's an important dispute. Still, at the end of the day, Obama doesn't say he would rule out the use of force. McCain certainly is committed as he said this morning to trying to increase economic pressure on Iran, which Obama has also talked about."
Of course there have been differences between the two candidates. Kristol brushed aside perhaps the greatest one: whether or not lowering the bar for diplomatic engagement might prove a tactical benefit for U.S. foreign policy. But beyond that, Obama opposed the recent Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which would have designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. While Obama says he shares that opinion of the group with McCain and others, he instead prefers a less deliberately bellicose approach to international relations.
But given the fact that some Obama opponents seem to believe his views are frighteningly distant from the mainstream, it was interesting to hear someone of Kristol's stature on the right make the case that the Illinois Democrat's differences from McCain are ones of degree and not kind.
actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe[?]
Really? I mean, really? Does that sound anything like a weasel to you? Or could it be - could it be? - that, sly, unscrupulous, and politically sensitive weasel that he is, Mr. Kristol is aware that, on pretty much every foreign policy issue at stake in this election (including, of course, those issues with respect to which the candidates' disagreements are obviously inescapable), the voting populace is largely in sympathy with (what are at least perceived to be) the views of Senator Obama? Could it be that Ezra Klein's greatest dream - that the media will actually report on the differences between the presidential candidates - is Bill Kristol's worst nightmare, and that for this reason he is taking steps to prevent this from happening? Could it be?
Well, it's your thought experiment. I describe it, you decide.
(Cross-posted at Upturned Earth.)