The Presidential Agenda

In the 1990s, the manifest pull of domestic and foreign policies on Presidential decision-making, and the politics that surround it, was plain as day. Has the choice between the two really been forgotten or invisible since 9/11? I want to say that for the last eight years, domestic and foreign interests were subsumed under a newly expanded  national security rubric. Is that the case?  It’s worth considering as Obama and his team make their decision on next steps for Afghanistan. In The New Republic today, Washington Post columnist and Georgetown faculty E.J. Dionne, Jr., asks whether Obama should “let Afghanistan trample his domestic agenda”:

WASHINGTON–At a White House dinner with a group of historians at the beginning of the summer, Robert Dallek, a shrewd student of both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, offered a chilling comment to President Obama.

“In my judgment,” he recalls saying, “war kills off great reform movements.”

The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that “Dr. New Deal” had given way to “Dr. Win the War.” Korea ended Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society to an abrupt halt.

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