Talk about an exercise in futility and irony: The three remaining contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination next year, if you count a former governor of Maryland named Martin O'Malley, held their own "debate" Saturday night.
You have to wonder if anybody but the candidates and their partisans bothered to tune in -- or anybody at all who wasn't duty-bound to listen, like the press.
Poor, ever embarrassed and always embarrassing Hillary Clinton was there to make excuses for her years of inaction as a secretary of state. Call her one of the architects of the disaster that has swept the world on her sleepy watch, and had just erupted again on the streets of Paris. Once again her timing was perfect -- perfectly awful. For a Democratic president had just told the country and the world that any threat from the Islamic State, aka ISIS, had been contained -- when it exploded again, turning the City of Light into a city of horrors. So the poor lady had to say something, however awkward.
The threat from these latest jihadists, she solemnly warned the president, as if she were debating him only now when it was too late, "cannot be contained, it must be defeated."
Really? In that case, why didn't she urge the NATO alliance to act like the NATO alliance and take its founding principle seriously -- that an attack on one of its members should be treated as an attack on all? From the United States and Britain to France, Portugal, Italy and beyond. Many of us didn't need the French president, Francois Hollande, to tell us we are at war with these barbarians, even if it is a one-sided war that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has shown any great interest in waging -- or even preparing for, as our president slashes the country's defense budget.
Barack Obama's current, interchangeable secretary of state -- John Kerry -- does little but talk about defending the West even as it declines and falls all around him, in great part because of this administration's never failing negligence.
But you can always count on some professor of political "science" to completely misunderstand the politics of a presidential race. To quote Prof. Dennis Goldford of Drake, Hillary Clinton's latest failure in a long line of them, this time with a French flair, presents an "opportunity" for her to make still another comeback on the campaign trail. "She can make the claim," he says, "that she has the experience that would give her credibility on foreign policy issues." Experience at what -- inviting chaos?
Why not just cite the foreign policy experience of Neville Chamberlain after he led Britain into the Munich Agreement and a disastrous world war? Oh, where is our Winston Churchill when we need him? Or just a Lord Kitchener or "Chinese" Gordon as other Mahdis arose to challenge the West from within the fanatical heart of Islam in another century? But not even they managed to invade the very heart of Europe, not just Africa, and leave a bloody ruin behind in place of one of the West's great capitals.
Meanwhile, one of Miss Hillary's remaining Democratic rivals -- Bernie Sanders -- chatters on with an absence of any historical perspective. A socialist independent Democrat or whatever he styles himself today, he told his audience at Drake University that the decision to strike back after September 11, 2001, by invading Iraq was "the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States."
Really? Worse than declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor? Worse than leading the United States into a doomed-to-fail League of Nations after the First World War? Worse than the indecisive War of 1812 and the failure to prevent it? Worse than ... well, you name it. American history is replete with Worst-Case disasters to choose from.
And if this country had left Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq? There's no telling how bad the consequences of that decision or lack of one might have been, either. But good old Bernie Sanders, who has never been one to forgo voicing an idle exaggeration, chattered on Saturday night. At least he gave his listeners some entertainment, which is more than Hillary Clinton does any more. What does she do? Certainly not inspire or even interest. She's just always there, like an open manhole cover waiting for another victim to swallow up.
But let the Games begin, or rather continue. There is a certain species of politician who can bear anything but empty air time, and must say something to fill it, however meaningless. And when you realize that this presidential campaign hasn't really even begun ... well, something tells us to stay calm and carry on -- the way the Brits did during the Blitz, for there are worse things than being bombarded by boredom. Just ask any Parisian.
The late, great George Kennan, a statesman as thoughtful as he was temperamental from time to time, said it: "In international, as in private, life what counts most is not really what happens to someone but how he bears what happens to him. For this reason almost everything depends from here on out on the manner in which we Americans bear what is unquestionably a major failure and disaster to our national fortunes.
"If we accept it with candor, with dignity, with resolve to absorb its lessons and to make it good by redoubled and determined effort ... we need lose neither our self-confidence nor our allies nor our power for bargaining. ... But if we try to conceal from our own people or from our allies the full measure of our misfortune, or permit ourselves to seek relief in any actions of bluster or petulance or hysteria, we can easily find this crisis resolving into an irreparable deterioration of our world position -- and of our confidence in ourselves." Strength.
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.