Monday, June 26, 2006

 

DT in The New York Post

I made my debut as a book reviewer in Sunday's New York Post, with a look at former New Republic Editor Peter Beinart's new book on the War on Terror and liberalism, The Good Fight. You can check it out below. And check out Beinart's book -- it's quite an informative and insightful book, and despite my minor quibbles with it, a must read for Democrats, progressives and moderates alike.


BLOODFIGHT FOR LIBERALISM
By DAN GERSTEIN

June 25, 2006 -- THE GOOD FIGHT: WHY LIBERALS - AND ONLY LIBERALS - CAN WIN THE WAR ON TERROR AND MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN BY PETER BEINART HARPERCOLLINS, 304 PAGES, $25.95

OF all the meditations and dissertations that followed the Democrats' disastrous performance in the 2004 campaign, none was more compelling or important than The New Republic cover story by editor Peter Beinart that appeared a month after the election.

With clarity and candor, Beinart broke through all the noise about gay marriage and the Kerry campaign's message morass to pinpoint the party's ultimate electoral problem: Democrats had ceded to the Republicans the preeminent issue of our time, the threat of jihadist terrorism.

This was not the fault of a single candidate or campaign, Beinart argued, but the result of an endemic problem the party had with recognizing the gravity of this threat and projecting American power to defeat it.

What made Beinart's essay stand out, though, was his historical perspective. He retold the story of a meeting of liberal hawks at Washington's Willard Hotel in 1947 to confront the party's growing indifference to the spread of communism. That seminal gathering galvanized the anti-totalitarian side of the liberal family, emboldened them to wage a bloodfight to reclaim the party and paved the way for the muscular internationalism of Truman, Kennedy and Clinton.

In the wake of 9/11, Beinart convincingly argued, the Democrats and the left had reached a similar crossroads: "Two elections, and two defeats, into the 9/11 era," he wrote, "American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late."

Beinart seemed to be arguing for a new liberal political counterforce to the anti-war, MoveOn/Michael Moore element. Liberal hawks hoped that the book version of his essay would help catalyze and mobilize just such a movement and even precipitate the cleansing bloodfight Democrats need to have again.

The good news is that "The Good Fight" does offer a coherent intellectual framework for sensible liberals to rally around. Beinart has crafted an exceedingly well-written, well-researched and well-reasoned brief to show liberals why taking a strong, enlightened stand against today's strain of totalitarianism is not just consistent with the liberal tradition, but is crucial to protecting and advancing liberal values (not to mention the security of our nation).

The bad news is that after leading the horse - or, in this case, the donkey - to the edge of the water, Beinart avoids making him drink.

There is no political road map to go with the intellectual one, no hard-headed discussion of what it will take to break the angry stranglehold the anti-war, mostly pacifist left has on the party's security policy, no sense of who will be the next generation of Humphreys and Niebuhrs to form the new iteration of Americans for Democratic Action. As a result, the sense of urgency that punctuated the original TNR piece has been lost.

Nevertheless, Beinart has done his cause an immensely valuable service with this powerful call to arms. Maybe for his next book he can follow it with a swift kick in the ass.

Dan Gerstein, formerly communications director for Sen. Joe Lieberman, is an independent political consultant and commentator.

Comments:
The (slightly more) fleshed out details.
 
That link looks like it didn't work. Here we go.
 
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