AMBUSH IN WAR ZONE D….In our November issue, we have an excerpt from Wes Clark’s A Time to Lead about the company he led as a young captain in Vietnam:

It has often been said, in the years since the war ended and the all-volunteer force was created, that conscripts were inferior soldiers, and that Vietnam draftees in particular couldn’t or wouldn’t fight. But that wasn’t my experience. The draftees I served with fought with great skill and exceptional bravery. They may not have wanted to be there then, but had they not been, I would not be here today.

….They stood up, men from south Texas and the Bronx and Kansas and California, in a firefight in a jungle in Southeast Asia. Men who had been plucked out of their lives, threatened with jail if they refused, some who held master’s degrees, others who hadn’t finished the tenth grade, they were firing from the hip and shoulder, a dozen men, moving into the jungle to sweep what turned out to be a small enemy base camp. This was my company. These were my men.

In the same issue, Mark Schmitt reviews Ron Brownstein’s The Second Civil War. Brownstein, says Schmitt, is smarter than your average pundit, but he’s still stuck in a plague-on-both-your-houses mindset that’s been patently specious for over a decade:

Brownstein argues that each of the things he identifies as a problem calls for “comprehensive solutions that marry ideas favored by one party and opposed by the other.” On the budget, he says that Democrats would reduce the deficit entirely through tax increases, Republicans would lower it through spending cuts, and that the true solution — a balance of the two — cannot be achieved because each party rejects half of that solution. But in the six years that Republicans held unchecked power, they rejected both halves of Brownstein’s solution, while when Democrats were in power, they embraced both. The budget isn’t balanced now because the party that has been in power doesn’t see the problem in Brownstein’s terms: it favors tax cuts above all other priorities. On immigration, most Democrats favored the balanced solution that Brownstein favors, while only a tiny minority of Republicans (which happened to include the president but only twelve of his party’s senators) did so.

Schmitt also makes a point about interest-group politics that’s seldom appreciated: namely that it tends to reduce partisanship, not increase it. Because interest groups reach out to both parties, they diminish the power of party leaderships and provide cover for moderates to make bargains across the aisle. The whole story is here.

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