Candor is not a crime

CANDOR IS NOT A CRIME…. There’s no reason to think this should be at all controversial, but if recent history is any guide, it’ll be part of the next conservative conniption.

In words that resounded on both sides of the border, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Mexico City last month that America’s “insatiable demand” for illegal drugs fueled the trade and that America’s “inability” to stop weapons from being smuggled south fed the violence. It is a marked shift in tone from previous administrations, and Mr. Obama used his visit here to reiterate the sentiment.

“I will not pretend that this is Mexico’s responsibility alone,” he said. “The demand for these drugs inside the United States is keeping these cartels in business.”

I can hear Limbaugh, Hannity, et al, now: “A ha! He’s leading the blame-America-first crowd! He’s acknowledging some U.S. responsibility for creating a demand for drug trafficking!” Mocking the right, Joe Klein added, “He’s got nothing but bad stuff to say about the U.S. as soon as he slips across the border. I mean, that’s … like, unpatriotic, right?”

This probably won’t go over well, either.

The Obama world re-engagement tour heads south of the border today. In four days of meetings, first in Mexico City and then in Trinidad and Tobago, President Obama is picking up where he left off in Europe, reaching out to his fellow leaders and offering to work with them — as equals.

“Times have changed,” Obama told CNN en Español. Referring to his planned meeting with the Brazilian leader, for instance, he said: “My relationship with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is one of two leaders who both have big countries, that we are trying to solve problems and create opportunities for our people, and we should be partners. There’s no senior partner or junior partner.”

If Republicans stick to the usual script, the complaints will be that the United States is always the senior partner with everyone, so Obama is wrong to suggest otherwise. The president’s humility effectively makes us sound like we’re equals with our allies in global problem-solving, when we’re supposed to have no equal.

Here’s hoping the right resists the urge to pursue this line this time. Obama’s trying modesty over arrogance as the basis of international cooperation. Especially in Latin America, it’s the kind of diplomacy that’s likely to go far.

E.J. Dionne Jr. added that this is a model that’s likely to be effective.

Obama insists that the United States can’t achieve great objectives on its own…. This may break with George W. Bush’s style — particularly at the level of rhetoric, and especially during Bush’s first term — but it is in keeping with the traditions of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush. Obama insists that we do not have unlimited resources to do whatever we want, whenever we want to. […]

And the Obama Doctrine seeks to regain the world’s sympathy by acknowledging that while the United States is a great nation built on worthy principles, it is not perfect.

Obama’s willingness to point to our imperfection drives many conservatives crazy.

Perhaps, but the president’s “form of realism,” which is “unafraid to deploy American power but mindful that its use must be tempered by practical limits and a dose of self-awareness” is still a sound policy.

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