I must say that Howard Dean looks pretty comfortable up on the stage, and it’s not just the open collar. This crowd likes the red-meat scraps he’s tossing out.

I, however, am finding the way he’s phrasing the foreign policy section of his presentation a little limiting (and oddly structured). Dean says that the way we get to “sit down at the table” with other nations on global challenges is regaining our “moral authority” (i.e. not torturing and not engaging in “misguided” wars).

Don’t get me wrong, I too think that these “moral authority” issues are of the utmost importance. However, I disagree that we will have to wait to regain that authority before we’re allowed to “sit down at the table.” Other nations want the U.S. to sit down at the table now; in fact, on a lot of issues, they want the U.S. to chair the meeting.

Of course, I realize that this is simply Dean’s clever way of plugging into a dominant rallying cry in the room. But the rest of the speech was largely devoid of serious discussion on serious global challenges, and I’m more than a little worried that the rest of foreign policy debate at this gathering will be focused on regaining an elusive idea that serves no grander purpose than making progressives feel good about themselves. The immense energy in this room will be better used pushing our next President toward practical and strong leadership on global challenges.

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