Monday, January 7, 2008

New Frontier Redux

Ted Widmer is a historian and worked as a speech writer during the Clinton presidency. He is the editor of one of my favorite books, American Speeches: Political Oratory from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton. His recent article in Washington Monthly combined with Paul Krugman's op-ed in last Friday's New York Times highlight the real uncertainties but achievable goals for a hypothetical Obama presidency.

Foreign policy remains the area where a president's influence is greatest. Does Senator Obama have what it takes? No global concern can be adequately addressed without China's input. Will Obama meet this challenge directly or will he relentlessly pursue the War on Terror to it's ill fated outcome?

Obama's vision of foreign policy doesn't include a platform for eliminating nuclear weapons. His nuclear policy is thunderously silent on China's role as a facilitator in nuclear weapons development by rogue states.

I am heartened that his criticisms of UN shortcomings are coupled with an acknowledgment of the organization's importance and a far less inimical stance. He espouses the model of foreign relations backed by enhanced if not outright aggressive military posture. But it is doubtful that any President of the United states could ever decline this Truman legacy.

Sadly, he treats Africa as a charity case. He spouts the usual tropes about how America should be engaged to relieve burdens such a hunger, AIDS, and ethnic cleansing. This is an outdated way of thinking that will engender little domestic support. As Barack continues his role as legitimate contender we can expect the mutual complaisance to further erode. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

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