From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of Sergio Vieira de Mello. It was
September 2002. I was outside the United Nations in New York during
the flag-raising ceremony celebrating East Timor’s independence from
Indonesia, and I asked him about his views on the chance of a US
invasion of Iraq.
SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO: In any conflict, we are concerned that
civilian populations should be spared, that every effort must be made
in any war, in any internal conflict, never to target civilians. And
should a war erupt in Iraq, I believe the Iraqi people don’t deserve
more suffering. They have suffered enough.
AMY GOODMAN: Of course, he would then die in Iraq as a result of the
SAMANTHA POWER: Yeah. And One of the untold stories and the
devastating parts of this book and the last four years of reporting
the book is to realize he was actually alive for three-and-a-half
hours under the rubble.
And here’s something, that despite predicating the war on a link
between Saddam Hussein and terrorism, a link between Saddam Hussein
and al-Qaeda and 9/11, as Bush did, there was no preparedness done to
respond to terrorist attacks in Iraq. In other words, if you’re going
to predicate the war on a link with terrorism, you would think that
operationally you would prepare your troops to deal with al-Qaeda
attacks on civilian targets. No preparation whatsoever.
So, as Sergio, this person who’s given his life to trying to enhance
dignity, you know, and trying to mend broken places, effectively died
under the rubble like a refugee, the troops–heroic individual acts by
individual Americans who just ran to the scene and tried to improvise,
but ultimately, when it can to lifting the rubble from over him, a
lady’s handbag was used, literally one of those basket handbags that
had been plucked out of one of the offices. There were no stretchers,
so they had to use curtains from the Canal Hotel windows and a curtain
rope as a kind of amateur pulley system. So, the most powerful
military in the history of mankind is reduced to a woman’s handbag, a
curtain rope and a curtain to try to save the most valuable civil
servant that the UN has ever offered.
email : samantha_power [at] ksg [dot] harvard [dot] edu
Samantha Power is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global
Leadership and Public Policy, based at the Carr Center for Human
Rights Policy, where she was the founding executive director
[1998-2002]. She is the recent author of Chasing the Flame: Sergio
Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World (Penguin Press, 2008),
a biography of the UN envoy killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in
2003. Her book “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide
(New Republic Books) was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general
nonfiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general
nonfiction, and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize
for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. Power’s New Yorker article
on the horrors in Darfur, Sudan, won the 2005 National Magazine Award
for best reporting. In 2007, Power became a foreign policy columnist
at Time magazine. From 1993 to 1996 she covered the wars in the former
Yugoslavia as a reporter for the U.S. News and World Report, the
Boston Globe, and The New Republic. She remains a working journalist,
reporting from such places as Burundi, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda,
Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and contributing to the Atlantic Monthly, The New
Yorker and The New York Review of Books. Power is the editor, with
Graham Allison, of Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to
Impact. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, she
moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. She spent
2005 to 2006 working in the office of Senator Barack Obama.
EXPECTATION CALIBRATION / EXPECTATION MANAGEMENT
SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY INTERN
SAMANTHA POWER: But I’ve never thought about going into government,
never thought about getting into politics. And when I met Obama in
2005 just actually at a meeting to talk about how to fix American
foreign policy, he read A Problem from Hell and just wanted to discuss
what the components of a tough, smart and humane foreign policy that
would be not just a critique of Bush, but an alternative, would be,
and we were supposed to meet for an hour, and an hour gave ways to a
second hour and a third hour and a fourth. As we entered our fourth
hour, I heard myself saying, “Why don’t I quit my job at Harvard and
come and intern in your office?” And so, I’ve been blown away by him
from start to finish. I don’t have any aspiration to go into
government, but I do–I would like to do anything I can going forward
to help Obama. So if that means going into government, I suppose
that’s what it’s going to require, but believe me, he–it’s not obvious
to me that that would be something he would want. But, you know, I
think if we’re all talking about how we need to share the sacrifice
and respond to the call to service, it would be a little hypocritical
to continue to sound off in my column and write books and so forth.
And I think you sort of have to put your money where your mouth is at
some point. So–
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s a yes?
SAMANTHA POWER: It’s a yes to a question that’s never been asked to
me, never would be asked, I suppose.
SINCE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IT
OBAMA’S POLICY ADVISORS
Obama’s Inner Circle / February 21, 2008
Gregory Craig: The lawyer who played a leading role in the defense
team for President Clinton’s impeachment is a newcomer to foreign
policy. At the end of the Clinton administration, he served as the
director of policy planning at the State Department.
Richard Danzig: A Yale-trained lawyer, Rhodes scholar, and secretary
of the Navy for President Clinton, Mr. Danzig serves as one of Senator
Obama’s chief advisers on military affairs.
Scott Gration: A retired Air Force major general and fluent Swahili
speaker, General Gration met Senator Obama on a trip to Africa and the
two have been in close touch ever since. General Gration flew missions
as a command pilot in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he served as
commander of Task Force West.
Anthony Lake: President Clinton’s first national security adviser is
the most senior man on the Obama campaign’s foreign policy team. Mr.
Lake has been criticized by Samantha Power for his inaction on
preventing genocide in Rwanda and slow reaction to the Serb-led
massacres in Bosnia during his first term. Mr. Lake is the highest
ranking Clinton administration official working for Senator Obama.
Denis McDonough: A former legislative aide to Senator Daschle, Mr.
McDonough is the Obama campaign’s “point guard” on foreign policy, as
some campaign staffers call him.
Samantha Power: A journalist and a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy
School, Ms. Power is the author of “A Problem From Hell,” a book that
examines the problem of genocide from the perspective of international
law. She became Senator Obama’s first foreign affairs tutor and worked
on his staff in 2005.
Ben Rhodes: A 30-year-old wunderkind, Mr. Rhodes was one of the lead
staff writers for the Iraq Study Group recommendations issued at the
end of 2006 that encouraged engagement with Syria and Iran to end the
war in Iraq. He is also a coauthor of Lee Hamilton’s and Thomas Kean’s
memoir of the commission to investigate September 11. Mr. Rhodes
serves as the chief speechwriter on foreign policy.
Susan Rice: A senior staffer on President Clinton’s national security
council who served as assistant secretary of State for African
affairs, Ms. Rice has been an outspoken foe of the Sudanese regime for
the last ten years. At the end of the Clinton administration she gave
a press conference in southern Sudan and accused the Sudanese regime
of allowing a new slave trade. In 2004, she first endorsed Howard
Dean, but ended up as a senior adviser for Senator Kerry’s campaign.
Daniel Shapiro: A senior adviser on Middle East affairs, Mr. Shapiro
is a long time Democratic operative who worked for four years for
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida. In that capacity, he
played a role in sponsoring some hawkish legislation such as the Syria
Accountability Act and working to list Hezbollah’s satellite
television station, al-Manar, as a foreign terrorist organization.
Also, Mr. Shapiro also worked briefly for President Clinton’s national
Obama’s Brain Trust Taking Shape
BY Eli Lake / February 21, 2008
WASHINGTON — When it comes to foreign affairs, Senator Obama’s inner
circle of advisers includes a Swahili-speaking Air Force general he
met on a trip to Africa; a 30-year-old speechwriter who helped draft
the final report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, and President
Clinton’s first national security adviser, who in 2005 converted to
Judaism under the tutelage of the Navy’s chief Jewish chaplain.
Those advisers in order are Scott Gration, Ben Rhodes, and Anthony
Lake. They are part of a nine-person team, in contact every day, often
by e-mail. The team develops policy positions, clears language for use
in comments to the press, and prepares the Democratic candidate who
has won all the primaries since Super Tuesday for a dangerous world
and a global war.
Who advises Mr. Obama and whom the candidate would appoint to key
foreign policy posts if elected president has raged as the topic of
intense speculation on the Internet and through often anonymous e-
mails warning Jewish voters that Mr. Obama’s team may be neutral or
indeed hostile to Israel.
In a series of interviews with the campaign’s foreign policy advisers
and supporters, as well as critics, the national security team that
emerges around Mr. Obama is one that is in the mainstream of the
Democratic Party. The senator’s advisers favor a withdrawal from Iraq
and see it as a distraction from the wider war on Al Qaeda; they have
developed a detailed policy on how to exit the country. The campaign
favors high-level diplomatic engagement with Syria and Iran, but in
the context of changing the behavior of these regimes. And the foreign
policy team, like the candidate, does not support pressuring Israel
into negotiations with Hamas.
The nine-member team funnels input to Denis McDonough, an Obama
campaign staff member who briefs the candidate. A broader group of 250
advisers are divided into groups dealing with the Middle East, Latin
America, Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Russia-Europe, defense,
veterans, counterterrorism, democracy and development, and
multilateral institutions. On average each of these groups has 20
people. The Obama campaign has declined to release the names of all
the participants, saying that some of them are volunteering their time
while serving in jobs at government agencies and nonprofits that don’t
want to be publicly associated with a partisan political campaign.
One reason why some of the pro-Israel community have been comfortable
with Mr. Obama’s stance is the presence of Daniel Shapiro, a former
deputy chief of staff to Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida.
Mr. Shapiro, who leads the Middle East group, spearheaded efforts in
Congress to designate al Manar, the satellite television channel for
Hezbollah, as a foreign terrorist organization. He sends his children
to the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington, D.C.
The lead American negotiator during the Oslo peace process, Ambassador
Dennis Ross, who has provided advice to Mr. Obama’s campaign but does
not consider himself to be an adviser, said he saw no difference on
Israel policy between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.
Mr. Obama has not pledged to move the American embassy in Israel to
Jerusalem as soon as he takes office, a promise made by every major
candidate for president since Ronald Reagan in 1980, and a promise
broken by every president since the Reagan administration. And the
campaign’s wider circle includes two people, a former national
security adviser to President Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and a
former President Clinton aide, Robert Malley, who have come under
wider scrutiny. The campaign says the candidate has not spoken in the
past four months with Mr. Brzezinski, who led a delegation in the
Middle East that met with President Assad of Syria. As for Mr. Malley,
the campaign says he is not a formal adviser, but has provided advice.
Another adviser who has come under scrutiny in recent weeks is
Samantha Power, a professor at Harvard University and an expert in
genocide and international law. Ms. Power was one of Mr. Obama’s first
foreign policy tutors when he came to the Senate in 2005, where she
began volunteering in his office after a meeting at a Washington
steakhouse. The campaign has called her a foreign policy adviser,
though not an adviser specifically on the Middle East.
Commentary Magazine, the National Review, and the American Thinker
have run critical blog posts about Ms. Power for series of comments
she has made regarding Israel.
For example, on May 30, 2007, Ms. Power was quoted in an interview
posted on the Kennedy School Web site as saying, “Another longstanding
foreign policy flaw is the degree to which special interests dictate
the way in which the ‘national interest’ as a whole is defined and
pursued. Look at the degree to which Halliburton and several of the
private security and contracting firms invested in the 2004 political
campaigns and received very lucrative contracts in the aftermath of
the U.S. takeover of Iraq. Also, America’s important historic
relationship with Israel has often led foreign policy decision-makers
to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate
Israeli tactics, which, as the war in Lebanon last summer
demonstrated, can turn out to be counter-productive.”
In an interview yesterday, Ms. Power said, “This quote is taken out of
context. I was talking about the way Halliburton skewed U.S. decision-
making on the ground in Iraq. I have never suggested and do not
believe that the U.S. went to war in Iraq owing to Israeli pressure or
Ms. Power also said that she did not believe it was possible to send
American forces to Israel and the Palestinian territories without the
consent of both parties.
As for the strategic understanding of the American-Israeli
relationship, one of the campaign’s most senior advisers, Anthony
Lake, said he saw the two countries as sharing a common enemy. “You
can analytically make distinctions among them. Both Hezbollah and
Hamas are more focused on Israel than the United States. They all have
different agendas, but they all use terrorism and they all look at the
United States as their enemies too,” he said.
The approach of the Obama campaign hews closely to the recommendations
of the Baker-Hamilton report, co-authored by Ben Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s
30-year old foreign-policy speechwriter. The Baker-Hamilton report
called for engaging the Iranians and Syrians and winding down American
combat operations in Iraq, though it also endorsed a temporary surge
to enhance security. President Bush and Senator McCain both rejected
the main recommendations of the report, which they saw as a way to
Mr. Lake said that he saw advantages to entering discussions with
Syria in part to break its “unnatural alliance” with Iran. “The Bush
administration’s doctrine of refusing to talk or insisting the other
side has to make all the concessions before they start talking with
you, is naïve,” he said.
The prospect that President Obama would seek discussions with Iran
worries some observers. A former Israeli ambassador to America, Daniel
Ayalon, said in a telephone interview, “What worries me, I have looked
into his position papers and all of that. He describes the ayatollah
regime as a Hitler-like regime. I think he is very right to see it as
a Hitler-like regime. If he sees it this way, why would he negotiate
with a Hitler type regime?”
Mr. Lake said in response, “I would argue what is important here are
results, for the sake of our security and Israel’s security. You don’t
achieve them by posturing. I have utter confidence — and I have been
in many negotiations — in Barack Obama’s ability to be a very, very
A supporter of Mr. Obama’s, the editor in chief of the New Republic,
Martin Peretz, yesterday chalked up concerns about the senator’s
foreign policy with concerns about the Democratic Party. “The
weaknesses of the Obama foreign policy advisory team are a result of a
contagion in the Democratic party itself,” he said. “It is not just a
failure of understanding about Israel’s predicament, but a failure of
understanding about the career of freedom in the world.”
On just the question of Mr. Obama’s support for Israel, however, the
president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Howard
Friedman, minimized any differences between the candidates. “All of
the leading candidates, Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain, and
Governor Huckabee, have demonstrated their support for a strong U.S.-
Israel relationship,” Mr. Friedman said.
The rabbi of a synagogue across the street from the Obama family
residence in Hyde Park, Chicago, Arnold Jacob Wolf, said that the
senator was in fact too hawkish on Israel. “In my opinion he has been
too strong. I belong to the Peace Now group and he doesn’t. He is
defensive of Israel in ways I wouldn’t be, mostly the occupation,” the
rabbi, who says he has known Mr. Obama for 10 years, said.
‘OUR DR. RICE’
Meet Obama’s ‘Tenacious,’ ‘Take Charge’ Dr. Rice
BY Russell Berman / January 28, 2008
WASHINGTON — “Our Dr. Rice” is the friendly moniker Democrats in the
foreign policy community often bestow on Susan Rice.
The reference to the Secretary Rice now running the State Department
is usually made in jest, but the comparison could carry significantly
more weight if Senator Obama, who on Saturday won the South Carolina
primary and today is poised to win the endorsement of Senator Kennedy,
becomes America’s next president.
As a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, Susan Rice, 43, has
taken a leading role in helping to shape the freshman Illinois
senator’s vision for the world, building on a bond forged in part by
their shared — and outspoken — opposition to the war in Iraq.
An assistant secretary of state under President Clinton, Ms. Rice also
served as a senior adviser on the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004, and
she is likely to be on the short list for a top position in an Obama
administration, perhaps in the same role Condoleezza Rice served
during President Bush’s first term: national security adviser.
The Rices are not related, but as two prominent African American women
in a field long dominated by white men, the comparison is as natural
as it is superficial.
“We thought our Dr. Rice was a lot more sensible than their Dr. Rice,”
quipped James Rubin, a former State department spokesman who worked
with Susan Rice on the Kerry campaign but who is now an informal
adviser to Senator Clinton. Susan Rice said she has seen Secretary
Rice occasionally over the years but does not know her well. They
share a link to Stanford University — Susan Rice studied there as an
undergraduate in the 1980s while Condoleezza Rice taught as a
professor. Like Mr. Obama, Ms. Rice has long been a fierce critic of
the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and she does not look to
Secretary Rice as a role model.
“I don’t select role models on the basis of race and gender,” she said
in a telephone interview. She praised the two previous secretaries of
state, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell, but she said the jury was
still out on Secretary Rice’s tenure.
Susan Rice grew up in Washington, D.C., the daughter of an economist
who served as a governor of the Federal Reserve, Emmett Rice, and an
education policy scholar, Lois Rice. She won a Rhodes scholarship and
later earned a doctorate in international relations from Oxford
University after graduating from Stanford in 1986. Ms. Rice joined the
Clinton White House in 1993 and rose quickly. Within two years she was
a senior director for African affairs on the National Security
Council. In 1997, President Clinton appointed her assistant secretary
of state for Africa, overseeing more than 40 countries and 5,000
foreign service officials.
She first met Mr. Obama when he was a Senate candidate in 2004, and
she became a resource and adviser for him the following year when he
took a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee. The two discussed a
range of issues, from Iraq to nuclear non-proliferation to
“I was attracted to him in the very beginning as someone who was
extraordinarily intelligent, thoughtful, and had a remarkably broad
and deep grasp of the key foreign policy challenges of the day,” she
said. Ms. Rice said she was drawn to him in part because of his early
and vocal opposition to the Iraq war. She had also spoken out on the
war before the American invasion, and she said she respected Mr. Obama
for making “the same unpopular choice I had made,” despite what she
described as a “huge amount of pressure in Washington to go along with
or support the war.”
Since the end of the Clinton administration, Ms. Rice has written
often about a range of issues, and particularly the genocide in
Darfur. She has pushed a much more aggressive American position on
Sudan, including the possible use of military force in 2005 and 2006.
She has backed off that position to some extent, saying efforts should
now be focused on beefing up and deploying a joint United Nations-
African Union peacekeeping force, which the Sudanese government has
resisted. “I think the challenge is somewhat different today, and the
prescription at the moment is somewhat different,” she said.
As one of several former Clinton administration officials who have
decamped to Mr. Obama, Ms. Rice joins a former national security
adviser to President Clinton, Anthony Lake, in the Illinois senator’s
inner circle of foreign policy advisers. She characterized the move as
a relatively easy decision, given the similarity in their policy views
and the fact that she had gotten to know him well while she had had
little contact with the Clintons in recent years.
“Supporting Senator Obama was a clear choice for me,” she said, “but
it was never a choice against Senator Clinton or President Clinton,
whom I have long respected.”
Still, she has not held back in criticizing Mrs. Clinton during the
campaign, and a few of her former colleagues privately seethed at
comments she made minimizing the New York senator’s role in foreign
policy as first lady.
In the interview, Ms. Rice said Mr. Obama had offered a more
substantive foreign policy platform than Mrs. Clinton, who she said
had “revealed relatively little” about her approach to foreign policy
and national security during the campaign. Citing Mrs. Clinton’s
article in the journal Foreign Affairs, she said Mr. Obama’s vision
was more forward-looking and, in a message that has emerged as a
dominant theme in the campaign, that Mrs. Clinton’s goal of
“restoring” American power was rooted in the past.
“If you read that article, it’s hard to discern a vision of a new
American leadership beyond just getting out from under the Bush
years,” Ms. Rice said. Associates describe Ms. Rice as hard charging
but disciplined, a manager who brings a laser-like focus and blunt-
spoken clarity to tasks large and small.
“She’s a tenacious battler for the policies and principles she
believes in,” a member of the Obama foreign policy team who worked
with Ms. Rice in the Clinton administration, John Prendergast, said.
“She really will not quit.”
Those who have worked with Ms. Rice said her style could occasionally
ruffle feathers, but a member of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy inner
circle, Major General Scott Gration, said that while she was a “take-
charge person,” she was well-liked. “She accomplishes a task while
building a team,” General Gration said, adding that she often runs Mr.
Obama’s foreign policy meetings along with Mr. Lake and Denis
McDonough, a former top aide to Senator Daschle. “She’s a great
administrator,” he said. The Obama campaign has at times made use of
her as a surrogate spokeswoman; the day of the Iowa caucuses, she
appeared on Fox News Channel to speak about the campaign in general,
not about specific foreign policy issues.
Ms. Rice, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, is married to an ABC
News producer, Ian Cameron, with whom she has two young children.”My
leadership style is one that aims to be inclusive and to mobilize and
encourage people to give their best,” she said. “I plead guilty as
charged to wanting to move and get things done and occasionally being
As for her role under a possible President Obama, she demurs, saying
she is focused on getting the senator elected. “I am not focused on
what I do thereafter,” she said.
TECH, MEDIA, TELECOM
Alec Ross serves as Executive Vice President for External Affairs and
is a co-founder of One Economy Corporation. Under his leadership, One
Economy has established groundbreaking programs and corporate
partnerships with top-of-market private sector, governmental and
nonprofit organizations across sectors including the
telecommunications, financial services and education fields to help
achieve One Economy’s mission.
He also stewards One Economy’s public policy initiatives, which
include federal and local leadership in lawmaking and regulatory
issues regarding technology and telecommunications in low-income
communities. These efforts culminated in Bring IT Home, a national
campaign that has helped change housing policies in 42 states and
brought broadband to hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans.
Alec is a nationally respected social entrepreneur who speaks
regularly on topics including economic development, technology,
philanthropy and public policy.
Prior to the founding of One Economy in July of 2000, Alec served as
Special Assistant to the President of The Enterprise Foundation. In
this capacity, he led special projects and the development of
strategies related to new business development, fundraising,
technology, and program development.
A 1994 graduate of Northwestern University, Alec taught for two years
in inner city Baltimore through Teach For America and was featured in
a 3 part series in the Baltimore Sun.
He sits on the board of several organizations including The Green
School, 1000 Friends of Maryland, One Global Economy and the Aspen
Institute’s MicroMentor Project.
Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and
founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society. Prior to
joining the Stanford faculty, he was the Berkman Professor of Law at
Harvard Law School, and a Professor at the University of Chicago. He
clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.
“But as I look under the hood of Obama’s policy shop and see what
Obama policy guru Karen Korbluh, former Clinton NEC official Dan
Tarullo, and former Treasury Department chief-of-staff Michael Froman
have been orchestrating, I’m very impressed.
Also part of the semi-close ring of Obama econ advisers are labor
economist Jared Bernstein and Wolfowitz-critic and former World Bank
Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz.”
Obama’s Economic Brain Trust Breaks With `Status Quo’
By Rich Miller and Matthew Benjamin / May 10 2007
Senator Barack Obama portrays himself as a new kind of leader who
transcends conventional politics. Judging by the economists he has
enlisted in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination,
he may just be.
Obama’s economic brain trust — a blend of up-and-coming academics and
former officials in President Bill Clinton’s administration —
displays a fondness for backing innovative solutions to the nation’s
problems. Among them: offering ailing U.S. automakers aid in return
for increased investment in hybrid cars and rewarding doctors for the
improvements they make in patients’ health.
“They bring to the campaign some fresh thought on approaches that are
non-status quo,” says Alan Blinder, a Princeton University economist
and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Obama, 45, is a freshman Illinois senator who, thus far, has been
known more for soaring oratory than policy specifics. His surging
candidacy, which has made him the chief rival to the Democratic
frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, and the decision of
many states to move up their 2008 primaries and caucuses, put pressure
on Obama to begin filling in the blanks.
Three academics — Austan Goolsbee, 37, a University of Chicago
professor and columnist for The New York Times, Jeffrey Liebman, 39, a
pension and poverty expert at Harvard University, in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and David Cutler, 41, a Harvard health economist —
form the core of Obama’s economic team.
“They’re all top-notch economists,” said Greg Mankiw, a Harvard
professor and former chief White House economist for President George
W. Bush. “Their views are left of the political center, as one would
expect, but only slightly.”
A trio of seasoned Washington hands bolsters the academics: Karen
Kornbluh, policy director in Obama’s Senate office; Daniel Tarullo, a
professor at Georgetown University in Washington, and a former senior
economic adviser in the Clinton administration; and Michael Froman,
the chief of staff for former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who now
works with his old boss at Citigroup Inc.
Obama’s economic cadre, like the candidate himself, is still evolving.
The candidate is shopping for a big-name macro economist to join the
group, perhaps one with the cachet of former Bush economist Glenn
Hubbard, who recently joined the team of Republican candidate Mitt
Most national polls show Clinton in the lead for the Democratic
presidential nomination, with Obama coming in second. In last month’s
Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll, Clinton was favored by 33 percent of
primary voters and Obama was the choice of 23 percent.
Obama made his most detailed economic proposal to date on May 7, in a
speech in Detroit. He proposed a novel remedy for helping automakers
while also curbing America’s energy consumption. Under the plan, the
federal government would help the industry pay for some retiree health
benefits if automakers invest in more fuel-efficient vehicles. The
partnership idea, which Mankiw criticized as an unjustified bailout,
would cost an estimated $7 billion over 10 years.
Kornbluh, 44, who joined Obama’s Senate staff in 2002 after working
for the Clinton administration and the New America Foundation in
Washington, helped fashion the trade-off proposal.
Goolsbee said the health-care-for-hybrids plan is the sort of thinking
that Obama is encouraging. Obama, he said, “wants to get beyond the
normal debate between A and B, to try to dream up things that are
different and better.”
That may not always work. Greg Martin, a spokesman for Detroit-based
General Motors Corp., the world’s largest automaker, reacted coolly to
the plan, saying GM preferred a national solution to the problem of
soaring medical costs.
What’s more, there’s no guarantee that Obama will sign on to every
idea his economists advance because a candidate’s political aides
often dilute economists’ suggestions for fear of stirring controversy.
“As the campaign gears up, there will be a tension between the right
policy response to a problem and the politically expeditious one,”
said Steven Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
Obama could also find himself hemmed in by labor unions, which are
pressing the party to abandon the free-trade policies espoused by the
Clinton administration. Goolsbee, the campaign’s top economic adviser,
described himself as a free-trader. He does see a role for government
in cushioning the impact on those workers who lose out from
The tough task of helping to develop a trade policy that avoids overt
protectionism may fall to Tarullo, a 54-year-old trade expert. Tarullo
“escapes easy labeling,” said former Clinton chief of staff John
Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, a self-
described progressive advocacy group in Washington. “That makes him
especially valuable in finding new solutions to a new set of thorny
At the top of the Obama team’s to-do list: drafting a plan to extend
medical coverage to all Americans by the end of 2012 while making the
system more efficient. One of Obama’s rivals for the Democratic
nomination, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, has proposed a
detailed universal health plan and has challenged his rivals to follow
Cutler, whom Obama has put in charge of developing such a blueprint,
has tried to go beyond the long-running debate between advocates of a
government-run “single-payer” system and proponents of a market-
driven approach based on health savings accounts for consumers.
Pay for Performance
Under a pay-for-performance system devised by Cutler, doctors would be
reimbursed not for the services they provide but for the improvements
they make to patients’ health. Patients would be encouraged to take
better care of themselves through preventive care and comparison
shopping for medical cost savings.
“It can help us get past the ideological battles,” said Mark
McClellan, who served as Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator
and commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under Bush.
The plan isn’t without problems. Henry Aaron, a health-care expert at
the Brookings Institution in Washington, questioned how widely it
could be turned into practice, given the difficulties involved in
measuring the worth of many procedures.
It’s also costly. Cutler has suggested the government spend anywhere
from $115 billion to $156 billion on information- technology equipment
and software for the medical industry.
Liebman, an expert on Social Security, isn’t easily pigeon- holed
either. He has supported partial privatization of the government-run
retirement system, an idea that’s anathema to many Democrats and bears
a similarity to a proposal for personal investment accounts that Bush
promoted, then dropped in 2005.
“Liebman has been to open to private accounts and most people in town
would say he’s a moderate supporter of them,” said Michael Tanner, a
Social Security expert at the Cato Institute in Washington, a research
organization in Washington that advocates free markets and often backs
In a 2005 policy paper Liebman, along with Andrew Samwick of Dartmouth
College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Maya MacGuineas, a former aide
to Senator John McCain, advocated a mix of benefit cuts, tax increases
and mandatory personal accounts to shore up the system, which will
begin paying more in benefits than it takes in through taxes by 2017
under current actuarial estimates.
Obama has called Social Security’s problems “real but manageable”
and has pledged to preserve what he’s called the “essential
character” of the pension program.
The veteran Washington hands on Obama’s team also get high marks for
their willingness to embrace new ideas. As chief operating officer of
New York-based Citigroup’s alternative investments business, the 44-
year-old Froman pushed micro- lending and securitization to finance
vaccine programs and promote job creation in poor countries.
Froman is “very creative in the way he thinks about such issues as
globalization, trade and economic development,” said Rubin, the
chairman of Citigroup’s Executive Committee, who isn’t involved in
COLIN POWELL REDEMPTION
GOP’s Powell Is Now Advising Obama
BY ELI LAKE / June 11, 2007
WASHINGTON — Colin Powell, who only a decade ago was being discussed
as a possible Republican presidential nominee and who more recently
served as President Bush’s first secretary of state, is advising a
Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Obama of Illinois.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Mr. Powell said it was
“too soon” to say whether he would endorse the Republican nominee for
president, and he added that he is reserving judgment for now.
“I’ve been around this town a long time, and I know everybody who is
running for office,” Mr. Powell said. “And I make myself available to
talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever
wishes to chat with me.”
Those words appear to represent an extraordinary shift for a man who
made the highest-profile case for the war in Iraq, a war the
Democratic Party leadership contends was waged on the basis of
Mr. Powell, for his part, has said this interpretation of the pre-war
intelligence debate is incorrect. Yesterday, he defended his 2003
presentation of the American case for war, saying he spent five days
checking every fact at CIA headquarters before he gave it. The
presentation was based on the same intelligence estimate that was made
available to Congress, he said, and he noted that many Democrats who
served in Congress at the time later said they did not read the
One lawmaker who has not had to make such a statement is Mr. Obama,
who in 2002 and 2003 was a state senator in Springfield, Ill., and
opposed the war. “Before the war in Iraq started, Obama had the
courage to stand up to the politics and propaganda and spoke out
against the war, even before the invasion of Iraq,” a spokeswoman for
Mr. Obama’s campaign, Jen Psaki, said. “Any time you have the
opportunity to seek advice on foreign policy from the former secretary
of state, it is a welcome meeting.”
Mr. Obama said in October 2002 that he was “not opposed to all wars,”
just “dumb” and “rash” ones. “What I am opposed to is the cynical
attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair weekend
warriors in this administration who shove their own ideological
agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and
in hardships borne,” he said at a rally hosted by Act Now to Stop War
and End Racism.
Since his election to the Senate in 2004, Mr. Obama has adopted a more
moderate stance. While many in his party, including Senator Clinton,
have criticized the faulty intelligence leading up to the war, Mr.
Obama has co-authored legislation to help secure loose chemical and
biological weapons and keep them out of the hands of terrorists.
In October 2005, Mr. Obama accompanied Senator Lugar, a Republican of
Indiana who was then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, on a fact-finding mission to the former Soviet bloc. In a
speech at the Council on Foreign Relations after the trip, Mr. Obama
said: “The demand for these weapons has never been greater. … Right
now rogue states and despotic regimes are looking to begin or
accelerate their own nuclear programs.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Obama has since expressed opposition to the surge of
American troops in Iraq and has endorsed plans to withdraw from the
country by 2008, a position shared by more than 60% of Americans,
according to a New York Times poll in May.
Mr. Powell may not share that position, but he did express pessimism
on “Meet the Press” yesterday about the prospects for the surge. He
believes that American forces in Iraq are facing a “civil war,” he
said, and he noted that the White House has not called the conflict in
Iraq a civil war. “The current strategy to deal with it, the military
surge, our part of the surge under General Petraeus — the only thing
it can do is put a heavier lid on this boiling pot of civil war stew,”
For close Powell watchers, this sort of statement may not be
surprising. As secretary of state during the 2004 election season, he
hinted to the editorial board of the New York Times that had he known
no weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, he would not
have supported the war.
More recently, Mr. Powell kept mum after his former chief of staff,
Lawrence Wilkerson, said the Bush administration was being run like a
“cabal.” In 2005, Mr. Wilkerson helped sink the White House’s
nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations; Mr.
Powell did not sign a letter of former Republican secretaries of state
endorsing the Bolton nomination.
Mr. Powell’s positions on a number of national security issues appear
to be more in sync with those of Democrats. On “Meet the Press,” for
example, Mr. Powell said he would close the military prison at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspected terrorists. “I would
simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal
legal system,” he said.
A former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Clifford
May, said he thinks it is fine for Mr. Powell to offer his advice to
all presidential candidates. “If Colin Powell is advising candidates
from both parties on foreign policy, that is commendable,” Mr. May,
the president of the bipartisan Foundation for the Defense of
Democracies, said. “Foreign policy and national security ought to be
beyond partisanship. They have not been in recent years, and that is
Behind Obama and Clinton
BY Stephen Zunes | February 4, 2008
Voters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are rightly
disappointed by the similarity of the foreign policy positions of the
two remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates, Senator
Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. However, there are still
some real discernable differences to be taken into account. Indeed,
given the power the United States has in the world, even minimal
differences in policies can have a major difference in the lives of
millions of people.
As a result, the kind of people the next president appoints to top
positions in national defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs is
critical. Such officials usually emerge from among a presidential
candidate’s team of foreign policy advisors. So, analyzing who these
two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination have brought
in to advise them on international affairs can be an important
barometer for determining what kind for foreign policies they would
pursue as president. For instance, in the case of the Bush
administration, officials like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and
Richard Perle played a major role in the fateful decision to invade
Iraq by convincing the president that Saddam Hussein was an imminent
threat and that American forces would be treated as liberators.
The leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves with
people likely to encourage the next president to follow down a
similarly disastrous path. But what about Senators Barack Obama and
Hillary Clinton? Who have they picked to help them deal with Iraq war
and the other immensely difficult foreign policy decisions that
they’ll be likely to face as president?
Senator Clinton’s foreign policy advisors tend to be veterans of
President Bill Clinton’s administration, most notably former secretary
of state Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Sandy
Berger. Her most influential advisor – and her likely choice for
Secretary of State – is Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke served in a
number of key roles in her husband’s administration, including U.S.
ambassador to the UN and member of the cabinet, special emissary to
the Balkans, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian
affairs, and U.S. ambassador to Germany. He also served as President
Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary of state for East Asia in propping
up Marcos in the Philippines, supporting Suharto’s repression in East
Timor, and backing the generals behind the Kwangju massacre in South
Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisers, who on average tend to
be younger than those of the former first lady, include mainstream
strategic analysts who have worked with previous Democratic
administrations, such as former national security advisors Zbigniew
Brzezinski and Anthony Lake, former assistant secretary of state Susan
Rice, and former navy secretary Richard Danzig. They have also
included some of the more enlightened and creative members of the
Democratic Party establishment, such as Joseph Cirincione and Lawrence
Korb of the Center for American Progress, and former counterterrorism
czar Richard Clarke. His team also includes the noted human rights
scholar and international law advocate Samantha Power – author of a
recent New Yorker article on U.S. manipulation of the UN in post-
invasion Iraq – and other liberal academics. Some of his advisors,
however, have particularly poor records on human rights and
international law, such as retired General Merrill McPeak, a backer of
Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, and Dennis Ross, a supporter of
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
While some of Obama’s key advisors, like Larry Korb, have expressed
concern at the enormous waste from excess military spending, Clinton’s
advisors have been strong supporters of increased resources for the
While Obama advisors Susan Rice and Samantha Power have stressed the
importance of U.S. multilateral engagement, Albright allies herself
with the jingoism of the Bush administration, taking the attitude that
“If we have to use force, it is because we are America! We are the
indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the
While Susan Rice has emphasized how globalization has led to uneven
development that has contributed to destabilization and extremism and
has stressed the importance of bottom-up anti-poverty programs, Berger
and Albright have been outspoken supporters of globalization on the
current top-down neo-liberal lines.
Obama advisors like Joseph Cirincione have emphasized a policy toward
Iraq based on containment and engagement and have downplayed the
supposed threat from Iran. Clinton advisor Holbrooke, meanwhile,
insists that “the Iranians are an enormous threat to the United
States,” the country is “the most pressing problem nation,” and
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is like Hitler.
Iraq as Key Indicator
Perhaps the most important difference between the two foreign policy
teams concerns Iraq. Given the similarities in the proposed Iraq
policies of Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, Obama’s
supporters have emphasized that their candidate had the better
judgment in opposing the invasion beforehand. Indeed, in the critical
months prior to the launch of the war in 2003, Obama openly challenged
the Bush administration’s exaggerated claims of an Iraqi threat and
presciently warned that a war would lead to an increase in Islamic
extremism, terrorism, and regional instability, as well as a decline
in America’s standing in the world.
Senator Clinton, meanwhile, was repeating as fact the administration’s
false claims of an imminent Iraqi threat. She voted to authorize
President Bush to invade that oil-rich country at the time and
circumstances of his own choosing and confidently predicted success.
Despite this record and Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her war
authorization vote, however, her supporters argue that it no longer
relevant and voters need to focus on the present and future.
Indeed, whatever choices the next president makes with regard to Iraq
are going to be problematic, and there are no clear answers at this
point. Yet one’s position regarding the invasion of Iraq at that time
says a lot about how a future president would address such questions
as the use of force, international law, relations with allies, and the
use of intelligence information.
As a result, it may be significant that Senator Clinton’s foreign
policy advisors, many of whom are veterans of her husband’s
administration, were virtually all strong supporters of President
George W. Bush’s call for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. By contrast, almost
every one of Senator Obama’s foreign policy team was opposed to a U.S.
During the lead-up to the war, Obama’s advisors were suspicious of the
Bush administration’s claims that Iraq somehow threatened U.S.
national security to the extent that it required a U.S. invasion and
occupation of that country. For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national
security advisor in the Carter administration, argued that public
support for war “should not be generated by fear-mongering or
By contrast, Clinton’s top advisor and her likely pick for secretary
of state, Richard Holbrooke, insisted that Iraq remained “a clear and
present danger at all times.”
Brzezinski warned that the international community would view the
invasion of a country that was no threat to the United States as an
illegitimate an act of aggression. Noting that it would also threaten
America’s leadership, Brzezinski said that “without a respected and
legitimate law-enforcer, global security could be in serious
jeopardy.” Holbrooke, rejecting the broad international legal
consensus against offensive wars, insisted that it was perfectly
legitimate for the United States to invade Iraq and that the European
governments and anti-war demonstrators who objected “undoubtedly
encouraged” Saddam Hussein.
Another key Obama advisor, Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie
Endowment, argued that the goal of containing the potential threat
from Iraq had been achieved, noting that “Saddam Hussein is
effectively incarcerated and under watch by a force that could respond
immediately and devastatingly to any aggression. Inside Iraq, the
inspection teams preclude any significant advance in WMD capabilities.
The status quo is safe for the American people.”
By contrast, Clinton advisor Sandy Berger, who served as her husband’s
national security advisor, insisted that “even a contained Saddam” was
“harmful to stability and to positive change in the region,” and
therefore the United States had to engage in “regime change” in order
to “fight terror, avert regional conflict, promote peace, and protect
the security of our friends and allies.”
Meanwhile, other future Obama advisors, such as Larry Korb, raised
concerns about the human and material costs of invading and occupying
a heavily populated country in the Middle East and the risks of chaos
and a lengthy counter-insurgency war.
And other top advisors to Senator Clinton – such as her husband’s
former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – confidently predicted
that American military power could easily suppress any opposition to a
U.S. takeover of Iraq. Such confidence in the ability of the United
States to impose its will through force is reflected to this day in
the strong support for President Bush’s troop surge among such Clinton
advisors (and original invasion advocates) as Jack Keane, Kenneth
Pollack, and Michael O’Hanlon. Perhaps that was one reason that,
during the recent State of the Union address, when Bush proclaimed
that the Iraqi surge was working, Clinton stood and cheered while
Obama remained seated and silent.
These differences in the key circles of foreign policy specialists
surrounding these two candidates are consistent with their
diametrically opposed views in the lead-up to the war.
Not every one of Clinton’s foreign policy advisors is a hawk. Her team
also includes some centrist opponents of the war, including retired
General Wesley Clark and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
On balance, it appears likely that a Hillary Clinton administration,
like Bush’s, would be more likely to embrace exaggerated and alarmist
reports regarding potential national security threats, to ignore
international law and the advice of allies, and to launch offensive
wars. By contrast, a Barack Obama administration would be more prone
to examine the actual evidence of potential threats before reacting,
to work more closely with America’s allies to maintain peace and
security, to respect the country’s international legal obligations,
and to use military force only as a last resort.
Progressive Democrats do have reason to be disappointed with Obama’s
foreign policy agenda. At the same time, as The Nation magazine noted,
members of Obama’s foreign policy team are “more likely to stress
‘soft power’ issues like human rights, global development and the
dangers of failed states.” As a result, “Obama may be more open to
challenging old Washington assumptions and crafting new approaches.”
And new approaches are definitely needed.