September 19th, 2008
02:37 PM ET

Former Secretaries of State to next President: Get over it. Get real. Be smart

Program Note: 5 former Secretaries of State tell Christiane Amanpour & Frank Sesno what advice they have for "The Next President."

Watch The Next President: A World of Challenges. Saturday, 9 p.m. ET


Frank Sesno | BIO
CNN Special Correspondent

There we were, sitting alongside five people who had made history and shaped American foreign policy for nearly four decades. Vietnam and détente. Hot war with Iraq and Cold War with the Soviet Union. Mideast peace conferences and arms control. Kosovo and Iran. Rwanda and Iraq. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the scourge of drought, poverty and AIDS in the developing world. Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell. Five former American Secretaries of State. The conversation was remarkable for its candor, depth and realism.

We gathered at the George Washington University, where I teach, to talk about the challenges facing the next American president. Christiane Amanpour brought her experience and hard edge to the questioning. The list of challenges we asked about was daunting– from big global issues like climate change and poverty to decisions about how to deal with the new, more assertive Russia, how to handle Iraq and Afghanistan, whether to reach out to Iran, how to fight terrorism and fix America’s tattered image in the world.

Here’s what the secretaries’ bottom line was: get over it. Get real. Be smart. The world is a complicated place. America has to lead. Play down the ideology, they seemed to say, and approach the world rationally and with perspective. Imagine that.

They didn’t agree on everything but the points of consensus were striking – and refreshing, far from the attack soundbites of the campaign and the seductively quick-fix ideas we often hear from politicians and pundits. In fact, on more than one issue, it was clear that this conversation could not possibly take place in the hothouse of the campaign. Poll-driven comments and rapid reaction war rooms ready to pounce prevent candidates from admitting mistakes or embracing the nuance of the real world – even though it’s the real world in which we live.

Some of their suggestions were practical and incremental, some would be big departures from where we are today.

It’s time to engage Iran, the Secretaries said. Drop the preconditions and the political posturing. “The whole point is you try to … deal with countries that you have problems with.” said Madeleine Albright, who tried to pursue an opening with Iran when she was in office. From across the aisle, James Baker agreed. His advice to the next president: “You ought to engage.”

Engage the whole world, really. The secretaries agreed America’s image is a mess. And they laid out three things the next president should do to start to fix it: close Guantanamo, end torture and take the lead on climate change.

On Russia, the message was similarly realistic. Georgia fired the first shot in that little August war, they reminded us. Not to excuse it, or suggest Russia’s a benevolent, democratic place. Keep the pressure on. Make Russia feel international scorn. But keep perspective. Don’t overreact. “We need Russia for a solution of the Iranian problem,” said Henry Kissinger, father of détente. “We may need Russia if Pakistan evolves in some of the directions that it might… It is helpful to cooperate with Russia, not just on the proliferation question, but on the issues of energy.” His bottom line: “This Russia is not democratic, but is also not– what it was before.” Colin Powell said keep the strategic picture in mind. “The Russian Federation is not gonna become the Soviet Union again.”

One of the most poignant discussions was about ‘soft power,’ those activities we do in the world that don’t often attract headlines – development assistance, humanitarian aid, educational and cultural exchanges, that kind of thing. We need a lot more of it, they all said. Former Secretary of State Baker brought it home with a simple comparison. America has fewer people in the foreign service today, he said, than serve on one aircraft carrier. That’s got to change.

It was a challenge to the next president, who will face a world of them.

soundoff (316 Responses)
  1. David Brickner

    Looking at Madelyn Albright and Henry Kissinger on the panel I realize that asking answers from some of the people who are to blame for our problems is a joke.

    September 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  2. Downeast

    Why, oh WHY isn't any one of these knowledgable, experienced people currently a VP candidate? Or a presidential candidate for that matter...

    If one of them were, I might actually feel like this country has a future.

    But no, we have "NO BLINKING" itchy trigger-finger Palin and her thousand-year war presidential candidate. Listed in order of relative importance.

    God help us all.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  3. Interior Alaska

    These guys' conclusion says just what the rest of the world knows already: we have an ideological moron as president, and we keep electing him. What does that make us (voters) in *their* eyes? I am not by any stretch a fan of Obama, but McCain is way too close to Shrub for me to vote for him. If the next president must be realistic and smart, we can't possibly afford another like Shrub: ideological and stupid.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  4. JT

    No one has the guts to list the main change that needs to occur for the United States to regain respect and have a chance to cease or lower terrorism against our country: We need to cut Israel loose. Stop all AID and once and for all to condemn their war like attitude towards their neighbors. They are the original terrorists! And, the rest of the world sees the United States as condoning this situation. Israel, on the other hand, would come to the bargaining table with their Arab neighbors and compromise. I am not an Arab lover, nor a Anti-Semitic. I am just an observer of this ongoing festering wound in the world that has been escalating since the 1950's. Now, since 9/11 they have dragged the United States into their world. Israel might be an ally, but what does the United States get out of that relationship? t is a one way relationship.

    Yet, because of Political Correctness and pressure from lobbyists representing Israel, no one wants to touch the third rail by being called Anti-Semetic. No way to defend yourself from that label.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  5. Cheryl

    Both Obama and McCain represent the extremes of their parties, while we have no one representing the real world and the middle consensus.
    Many Democrats are conservative Dems and many Republicans are liberal Republicans.
    I do not agree with either Obama OR McCain, but believe the answer is somewhere in the middle.
    One side is as bad as the other and there are no Messiahs in this campaign.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  6. Tom, Gville,FL

    Pretty strong support for and consistency with Obama's foreign policy approach by some pretty seasoned vets. Yet the sitting party and their supporters are blasting Obama for his naivety in foreign affairs. I think Obama fits the grow up and get smart suggestion with flying colors. Now we voters need to grow up and get smart and put him in the White House. Just the message we would send to the rest of the world by selecting Obama for our President itself would begin a turn around in our standing as a leader in the world. It would re-seat us as a potentially intelligent population, increase the level of respect with which we would be perceived, and increase the positive influence we could wield throughout the globe. Not that it would be simple or instantaneous, but I can think of no better start. I don't want to even consider the message that putting McCain and Palin in the White House will send out to the world.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  7. Joe Smite

    “This Russia is not democratic, ..."

    If the US is anything to go by, why would any other country want to be democratic? I don't see any real leadership from the presidential candidates, just trolling for votes among the most gullible, ignorant members of the population.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  8. Joe Simpson

    Very thoughtful blog. To the best of my research, Abkhazia and South Ossetia were autonomous provinces from Georgia even during the time of the Soviet Union. The Abkhazians and the South Ossetians welcome the Russian troops as liberators and do not want them to leave. These two provinces do not want to be part of Georgia. We should be tough with the Russians but we should also regongnize that Georgia started this conflict and may have to forfeit these two provinces from their territory.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  9. Jeffrey

    At this point it seems pretty obvious that in order to all live on this planet without killing each other, we've got to cut all the idealogical bull we as a country are always toting around. There are countries that have problems with us? We've been messing around in their country's policies since day one, in order to advance our own agenda, and consequently we've made enemies. The longer we continue the type of policies the Bush administration has operated under for the last eight years, the more enemies we'll have and the deeper we'll be entangled with other nations and international warfare.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  10. Zaman, Mt Vernon, New York

    How unfortunate, these distinguish persons failed to act when they had the power to effect policies, However, one hope the current aspirants will hastily heed the belated common sence approach they now expound.

    This should be a must view/read for each campaingn.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  11. M.Harvie

    Like many others, I am looking forward to this program. CNN needs to provide more of these discussions with people of knowledge and perspective regardless of whether they are Democrat or Republican. The partisan hacks who pass off as analysts and political pundits on many CNN programs need to be cast aside. CNN viewers are intelligent, objective people in the main. Give them substance, not cake. Give us the real, objective, focused analytical perspective. Jettison the titillating soundbite and sensational one liner. Help viewers make informed decisions. Be true to your mandate of presenting and analysing the truth.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  12. Marc L

    I am so sick of hearing how the U.S. has lost credibility in the world. It is such a political slogan. The whole world knows that we are the most generous, benevolent nation to ever exist. No other nation even comes close to the amount of money that we throw around the world to help others. Nobody. So some of the nations dislike the handling of the war on terror. You know what, I would rather be safe than try to impress them. They are the same ones that have been caving in to the terrorists demands for the last 40 years which is why we are where we are today. And though they criticize us, they still respect the heck out of us. This American apologist thing has to stop.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  13. Dean J. Papavassiliou

    It was an excellent presentation and the theme was very real. The next president should be closer to what is happening in the world. Domestic affairs and are economy would always remain No. 1 but the relations with other countries and an open mind to discuss issues with friendly countries or the not-so-friendly ones, should be an option to who ever wins the election. International affairs should remain high on the next president's agenda, especially with a world as our present one!

    September 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  14. Israel Barreto

    Very timely program. I'm looking forward to watching it. In light of our financial meltdown, one which we are not going to be able to handle alone (I.e. Foreign Sovereign Funds will probably buy alot of the junk securities that the US government will buy from the banks). America, now more than ever, needs to understand that we need the world to be at our side. We should continue to be the leader of the free world,but, that term does not mean what it meant during the cold war. Finally, I think it would really be helpful if the participants in this panel would make a non-partisan, non-endorsment commercial which would succintly state to Americans of all parties what is at stake and what they believe our foreign policy should be. It would help the voter look past all of the rhetoric of the campaing.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  15. Fritz

    As usual, an excellent job. These people all speak from experience, and experience from crises within their own Administrations. I'm glad this has finally been done (discussing the reality of what the next president faces). I think sometimes as I watch the evening news and interviews with the candidates that they fail to understand the entirety of the office they are seeking. I am fully aware that the snippets we see on the news are really taken from speeches on specific policy or stances, but the world is in a real mess and the next CinC needs to deal with not only war, the economy, Iran, the EU, the 8 million problems wrong here at home, but also how America is seen by everyone else. Over the last 8 years, we have gone from crusading do-rights who assist those in need to probably the most disliked and targeted population in the world: the French mock us now more than ever, and as a veteran and a proud American, I hate to admit that we've become the proverbial international joke.

    The next CinC has to understand that a) war is bad: people can talk tough about us, but going to war against them is not a necessity, b) have a proper command of the English language so as not to sound like a cartoon character when addressing the United Nations, c) have a thorough understanding of the UN and NOT rely on more than a few people to do your homework for you (you're the president, know your job!), and d)take care of the home front with equal action that you take overseas, ANYWHERE!

    We need a reformer, someone who can cure our collective ills. We all have our belief as to who can do this better, but as long as the person who gets the job does it honestly, honorably, and with conviction. This is a bipartisan plea for someone just to do the job and do it well. Please!!!!

    September 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  16. Bob

    Its a humorous but sad to think of feeble minded sarah palin somehow standing with these intelligent and accomplished people. What a clown she is.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  17. Neil Lexington, Ky

    It is refreshing to see (from the short article) that there is rationality available in American politics. It appears there were none of the 'off with their heads' ( McCain 'I'd fire Cox' ) or the flippant (Pailin 'I put it on ebay') mentalities. Wisdom was shown. I agree with a previous respondent that Americas image was'nt tarnished becouse of GW being a petulant child, it was tarnished when he was not spanked and sent to bed. During the 'Orange revolution' I was embarrassed to be an American, our election was clearly rigged and stolen, and we as a people rolled over. The Ukrainians within their first breath of freedom,let out a resounding 'NO' and stopped the theft of their election.

    The French, God bless them, all they did was speak their mind and stand for their principals, what an American thing to do, but I guess Americans are the only ones allowed to, and the French get flambayed for doing so.

    We need a President who will be open to alternate ideas when engaging the rest of the world, We need a president who will have ethics, not just his/her personal version of morality and control to be shoved down everyone else' throat. And I think that is what this panel was saying.

    With the world as it is today, the worst case scenario is John McCain as president of America.

    The American people must understand that our leaders need to have a global understanding, not just the fact that they portray them self as having similar 'values' on an individual basis. There is more to the planet then the American 'dream'.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm |
  18. Steve, Atlanta, GA

    Palin should attend to get some lessons. Her naive view of the world & US power with comments like "we may have to go to war with Russia" clearly show she is clueless & dangerous in dealing with foreign policy issues. We have spent the last 60 yrs, billions of dollars building an arsenal of WMD sufficient to destroy civilization just to AVOID going to war with Russia. McCain made a big mistake. The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan with its pragmatic & strategic view of the world & how to compete globally without going to war is gone.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  19. Tom, AZ

    When the Georgian issue started I told family and friends we're backing the wrong horse in this conflict. Not only do we not have the luxury of lecturing the Russians about invading another country after we invaded Iraq, we have more to gain by working with them.
    As the panel pointed out, the Russians did not fire the first shot in that conflict.
    They are also dealing with the same Muslim extremism that we are dealing with. By working together, we can make a lot of progress in solving that issue.
    We can't allow another four years of cowboy diplomacy. Talk to people directly.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  20. Mike, Alpharetta GA

    The only "leading" we need to do on climate change is educate the rest of the world on the FACT that it's a normal climatological cycle and not manmade.

    That's REAL world leadership.

    September 20, 2008 at 3:05 pm |
  21. James

    CNN stands idly by when politicians (like Obama) get ripped apart for strongly suggesting we ought to engage the world. Why don't you keep this story out front, and keep comparing all of McCains BS to it? CNN helped us get into the Iraq war by not investigating and challenging the lies that got us there. You do the same kinds of things over and over. Good thing for you that most of your viewers are 'disabled.'

    September 20, 2008 at 3:04 pm |
  22. james from santa fe

    i've always believed that our country is blessed with some of the absolute best and brightest men and women who, without any doubt, love their country and are willing to put their ideas, perspectives, energy and lives on the line for the good of the usa. it's a damned shame that we, "the people" of this great country, can not (we have not to date because of the divisive leadership...no, make that lack of leadership) demand of our so-called politicians (most of whom are nothing but selfserving political hacks) to consider the wisdom and experience of those, the best and brightest, among us. jeeeze, come on my fellow americans, wake up!, our fine country is going under right before our eyes and we refuse to grab that lifeline offered by our best and brightest citizens!!!

    September 20, 2008 at 2:59 pm |
  23. Tim

    This is why we need a real leader that has a spine, stands up to all the idealogs, both Dems & Repubs. And Obama has yet to do that! But he has the gift of gab, which does not qualify him. McCain has that backone!!!

    September 20, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  24. Tim

    A learned group no doubt. Yes, engagement is the key to operating in this complex world.

    One question for these learned personalities. How come none of them (Exception: Kissinger), and their respective Presidents, could make zero progress with Iran.

    A country engaged must also be willing to engage for diplomacy to work. The acquisition of nuclear capability has progressed under their respective watches. First, it was suggested, "Let the Europeans engage, America is only a hindrance to progress." Result: Iran has continued to acquire nuclear capability. Next, "The US should be engaged." Result: Nothing has changed.

    Iran has been on a crash course to obtain nuclear weapons. Given their ideaology, no amount of "engagement" would change that objective.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:56 pm |
  25. Mark in Phoenix

    Wow! Adults speaking like adults instead of jingoistic, simplistic drivel – amazing!
    Too Bad Baker didn't behave like that when he helped make Georgie the President-select in 2000 and Colin Powell didn't exercise better judgment or independence while making the fraudulent case for war in the UN.
    Guess it is better late than never on their part.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  26. Angie

    I agree wholeheartedly and it is refreshing to hear these words actually being said. I have thought the same thing myself – but what I don't understand is why wasn't this agenda – or why isn't this agenda – being followed. We – America – need to take the lead if we are going to be the leader in the free world. The days of threatening, intimidation, obnoxious "stay the course" even if its wrong attitude need to end. I hear the word "change" from the presidential candidates but no one has laid out a clear concise agenda – its still all rhetoric and thats what scares me. Do they have a plan for our eventual demise or a plan for success? Most people think of foreign affairs as not our problem, I think the next President needs to address why it is our problem – because that connection needs to be explained.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  27. Alec

    "America has fewer people in the foreign service today, he said, than serve on one aircraft carrier. That’s got to change." That may explain why a single aircraft carrier is more beneficial to the U.S. foreign policy than the entire foreign service.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  28. Mark DeVirgilio

    Professor Sesno,
    You are being too nice to the current administration. Our leaders think in simplistic and moralistic concepts such as good and evil. Thus, we have a foreign policy of exhaustion whereby the policy ends are predicated upon when we run out of treasure or when the voters refuse to sacrifice more of our blood. However, the Russians have shown that realism is brutally alive in this world. To win the war in Iraq and against the regional sponsors of terrorism, we need to seize their center of gravity, which are their oilfields. How do I know that Iraq, Iran, and Syria sponsor terrorism? We invaded Iraq and the suicide bombings in Israel drop by 95%. By shrouding our moralistic foreign policy in democracy and human rights rationalizations that are borrowed from idealism, we are unable to perform the cost and benefit analysis for sustaining the war in Iraq. Exhaustion will be the decisionmaker. Let us see what the experts have to say of realism and idealism.

    dr devo

    September 20, 2008 at 2:53 pm |
  29. Wayne H. Wagie Miami, Florida

    If the next President needs to Get over it. Get real. Be smart, then we really only have one choice, because McCain is living in the past and has a bad attitude, and his thinking is not real and we know he is not very smart. We don't need another President who is hard headed.
    We need to move forward not backwards.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:53 pm |
  30. Sadie

    jrq: Foreign service, mentioned at the end of this article, is not the same as military service. Those who are in foreign service work under the Department of State. Members include ambassadors, diplomats, consulars, and supporting staff.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  31. colette gilroy

    Could someone tell me why there are so many totally uneducated in civics, totally unaware of what their own government is supposed to do, what their own Constitution prescribes ? That taxes go to the common good ? Roads, hospitals, military, security, rescue when hurricanes destroy the cities, etc... Why is it that TV stations, local and national, are not required to show programs such as the above - while no other broadcast allowed - to enlighten the public. The airwaves belong to the public. The public has a right, yeah a duty to know whom to vote for and why it is important to vote. In the recommendations by those former Secretaries of State, I read that they suggest to talk to our perceived enemy, to talk to Iran, to talk to Russia. What does McCain advocates ? Bang bang Iran ! Bang bang Iran ! "We are all Geogians!" Do we also Bang ! bang Russia ? Bang Bang Korea ! and who else could we bang bang ? I tell you, I would not trust him or Palin with the 3 o'c. a.m. red phone ! What does she know ? That rapture will occur in her life time and let's help it by bangbang some more ?

    September 20, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
  32. Tarchon The Etruscan

    To get "real" we have to dump the support for the Jewish entity in the Promised Land of Milk and Honey in occupied Palestine. Till then it more of the same.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:32 pm |
  33. C from GA

    I can't wait to see this – please make it available in several re-runs or make the transcript available online. One of my biggest concerns about this election is that we as a country start thinking seriously about our position as a "global" citizen. Right after 9/11 we had friends across the world – crying with us. I was as moved by the reactions of people in other countries as I was by the ceremonies and news coverage here.

    Now we're considered the bully on the block. Instead of that tragedy bringing safety, security, and peace – it's brought ugliness in politics, the senseless killing of Americans AND Iraquis. And it's made hatred a continuing theme in both the middle east and the US.

    This election is being watched around the world as an indication of whether the US has gotten smarter and is finally ready to "spank" our leaders at long last... Let's hope people can put aside the petty and move forward with some look to the future instead of the past.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  34. Doggity

    Oh, real high credibility here! War criminal Kissinger, who cannot even leave our country, because he's wanted for extradition by a few of his victim countries for war crimes, and Carlyle Group honcho, oh excuse me ex Secretary of the State/Treasury/ all purpose flack/liar James Baker who changed his story 3 times in 5 days as to why we were in Iraq under Bush I....HIGH credibility! This pack of maggots starts wars to make obscene profits by the companies they've carefully positioned (remember Haliburton?), and then leave US to clean up their mess. These people shouldn't just be indicted....these people should be extradited to The Hague, to be tried along with all the other war criminals....Rockefeller toadies, all, owned lock, stock and barrel, just like CNN/Fox News/ and the rest of the corporate disinformation/obfuscation media complex.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm |
  35. Sam, Peoria, IL

    I wish some such sense prevailed before such aghast destruction perpertrated by criminals in the present Whitehouse! Its Tooooo Little, Tooooo Late, Mr. Late Edition, Editor. 🙂

    And I believe I see there the 2 criminals on the panel, who themselves have perpertrated crime, and don't deserve anything less than war crimes themselves, how could these 2 rogues ever understand the meaning of peace!!

    Frank, frankly speaking you're too naive, and late in everything, and you don't seem to know whom to put on the panel? Ms. Amanpour is even too naive to undesrtand peace, as she thinks British imperialism is a 'saving grace' of humanity.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:22 pm |
  36. beartrack

    Well, let's hope that most of America takes this in. McCain and Palin will of course pass on it as they think that what has taken place over the last eight years is just fine. Obama seems to be on the right track but, there are still way too many people that think like Bush et al. So go out and educate your neighbors on what is really going on, and what could be if we change the direction of our society and culture

    September 20, 2008 at 2:21 pm |
  37. benjamin

    It is amazing that hindsight has the most insight.

    If these minds could have only influenced the empty suits in power today, we would not be in such a mess.

    The next leader needs foresight.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  38. Happy in Arizona

    McCain/Palin ticket is obsessed with the military and very much out of touch. Obama has continually said we need to talk with our so-called enemies. Even in our everyday life, talking with our enemies sometimes breaks up the rivalry and friendships begin. Bush/Chaney have sold out America. We are in this mess because of them and the Republicans have lost site of who they are supposed to be for and that's the American people. McCain/Palin are clueless and I am tired of her bragging about lipstick, hockeymom, e-bay sale. I trust neither of them and her refusal on this investigation clearly shows she and her husband have a lot to hide.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:18 pm |
  39. Carlos

    Wonderful show. I can't wait. But most of the comments are partisan and therefore misguided. Americans beware. The world is chaotic, it has always been. Every nation acts in their own self interest. Stop trying to "make the world like you" . Most friendly nations will drop you in a second if (and when) others match you in power. Do what is best for you and do not oversell international popularity. With the possible exception of the British, Canadians, and Australians, most other friends are "here today, gone tomorrow".

    September 20, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  40. David in Phoenix, AZ

    I can't wait to see this program. This will be very enlightning and hopefully the beginning of the end of this 8 year nightmare. Good job, CNN-we need to start being a lot more mature in our analysis of the world, and our place in it. It sounds to me that the approach put forward by our former Secretaries of State is very similar to that of Barack Obama.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:15 pm |
  41. Tony Radell

    Wow, some very smart people got together and pretty much have said what Obama has been saying for 18 months. "A little less dangerous cowboy and a little more intelligent diplomatic leader for the future.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:11 pm |
  42. JB in Chicago

    jrq: please don't confuse the military with the foreign service (i.e. diplomats, ambassadors, etc.). what the former secretaries of state were saying is that we need more serving in that capacity because we have less people in foreign service than in one military aircraft carrier. i think you missed the point completely. you don't always have to rule with an iron fist.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm |
  43. Craig from Montana

    "Raped and impregnated with the idea of democracy."

    Wow. The liberals are just obsessed with this violent rape imagery lately. I hope when Obama gets elected he takes even more of my money so that I can even less afford to buy gas and heat my house. I hope he gives my money to Africa, so they can buy mosquito nets and condoms. Isn't that "soft power" idea great? The only thing missing from this panel of outrageous failure was Jimmy Carter, and you know he's smiling, because Obama will be so awful he'll make Carter's disastrous presidency look like a day at Disneyland.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm |
  44. Carl Justus

    The next president will be stepping in a worse mess than Franklin Roosvelt did when became president.

    What we have now is like a four year old thinking everything in world is his and he can do with as the pleases and we do not have enough people in congress that has the guts to do anything about it. The republicans are so afraid they will make some campaign contributor mad if hey censure this or stop this president from trying to be king or a dictator they want get their pockets filled.

    September 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm |
  45. Andy

    "I can see Russia from my house" and "President Putin of Germany" will not do it. Our only assurance is Obama who already knows his way around the globe. Go Obama!

    September 20, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  46. Julie Stedman

    Is this a joke? Why don't people get this before they read the headlines on CNN? Like they would require their secretaires to read and be discenring? Come on, this is a total joke. Expect more people.. you are all frickin idiots.

    September 20, 2008 at 1:49 pm |
  47. bfree

    Basically, these people are merely pundits with opinons and they are probably wrong about 50% or more of the time. We the people need to pressure our politicans who have kicked the American people to the curb so the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could go on a book tour, so the Chairman of the committee that oversees them, Sen. Dodd, could take massive political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and so the nation's leading tax writer, Charlie Rangel, could skip on paying his taxes and then say he didn't know he had to. In America, times have been pretty good, relative to the rest of the world, and in the process too many of us have become over-tolerant of the corruption and disturbing lack of performance of our congressman. I would like to see all the people, of all the parties make a committment to vote EVERY SINGLE congressman and Senator out of their position. And to continue to do so if they did not meet the country's needs. We the people, have to make change, and it has to start with congress.

    September 20, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  48. Meri

    How refreshing to see see such an intelligent argument from all of you. George Bush somehow managed to turn others' sophistication and intellect into a negative in the 2000 campaign, and we see where that has gotten us as a nation. Do we want to trust America's future to a man at the bottom of his class and a woman who went to five or six colleges to finally earn just a BA in Journalism? The foreign policy issues a commander in chief deals with are complex and require great finesse, something McCain and Palin could probably not even spell. If wanting a thoughtful, intelligent, sophisticated President makes me an elitist, I am proud be an elitist and thoughtfully vote for Obama and Biden.

    September 20, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  49. Charlie, Pennsylvania

    Great article! Our world image needs to be revitalized. My definition of diplomacy and negotiations has always been to get the desired results without designating a winner and a loser. Losers don’t go away and we have to share the planet with them.

    September 20, 2008 at 1:45 pm |
  50. Corey

    Thank you CNN. This is the type of conversation we should be having during this election season, not more of the "lipstick" distractions, smears, fears, lies and spin that have been so prevalent. Unfortunately, I am not hopeful that a majority of Americans are really ready for a serious discussion.

    September 20, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
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