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. Rachael S

    I loved the show. Palin, our possible next VP and- shudder the thought- possible next PRESIDENT might start getting real about the world by believing in dinosaurs. It's hard for her to get real in this way because it conflicts with her certainty that the world is 6,000 years old.
    God help us if she ever takes over the reigns. People, I know he's got darker skin than some of you find pleasing, but PLEASE think this one through.

    September 21, 2008 at 12:58 am |
  2. Jack M. Rice

    What we'll hear is advocacy for what these people do for a living - talk. Warren Christopher wanted to talk while Bosnia burned. James Baker wanted to cozy up to the Arabs as they tried to obliterate Israel. Kissinger wanted to "get real" with the Soviets using detente. "Getting real" is merely doing what works. And more often than not, talk doesn't work. But it does make good copy.

    The problem with the Bush admuinistration hasn't been in the merits of this and that policy but in their execution, which, almost without exception, has been abominable.

    September 21, 2008 at 12:57 am |
  3. Russell

    I just don't see a McCain/Palin White House attracting talent of this caliber, whereas you see Obama reaching out to important figures from other administrations (Volcker, Rubin, Summers) for advice. McCain has already had to send Gramm and Fiorina into seclusion. Where are they going to get the talent?

    And Henry Kissinger, whatever you may think of him, made me laugh so loud at something he said in a public address that I frankly embarrassed myself.

    September 21, 2008 at 12:56 am |
  4. Susan Nunn

    Thank goodness. I remember pulling off to the side of the road just to hear Bill Clinton speak on foreign policy (when he was being interviewed on NPR for his book).... it was such a relief to hear someone that knew what he was talking about after having bush around for so long....now you have these five.... wonderful. Susan

    September 21, 2008 at 12:48 am |
  5. Margot, not from the US

    I'm not from the US but I look forward to watch this special, I've been giving quite a lot of attention to this presidential campaign because you are choosing the next leader of the western world.

    I just can't wait to be able to love America just as much as I did 8 years ago. America needs to start acting like a true leader of the free world, otherwise things could get a lot worst. for all of us.

    By the way, these men are right

    September 21, 2008 at 12:41 am |
  6. chidi

    What a refreshing gathering. I'll be definitely watching. These are people of substance who are reminding Americans what our real values are, and should be. Obama has been right all along. If you don't talk to your enemies, how do you expect to make peace? John McCain and the right wingers need to understand that there is nothing weak about diplomacy. Smart people avoid conflict as much as possible. This is because, both the victor and the vanquished suffer losses.

    September 21, 2008 at 12:40 am |
  7. Yankoz in Australia

    I am an American living overseas and I have to say that four more years of the Bush doctrine under McCain will just about kill whatever credibility the US has here. How can Americans even consider the sort of policy that McCain espouses ? It is very disturbing that the most powerful country in the world has a government elected by some of the least sophisticated voters. How can anyone believe that it is somehow unpatriotic to sit down and talk with anyone who disagrees with our world view, encapsulated in chanting "USA, USA".

    I suspect that McCain still can't come to terms with our defeat in Vietnam and so does not take on board the lessons we should have learned about the disasters that can come from putting ideology ahead of diplomacy and pragmatism.

    September 21, 2008 at 12:37 am |
  8. graham salmon

    its time to try and start dialog with nations that the u s dosent get on with such as iran but all i hear from republicans is is its my way or the highway i like obamas idea of sitting down and talking with the iranians the world hates the american arrogance and it serves no positive purpose and only incites hatred its a small world we live in and we gotta find a way to get on with each other even if we have to bite our tongues

    September 21, 2008 at 12:33 am |
  9. Diana

    I feel like the other countries look at Obama as a patsy and their looking for a way to take over sorry but hes just a talker if we cant feel safe in our country all hope is lost we dont need a talker we need a doer thats why I'm an independent voting republican

    September 21, 2008 at 12:23 am |
  10. icharliem

    call it engagement, call it detente ... pragmatism ... praxis ... doing ... what works best is what works ... and in a complex world, working at the issues face-to-face is far better than going to war, or even saber-rattling, no less name-calling ... all of which is all we've had for nearly 8 arduous years ... future leadership must be pragmatic ... must get out there and work ...

    September 21, 2008 at 12:22 am |
  11. JohnnyBoy

    I agree with everything they've said except the malarkey about climate change. Give it about 6 months folks and let's see if this global cooling cycle sets in. That should demonstrate handily that "global warming" is a long term climate cycle that will repeat over and over. Get over man-made global warming – it isn't your opportunity to take the American people to the cleaners...at least not this time...don't worry, you'll find another excuse...

    September 21, 2008 at 12:19 am |
  12. Reasonable not hateful

    Lesley needs to bone up on pre WW 2 history.

    You can't talk peace to nutty tyrant/dictators/ etc like the Iranian regime.

    You are as naive as Obama is.

    September 21, 2008 at 12:18 am |
  13. John

    This should show you democrats that McCain is the only man for the job .... polls say Obama campaign is 35% more negative you can't be negative and be president of the United States we the people need positive feelings positive draws positive negative draws negative and its unhealthy

    September 21, 2008 at 12:18 am |
  14. M

    Wise advice... and, this is essentially the message and vision Barack Obama holds. Unfortunately, the continued distortion tactics of the RNC/McCain camp, coupled with too many Americans lack of attention or sheer oblivion to the real issues facing the country, equates to the race being even. This country has to face into the real issues and not succumb to the perversion of lies, distortions and biases.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:59 pm |
  15. juergen

    jrq La Habra, Ca
    You just don't get it!
    Engage – NOT in a war
    Soft Power – NOT military force

    Start thinking!

    September 20, 2008 at 11:56 pm |
  16. Lance Collier

    I just finished watching the program with the former Secretaries of State on the World of Challenges. I was very impressed, as I was with all of this evening's programming. I liked the mature way in which the discussion played out. I believe that Senator Obama is sensible, level-headed, and mature and would approach these issues in the same manner and with respect to those involved. McCain represents the single-minded, hot-headed Maverick that Bush is, and throughout the campaign has demonstrated obvious immaturity by stating how he handles affairs in the senate. McCain's lack of understanding / awareness of global issues and domestic economy are frightening. We need to focus on the soft power issues while working with the troublemakers at the same time we are cleaning our own house and making America a priority. Let's pull the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the sliver from others'.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:51 pm |
  17. Diane, Toronto, ON

    Show was excellent!! All 5 each have respect from many in U.S. and elsewhere, for different circumstances they were engaged in while holding their positions. Oh to be a fly on the wall in a private gathering!! The seriousness of the present day issues, their opinions as to handling them and what took me by total surprise - the sense of humour!!! Many can learn from the opinions expressed - all 4 candidates included.

    The only thing that I would say upset me - it wasn't long enough. I'd rather have watched & listened for 3 hours to them than going to a movie.

    Christiane & Frank - you did an excellent job. A treat to actually watch intelligent issue discussions instead of negativity speeches & ads.

    Mr. Baker & Ms. Albright - Where's the Beef!!! Oh I forgot, it's in Alaska!!!

    September 20, 2008 at 11:49 pm |
  18. Hellavajewel

    Madeline Albright's response to mankind being responsible for the global climate was great when she said with was man made everywhere else except Alaska. The panel discussed a lot of same things Barack Obama has be saying for months. I just don't think John McCain has what it takes to sit down and talk seriously with the heads of states that are not that friendly to us. He is such a hot head and half the time it seems like he doesn't know what's going on in the world or exactly where it is. I could never see John McCain having a productive conversation with Putin. He doesn't listen and he would cut him off and probably walk out. We live in a different time andhe does not have enough of a global outlook for the future. Everyone is not out to get the US. They look to us for leadership.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:47 pm |
  19. Willow, from Iowa

    I have been more and more scared watching and reading about the GOP'd pick for POTUS and VP. McCain wants to begin a new cold war with anybody that doesn't see things the same way we do. that's a large percentage of the world he would be pushing away. we can no longer be buddies with someone because they look like us or think like us. We have to find common ground with lots of different people. When Obama was saying we need to meet with these people, McCain was scoffing, saying, "What are you going to talk about with these people?" Its time we join the rest of the world.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  20. Liv

    if to follow the advice, none of these 2 candidates fills the image. We need someone else who has: no huge ego, no self esteem problems, healthy approach, smart, intelligent with the right intuition and judgment, no race cries, no mud throwing, caring, and firm, diplomat, but cautious, etc etc. Who is he/she?

    Obamistas glorify him, McCainistas glorify him. This is natural, but we do need a leader who is not glorified, who is mainly doer, less talker. Someone with crystal clear understanding, the right choice maker, and who does listen to what people want, whom they like, what they need, what this whole world needs to survive...and....

    September 20, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  21. Francais

    The U.S. must regain it's ardent respect across the world as greatest democracy on earth (only second to Athenian democracy). Diplomacy, respect for other nations, and accept the reality that resources become intensely more competitive as developing nations emerge as severe global competitors for resources that only use to be dominated in the past by few major world powers. War not only the means to the solution of today's complicated world problems. Russia turn and will continue to be stronger capitalistic economy going into the future (result of 'pirostrika'). Russia is anticipated and will continue to emerge as serious global competitor, given its abundant resources (people, technology, and natural resources, hence militarily). The U.S. will continue to be succesful on her strategic iniciatives, but Russia is needed and has to be respected to accomplish so.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:34 pm |
  22. Phil-Las Vegas

    We need to reverse course and very fast. The American Dream..get a nice job, a nice house, lift comforably and retire has actually turned into the American nightmere! No matter who is President, they're not going to be able to address every problem we have, but if they tackle several few problems and solve them completely during their tenure, than that would be a step in the right direction. We have a lot of smart people in this world. Pay them, put them in a room and tell them this is your task (i.e. Universal Health Care). You have every resource at your finger tips, put some options together in detail, explain how it works on paper and present them to the President. You have 9 months to submit, then we will evaluate. It can be as simple as that! 20 heads are better than 1!!!!!!

    September 20, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  23. Martimr1

    This might as well have been an endorsement of Obama. Compare his policy points with what was reported here.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  24. ex-GOP

    Bush has weakened America so much that no choice of President can fix it. We need the best and the brightest serving at all levels, not the most loyal to Bush-Cheney-Oil. Debates about lipstick and who is a celebrity contribute nothing to our country.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  25. Aten Imago

    How ironic that five former Secretaries of state, of whom 3 were utterly useless, would be instructing the next president on how to 'get it right' with reference to the challenges that they shall face. Let's get real indeed! Let's do so with some real experts on how to get things done, not with career diplomats that are better known for failing than succeeding.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:24 pm |
  26. James blatt

    It amazes me how some of you people think that this administration doesn't engage.
    They do. Sometimes. And usually it doesn't work.
    North Korea has pulled back from their deal. Bush ( with Powell ) tried for 10 months to get the UN to help remove Saddam. They didn't. The other powers were concerned about their own interests.
    Tell me where else we haven't talked? Iran? The UN is doing the talking. We are part of it. Where has that gotten us? Do you think that McCain or Obama talking to the Iranian mullahs will make a difference? We have fundamental disagreements. Any deal we make with them will benefit them, then they will not hold up their end of any bargain.
    Russia? The administration has done an admirable job in dealing with the current situation.
    Climate change? What are we going to do? Oh yeah, we will sign and adhere to a treaty that exempts half the worlds population and hits us the hardest.
    These folks may be fine statesmen. But they are armchair quarterbacks at this point who will do anything to get across their real message – "Everyone should just listen to me"
    No matter what we do, other countries will hate us. It is human nature.
    If you live on a street where everyone has a 3/2/2 home and a Prius but one home is a 6500 sq ft monster with 5 beds, 4 baths and a four car garage and two Hummers in it you are going hold some resentment for that family. Do not care what anyone here says.
    That is our situation. What to do.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  27. Gene

    Mr. Sesno,
    Thank you Sir for the panel of former Secretaries of State. This was treatment for the disease, not just the symptoms, that America desparately needs.

    Ironically, we can't continue to just complain about administrations without asking ourselves how they came to power – we elected them – we gave them the power. As we prepare to elect our next President, let's remember to factor into our decision the knowledge and insite shared with us by the honorable panel.

    Let us not forget Congress. They are our responsibility also.


    September 20, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  28. Rob Stumpf

    What nonsense. "Engage the world." Yeah, we should do whatever it takes so that the French love our State Department again. Forget about what's right and wrong. It's only about kissing butt so no one hates us. And yes, yes, yes! Governments can spend money to change the weather. Didn't Al Gore tell us so?

    It's the usual crew of losers whose weakness and double talk lead to 9/11....Baker (who said the surge couldn't work), Albright (who was doing God knows what while Al Queda was gaining strength), Henry Kissinger, who would throw all of our allies under the bus for yet one more of his silly Machivellian schemes.

    The professional diplomat corps doesn't like Bush because he pushed them and their moral equivocating aside. To heck with them. The fact that 9/11 happened at all only proves that they often don't know what they are talking about. When diplomacy fails, as it sometimes does, you need action, not cowardly whining. Is there anyone out there still dumb enough that you can stop terrorists by talking to them?

    September 20, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  29. Dan Clayton

    To be quite honest, leadership is about having a vision of the world and a way to accomplish it. Leadership is not about mutual agreement, good feelings, and compromise. Playing down the ideology means hiding our beliefs of what the world should look like. I find that comment to be a symptom of nilism, where everything is good and nothing is good. Reality has consequences, good intents eventually bring good results. However accepting every idea as equal is like saying every plant is OK to eat. No some will kill, some will harm and some are good. America was founded on good principles. God, freedom, equality and sacrifice. That is the world vision. That should remain and we should NEVER compromise the principles. If we do, we are no better than anyone else and we will eventually go the way of ROME...

    September 20, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  30. Christine


    I enjoyed this panel of inteligent and experienced former Secretaries Of State from each political party. This is the type of conversation needed from both presidential candidates on the issues.
    I have watched the campaigns since the inception and have been disappointed in the tone and personal attacks from both parties.
    This campaign should not be a personality contest. The stakes are too high. Our economic situation is the perfect example and the american people should demand the parties stay on course and cover the issues affecting each american.
    It takes a memorial for 9/11 and the economic crisis to show us americans , how we are more alike than different and in unity there is strength. The americans killed on 9/11 and affected by the economic crisis is not just democrats or republicans but " AMERICANS".
    Our process of electing our presidents and many politicans is too precious to continue on personal attacks to evade discussions on the issues.
    I hope Senator Obama and Senator John McCain listened to this panel and learned valuable lessons. Most of the panel agreed in part on how to handle some of the important issues facing the next president. I was not surprised that most of the panel agreed to dialogue on some level with other countries even if they might be considered our enemies. I have watched both campaigns and Senator Obama has leaned more toward diagolue with our enemies and still stand our ground as a super power.
    The present administration has aleinated the United States around the world and in some cases, the coutnry was our ally. However, recently, the administration is trying to start some dialogue with countries perceived to be current or past enemies. This is great and in hindsight, what could have been achieved in eight years under this presidency.


    September 20, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  31. steve

    we should reform the election process and i don't mean simple rules for lobbyists, it should be gov't supported not public(actually corporate) we should make all media that operates in the US provide space for it and in other ways take the money out of it and FORCE the candidates to have REAL debates and discussions, if we where able to have intelligent people like this sit down and discuss things in front of us we would end up with better leaders, end the personality contests it is utter BS, i don't want to have a beer with my next president

    September 20, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  32. Sy Globerman

    These former Secretaries of State were by and large failures. Warren Christopher lost Iran to radical leadership. Kissinger had the US buy it's way out of the Vietnam War, although we never delivered since the North massacred so many South Vietnamese. Albright was a total disgrace ending with Israel agreeing to 95% of Arafat's demands and still she could not bring it to a successful conclusion. Colin Powell although a fine person was weak in his approach. James Baker may have been the only one who did not participate in major failures.
    It's very easy to have all of these countries adore us, all you have to do is kiss their behinds and shower them with American dollars. That's got a name and it is not diplomacy, maybe sychophantic would be appropriate. We bailed Europe and Asia's behinds out of wars and agressions, we gave unstinting financial aid and we are always the first to offer our assistance after natural catastrophes (even to Cuba just last week). If all of that has not gotten us the respect of the free world, then why bother trying.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  33. Mark

    I don't know if this is really the best group to determine the course that we should take, anymore than if we were to get former Chairmen of the Joint Chief staff together.

    Jeez, diplomats thing we should engage more and use more soft power, big suprise. If you were trained to use a hammer, everything looks like nails.

    The real path that they are touting, but they don't dare say, is Realpolitik. Secretaries of State look at things dispationately and amorally. You actually need their boss to have a moral plan for them to follow.

    In regards to Georgia, I'm glad that these guys weren't world leaders during the American Revolution. As I recall, we fired the first shot too.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  34. Charles from MN

    I may not be an expert in "state craft" or diplomacy, but I know that these five "enlightened" people were directly or indirectly involved in creating the following: Christopher (uh, Jimmy Carter, enough said" Kissinger (The Khmer Rouge, The Nixon Admin..enough said) Albright ( The mess in the former Yugoslavia and margnilizing Russia,) Baker (hmm, wasn't he on the Iraq Study Group, they were exactly right on the surge) Powell (he sold WMD, and don't give me that Bush lied crap, if he felt so strongly according to revionist history, he should have resigned on the spot. Why didn't CNN roll out the CEOs of Lehman Brothers and AIG to advise the next President on good business practices. Don't pee on my leg and tell its raining

    September 20, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  35. Wayne

    Inconvenient Reminder: If Bush had followed the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we would have left Iraq in flames. Bush instead rammed through the surge, and what a difference it made! So, no, blindly following the advice of Baker, et al is a poor idea.

    September 20, 2008 at 11:01 pm |
  36. Leah S Trantham

    The United States needs to engage Russia, China, India and Iran.
    do not belittle the Russian potential to resurge as a world power; it was soundly shamed in the past and is definitely wanting to re-emerge as a world power that will check the US ,if not put it down. The US needs to have more friends in its corner. Though there have been some distrust between the Chinese and Americans, it is only because their cultures are so diametrically opposite each other. I do not believe China wants to be a world power in the sense that the Americans believe. The Chinese would rather be economic conquerors than military ones. The so called "inscrutable" Chinese in the past are not riddles or puzzles to be solved. They are merely introverted, quite judgemental, and definitely not effusive. They do not react with knee jerk responses but will react quite strongly if their nationalistic interests are at stake. They are willing to put up with a lot of discomfort as long as their long term goals are met. The Indians are a powerhouse by virtue of their numbers and geography, not to mention their exteme willingness to better themselves in whatever way they can (I am referring to Indians in South Asia, and their enthusiasm about furthering their careers, intellectual pursuits, etc).
    As for Iran, or any Muslim country for that matter, the point of their existence is religion. It would not be well for anybody to try to change their religious beliefs , in much the same way that some Christians or people of other faiths would not want to be changed. There should be respect for their religion and way of life evident when Americans deal with them (this should true for any contractual relations anyway). I am a Christian and I have gone to school with some Muslims, and I would no more convert them to Christianity than they would convert me to the Muslim faith, not because we do not associate or detest each other, but be because we respect each other. I do not have a degree in International studies, but I have lived among different people of different nationalities. My husband is retired military and I am an MD. When I see individuals (patients), I see human beings with the same (most of the time) wants, desires, and goals in life.
    This is not to say that we should let our guard down and embrace terrorists, but by and large the Golden Rule is still very applicable.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:58 pm |
  37. Indian Immigrant

    Is America blind! We did not talk to Fiedel Castro for fifty years. What did we gain, nothing. He survived and controlled Cuba as he wanted. Imagine, if we communicated, the story may have been different. No one knows. give diplomacy a chance.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  38. Elizabeth Dyas

    Fascinating and informative program. Wish this program would be aired on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, BBC, MSNBC and FOX. Unfortunately, this particular program was not political enough for the major networks – just informative and eye-opening, particularly when the majority of the participants were from Republican administrations. Brilliant and unbiased! Thank You.

    Elizabeth Dyas, CAnton Michigan
    An Obama/ Biden Supporter

    September 20, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  39. jackie-okla

    the show was great. i hope obama gets elected to carryout the three things suggested by panel for improving our usa image. this new era is needing fresh modern ideas to advance usa in the global world and senator mccain is w/o any fresh ideas and his running mate brings no new ideas. the "cowboy mentality "want work.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:49 pm |
  40. Mando

    We need a president with the courage to stand against the "groupthink" these secretaries are pushing. Sometimes it takes guts and imagination to rule, rather than to desperately attempt to get the world to do what it'll never do anyway: acknowledge it's debt to the United States.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  41. Kate from Florida

    Just saw the special. Excellent. They were all very sensible and laid out an excellent direction for our country in relation to the world. Everything they said, has been outlined by Obama, by the way.

    I would like to see the US take the position of world leader in the global warming. But I'd also like to see the US challenge the world to a race for new energy. Not unlike the space race of the 60's, what's called for here is a competition to find clean energy that can replace oil. It may be a new invention or a way to manipulate something in abundance. If we do these two things, we'll regain our status, turn around the economy and provide a good life for everyone.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:43 pm |
  42. bswygart@rcn.com

    Think the only way our society has let this "cowboy" approach to diplomacy exist was due to our kney jurk reaction to 911. Let's end this approach and make some progress!

    September 20, 2008 at 10:43 pm |
  43. diane - dallas, tx

    That was one incredible hour! My husband and I rushed home to watch and are absolutely overjoyed by it! The 5 former secretaries' hands on perspective was very enlightening and enforced our understanding that the next president must be willing to sit down and talk with our adversaries! It was very apparent that they are as appalled, as we are, by the Bush administration's foreign policy, which is exactly what McCain intends to continue if he is elected.
    Barack Obama 's approach to foreign policy is far superior to McCain's and will renew America's standing in the world! Thank you for such a quality program!

    September 20, 2008 at 10:41 pm |
  44. akinsope

    Everyone has commented that Guantanimo be closed but question where do you place the prisoners or will they be taken to America?

    September 20, 2008 at 10:39 pm |
  45. Randy From NM

    WOW! I couldn't agree more. I have to wonder if their beliefs and advice have changed since they were in office. At any rate I'm glad they see the big picture and the responsiblility that we as Americans have to the rest of the world. If humanity is to survive it won't be on itimidation or meekness; it will be on engagement. If we engage other countries we will be better for it.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:38 pm |
  46. florida gold

    We americans have now a great opportunity to distinguish who of the two candidates are qualified to pursuit this very dream .The one who still persist that the world we live in is a world who wants to destroy America or the one candidate who believes that America still can be trusted by engaging in diplomacy ,humanity, and understanding .We have to stop this nonsense of shooting first and talking later

    September 20, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  47. kattmann

    This group of knowledgeable and experienced people, from both parties, are saying something which has not been heard for the past eight years.

    Get rid of the "woo-woo" In God We Trust, evangelical, God is on our side rhetoric and lobbyists and look at the world as it is.

    W.A.S.P.s are not the majorit y in this country. There are Blacks and Latinos out there with Ph.D.'s! There is nothing wrong with learning another language besides English!

    The earth is not flat and it took more than seven days to create this planet as it is today. However, with the leadership we currently have it could take nothing more than pushing of a button to end it because someone speaking in tongues thinks that's what should be done.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  48. Scotty, SLC, Utah

    "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.”

    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."

    Which future administration does this sound most like? Isnt talking to someone you have a problem with more productive than punching them in the face? The problem is so many of our American citizens are not only proud of our country, but vain, and the "Bring 'em On" policy feeds their vanity. What happened to trying to bring peace and prosperity to this world instead of ruling it like other fallen empires in history?

    September 20, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  49. james

    A supervisor of mine did some work down in Antarctica a while back, studying the birds and the effects of changing climate there. At one point a delegation of Washington D.C. politicians arrived, amongst them was Arizona senator John McCain. They looked around, did some photo-ops, and what she seemed to notice about Senator McCain was a general lack of inquisitiveness.
    When he finally did speak, it was to ask a question: "Do the penguins have any 'enemies'." Right here you can see the mentality of this man. Penguins don't have 'enemies.' They have predators, threats to their existance, but do not hold a grudge against the forces that affect their lives, including the animals that try to eat them. This is a humanistic fabrication.
    With John McCain you get a man who sees things in a very simplistic and dangerous way. Us or them, enemies or friends, more of the my way or the highway, cowboy attitude. Anyone or any group that disagrees with him will be an enemy. Any deep-seated grudges he holds will be played out upon the world stage. This will be the state of U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy under a McCain presidency. Think about it.

    September 20, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  50. Kris

    Thank you for the important show for us. I know Obama is the right one. We need to move into the world of today !

    September 20, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
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