Helene Cooper has a useful primer on which presidential contenders got a boost or got headwind from three major foreign policy issues last week.
She noted that President Bush hand signed a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, a man Bush had called a “pygmy” and who John Bolton several times called “human scum.” The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran also set back Iran hawks. Last, there was the news that the CIA videotaped the harsh interrogation (i.e. torture) of certain high value prisoners and then destroyed the tapes.
I mentioned that before even consider how the current campaigns were affected, one had to consider Chuck Hagel — even though not in the campaign. He is the one person whose profile in national security and foreign policy issues would have anticipated all these bits of news and is well positioned in the country on them. He is pro-engagement, anti-torture, pro-transparency, and wants the government to prepare for things as they are not as ideological fabulists would have them be.
From Helen Cooper’s article, “Winners and Losers of the Week in Foreign Policy“:
So, who among the presidential hopefuls was helped and who was hurt by the Bush administration’s foreign policy holiday presents?
Over all, political observers and foreign policy experts say the three developments hurt Republicans and helped Democrats.
“The Republicans as a whole lose because of these revelations,” said Steve Clemons, senior fellow and director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington. “If Chuck Hagel were running, he would be the beneficiary, but there’s no one like Hagel on the Republican side.”
Mr. Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska , has strongly criticized the Bush administration, particularly on foreign policy. He has also advocated dialogue with America’s adversaries, criticized some of the interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo, and called for less hawkish behavior against Iran.
The rest of the article is useful.
Cooper notes that McCain gets a slight boost because of anti-torture credentials, but that the Republicans as a whole were hurt by this past week’s news.
On the Dem side, Obama gets the biggest boost as the most pro-engagement of the candidates. Hillary gets some headwind because of the assist she gave the administration in supporting the Kyl-Lieberman Resolution calling for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be designated a terrorist organization.
Joe Biden gets a boost as one of the most experience foreign policy hands who has been opposed to over-hyping the Iran threat and has been offering a fount of serious tactical and strategic proposals for America’s engagement in the Middle East and globally.
Finally, John Edwards remains relatively unaffected despite the claim that his first action as President would be to fly around the world to work on reconstituting key alliances. Most see him as focused on middle class economic issues — and not the broad national security portfolio.
As I have written before, it would be wise for one of the candidates — now that Hagel is out of the presidential race — to copy Senator Hagel’s template for thinking about national security and foreign policy issues. Whether it is Obama, Edward, Clinton, or others — Hagel’s views are out there to borrow and run with.
— Steve Clemons