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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Douglas Schoen

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Douglas Schoen

Last Build Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2008 00:42:17 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009

As Bush Prepares to Exit and Obama Prepares to Take the Reins, Keep Your Eye on Russia

Wed, 17 Dec 2008 00:42:17 -0600

A review of the evidence of the Russian threat highlights the need for coercive diplomacy:

First, Russian President Medvedev arrived in Caracas over Thanksgiving weekend to sign a nuclear deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Although we do not know the specifics of the deal, we do know that there is an agreement of nuclear cooperation between the two states going forward. Furthermore, the meeting took place aboard the nuclear cruiser Peter the Great, Russia's largest battleship.

Even worse, the Peter the Great sailed into the Venezuelan port prior to Medvedev's visit, along with other military ships, all of which stayed behind to participate in joint military exercises with Venezuela beginning the following week.

After his trip to Venezuela, Medvedev traveled to Havana, Cuba to meet with Raul Castro, Cuba's de facto head of state, on November 28th. Since the close of the Cold War, Russian/Cuban relations have been strained, but Medvedev and Castro met in the spirit of repairing those relations and both sides declared the visit a success. A sign of the success of the visit is the fact that three Russian warships will sail into Cuba this Friday, marking the first time Cuba will host Russian military ships since the Cold War. The Admiral Chabanenko warship, along with two support ships, visited Nicaragua this past weekend and left Monday to make the trip to Cuba. Clearly, the restoration of harmonious ties between Russia and Cuba should do mor than raise a few eyebrows now that Russian battleships are enroute to Cuba.

President-elect Obama must take the Russian threat seriously as president and use Clinton's concept of coercive diplomacy to nudge Russia on key issues and avoid an international conflict. Coercive diplomacy should be used to make it clear to the Russian that we are willing to consider additional arms control agreements with them and even to facilitate new conversations about economic cooperation and security agreements in Europe. Russia would benefit greatly from American cooperation on these fronts, especially given the plummeting price of oil. -The United States should communicate its willingness to help, but only on the condition that the Russians cease and desist in holding joint military exercises with Venezuela and Cuba, selling them arms, and sharing nuclear capabilities. Furthermore, it should be clearly stated that failure to do so not only risks eliminating the possibility of U. S. support, but will also provoke additional confrontation with the West.

With Russia conducting naval exercises in our hemisphere for the first time since the Cold War, the Obama administration will truly face a major international test when it takes over the White House. It is imperative that we to reach out to Russia to find common ground and develop a concerted policy built on the Clinton doctrine of coercive diplomacy. If we fail to do so, the Russian threat is clear and Joe Biden's worse fears will be realized.

Obama Will Lose If He Doesn't Attack

Mon, 25 Aug 2008 12:04:18 -0600

Obama is losing the battle be cause McCain's negative ads have been effective. By comparing Obama to celebrities unflatteringly and by suggesting that he has, at the very least, a messianic streak to his personality, the McCain campaign is driving one of the messages that my research and that of others has shown to be his greatest weakness -- that he is not prepared and in some ways is not well- suited to be elected president. McCain is on the attack, and Obama must fight back. In the 1996 Clinton campaign, which I had helped run, virtually none of our commercials was positive -- they were almost all negative ads that not only attacked Bob Dole but also addressed what Bill Clinton had done and stood for. The answer in the 2008 campaign is to do what we did successfully in 1996: mount a sustained attack making McCain and the policies he has and does support the central issue in the campaign. We also engaged in a guilt-by- association effort in 1996 that paid great dividends and should serve as a model for the Obama campaign as well. From day one, we systematically linked Dole to his politically toxic congressional colleague, Speaker Newt Gingrich, and we never abandoned this linkage. Similarly, Obama should be doing what we did in 1996. In a fo cused, disciplined and sustained way, he must make this contest a referendum on the Bush-McCain policies plain and simple. The central mantra of the Obama candi dacy should be straightforward and unambiguous: After the abject failures of the last few years, the coun try can no longer afford four more years of Bush-McCain policies. Specifically, with unemployment reaching 5.7 percent and the deficit reaching a record $490 billion, there was hardly a peep out of the Obama campaign. This was ridiculous, silly and flawed, and this must change, and change fast. Both Bush and McCain must be systematically blamed for all that is going wrong in America -- both domestically and internationally. It ought to be obvious. It ought to be clear. George Bush has an approval rating that is close to 30 percent. Eighty-five percent of the electorate wants to go in a different direction. On foreign and domestic policy, McCain supports the basic policies of the Bush administration. He has tentatively and hesitantly distanced himself from Bush on is sues like immigration and the environment, but on issues like the war in Iraq, the economy and in particular tax policy, the McCain policies now virtually mirror the Bush policies or are more extreme. Obama needs to make the case that the Bush-McCain policies have caused the economic downturn. Furthermore, Obama needs to speak directly to McCain's own flip-flops over the past eight years on issues like taxes, abortion, campaign finance, warrantless wiretappings and privatizing Social Se curity. Obama can't simply cede the character issue to McCain and must begin systematically attack ing McCain and exposing his weak nesses. And finally, Obama can't let his temperament be called into question without doing the same about McCain. Republican leaders like Thad Cochran of Mississippi have said, "The thought of him being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me." McCain called Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Pete Do menici of New Mexico names that newspapers wouldn't print. Think how voters will react if they get a clear sense of some of the things McCain has said and done -- from the point of view of his colleagues and peers in Congress. So let's be clear. Unless Obama changes his approach and changes his message, he is likely to find himself on the short end of an election that people have believed for the longest time he couldn't lose. Unless he can do this before Labor Day, he will be in even worse trouble because recent history has suggested that he who is ahead on Labor Day wins on Election Day. Obama has less than two weeks to turn his campaign around. The clock is ticking. [...]

Americans Want a Leader Who Transcends Party Lines

Mon, 11 Aug 2008 00:30:55 -0600

To be sure, for most pollsters, the tightening of the race has come as a surprise. With 76 percent of the electorate saying that they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, the expectation was that Obama would have quite an edge. Indeed, in similar circumstances in 1988, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis had an 18 percent lead at this point over Vice President George H.W. Bush, the eventual winner. McCain has closed the gap in part because he has started to emerge as the post-partisan leader that the American people are looking for. This is a change election to be sure, but the question is, what kind of change do people want? My examination of poll data, as well as real-world events, shows that voters are desperate for a leader who will move past the traditional divide to find fresh, workable solutions to the many problems facing our nation. And on many issues facing the nation, from immigration and tor ture to climate change and campaign finance reform, McCain has been able to find a moderate, bipartisan path that a large percentage of the American people seem to want. Obama very much offered this approach during the primary season and benefited from it. To turn his campaign around in the near term, he needs to go back to that approach and focus on the economy and emphasize how his policies would be very different from those that McCain and George Bush have advocated. But to understand why McCain has been able to make slow but steady progress, it is useful to look at some of the issues facing the country. Take energy. Over the last few months, the high price of gas has obviously hit voters hard. What Obama needs to do is a better job recognizing that people desire alternative solutions that go beyond the well-worn policies that he has been advocating. He has talked of tweeking his position on offshore drilling -- that's a start. But he also needs to explain why his calls for a greener America will result in reduced oil consumption and why his policies will result in lower prices at the pump, and soon. To his credit, he's already pledged to increase our investment in renewable energy and raise the nation's fuel standards, and he has made clear that nuclear power will be part of any comprehensive energy proposals. These proposals certainly cut across party lines, and Obama has to take pains to emphasize to swing voters that he has staked out such territory. Obama also must more systematically reassert his commitment to strengthening families. This means he needs to continue doing what he began in June, which is recon necting with people of faith on is sues like faith-based initiatives and encouraging families to stay intact, particularly black families. Now that the Rev. Wright affair is behind him, Obama must also reach out to members of the evangelical community to reassure them and emphasize that he stands with them on a large number of cultural issues that they care about. One of Obama's more successful events was on Father's Day in Chicago. Accompanied by his wife and two daughters, Obama admonished the many black men who "don't realize that responsibility does not end at conception that they have ongoing obligations that they cannot ignore." This is the kind of issue that McCain can't touch, and when Obama talks about it, values voters, both black and white, are inspired and move in his direction. And then there's education. Despite the wishes of his party's grassroots activists and the nation's largest teachers union, Obama is committed to merit pay for teachers and standards in the schools. These positions are likely to resonate well with soccer moms and those who have been scared away from Obama by concerns about his liberal Senate voting record. On health care, both McCain and Obama have demonstrated a remarkable willingness to break from traditional party positions. Obama has pledged to offer a national health plan under which people can purchase reasonably priced coverage, and McCain has promised to open up the in[...]