Zbig Likes Obama
by horizonr, Thu May 24, 2007 at 06:29:48 PM EDT
Earlier today, Zbigniew Brzezinski -- National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter -- was a guest
on Brian Lehrer's public affairs program on the New York public radio station WNYC. Whatever
one may think of his specific policies at various points in his long career, Brzezinski now is one of the
wisest, most sober-thinking, best-respected foreign policy minds anywhere. Toward the end of his
wide-ranging interview with Lehrer, Brzezinski offered a subtle, provocative, and candid analysis of 2008:
BRIAN LEHRER Are you supporting anyone for president in 2008?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI Well, I know, more or less, what I think is needed, and I'm
watching carefully to see who comes closest to it.
Basically, America needs a president who re-identifies America with the new issues
that the world is facing, and reassures the world that America can provide effective,
constructive, consensual leadership in responding to the varying aspirations and desires
of a very, very politically awakened and increasingly complicated world.
And on the Republican side, the person who comes closest to meeting that need, I think, is Chuck Hagel.
But he's not a candidate yet, but I think he will be a candidate.
On the Democratic side, the person who comes closest to meeting that need, in my view, is Obama....
BL How would you assess Senator Clinton, by that standard -- especially given her experience, obviously,
as First Lady during the Clinton years?
ZB Well, I'm not sure that being a First Lady necessarily is pertinent experience to being a president.
But the issue is really more whether you stand for something new, for something different. I think
the Clinton record is mixed: There are some positive aspects to it, but there are also some shortcomings....
And it seems to me that America needs a new image and not a restoration of the past -- not
to mention the inherent ambiguity of the role of the former president in a new Clinton administration.
What would really be his role? Who would really be governing America?
BL Could that not be a good thing, given his popularity around the world?
ZB Well, then, he ought to run for president. And I'm not sure he's really all that popular. He's getting
very big fees for speeches. But whether he's really a symbol of an America that is responsive to global
problems, I'm not so sure. He's doing good works right now, but he has to be judged as president and
not what he's doing right now.
. . . . . . . . . .
BL What about some of the Republicans who are in the race. To Democrats, they probably look at
McCain and Romney and Giuliani and say, well, basically they sound like Bush. Would you make any
particular distinctions among them?
ZB Well, they sound like Bush, largely because, at this stage, they are appealing to the basic Republican
constituency, which is extremely hard-nosed and ideological.
But it is a minority in the Republican Party. I think public opinion polls show that the disaffection with the
war is widespread and not partisan. So my guess is that whoever emerges as the candidate, assuming it's
one of those three and not somebody like Hagel, will probably then appeal to a wider base running for
president. And my guess is that whoever is the next president will want to disassociate himself
from the war.
And I think that will be better done by a new president who never really supported the war.
And this is where my leanings towards Hagel and Obama are reflecting that judgment.
BL Can you compare John Edwards to Obama, by your criteria?
ZB Well, Edwards is a very able, appealing candidate, no doubt about it. And he has changed his
mind on the war in Iraq. I have respect for him. I think he's a strong candidate, as is Senator Clinton,
as are some of the others.
But I don't have the sense, at this stage, that he's as evocative to the rest of the world
and is as capable of mobilizing American idealism -- and to mobilize it in a demanding
fashion, and not just in a flattering fashion -- as I sense Obama might be.
An audio link to the full interview is here.