How risky was the Osama bin Laden raid?
April 30th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

How risky was the Osama bin Laden raid?

Editor's Note: Micah Zenko is a fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he blogs. You can also follow him on TwitterThe following is reprinted with the permission of CFR.org.

By Micah ZenkoCFR.org

Last week, the Obama campaign released a video starring Bill Clinton, in which he extolled the president’s decision to authorize the raid that killed Osama bin Laden one year ago. In the video, Clinton hypothesized: “Suppose the Navy Seals had gone in there, and it hadn’t been bin Laden. Suppose they’d been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for [Obama].” According to the former president, Obama’s decision was “the harder and more honorable path.”

Obama’s authorization of the bin Laden raid was indeed risky: based on incomplete information (such as the lack of definitive proof that the al Qaeda leader was in the Abbotabad compound) and objections from a split cabinet. Even if the operation had failed or cost American lives, many analysts and commentators — including Clinton — exaggerate the likely political costs to the president. FULL POST

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Topics: Politics • President Obama • Terrorism • United States
April 28th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Zakaria: Buffett Rule is bad politics for Obama

Editor's Note: Tune in Sunday at 10a.m. or 1p.m. ET for Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

After months of meandering, it seems President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has settled on a theme. The problem is - it's the wrong one.

The "Buffett Rule" tax on millionaires has become Obama's bumper sticker. The proposal is reasonable - but it does not deserve the attention Obama is showering on it. It raises a trivial sum of money - $47 billion over the next 10 years - during which period the federal government will spend $45 trillion. It adds one more layer to a tax code that is already the most complex and corrupt in the industrialized world.

The focus on the Buffett Rule is also bad politics in the long run for Obama. While polls might momentarily show that it works, Americans are generally aspirational, not envious. Over the years voters tend to support a government that focuses on creating opportunity rather than one that tries to reduce inequality. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair's great feat was to position themselves as pro-market, pro-growth, pro-opportunity progressives. Obama should not fritter away that asset. FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • Economy • Jobs • President Obama
Zakaria: Obama has the wrong campaign theme
April 26th, 2012
10:58 AM ET

Zakaria: Obama has the wrong campaign theme

By Fareed Zakaria

“This pudding lacks a theme,” Winston Churchill once said of his dessert. The same might have been said of Barack Obama’s election campaign, which started strong with his State of the Union address in January and then meandered. It appears finally to have settled on a theme — but it is the wrong one.

Recently the president and his advisers have focused on taxing the rich and tackling inequality. The “Buffett rule” tax on millionaires has become Obama’s bumper sticker. The proposal is reasonable — but does not deserve the attention Obama is showering on it. It raises a trivial sum, $47 billion over the next 10 years, during which period the federal government will spend $45 trillion. It adds one more layer to a tax code that is already the most complex and corrupt in the industrialized world. If the president wants to be bold, he could propose comprehensive tax reform and eliminate the hundreds of deductions, exemptions, credits and loopholes, many of which Congress sells in exchange for campaign contributions.

Read on in The Washington Post.

Zakaria: Buffett Rule good, but not nearly enough
Warren Buffett wrote in an op-ed: "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress."
April 17th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Zakaria: Buffett Rule good, but not nearly enough

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

On Monday, Senate Republicans blocked debate on the Buffett Rule, the 30% tax rate floor called for by President Obama affecting anyone earning more than $1 million a year. If I were in Congress, I'd vote for the Buffett Rule even though it remains highly unsatisfactory. Here's why:

The Buffett Tax will raise about $47 billion over the next ten years and the federal government will spend vastly more than that - $45 trillion over the next ten years. So the total revenue from the tax is clearly trivial in comparison to the scale of the problem in terms of deficit or debt.  I made this point in my discussion with the Chairman of President Obama’s National Economic Council, Gene Sperling.  His response was to really not view it in isolation but to view it as one part of a much larger deficit reduction strategy. He said 'We already have cuts in many programs; we proposed more.' Sperling implied that President Obama was going to accept even more discretionary spending cuts.

Sperling referenced the deal that President Obama and Speaker John Boehner almost came to this past summer in which there were deep cuts.  Sperling said that when cutting programs like Medicaid quite substantially, the Administration is saying ‘We have to balance those on the principle of shared sacrifice by asking those who have been most fortunate over the past decade to pay their fair share.’

I think as a matter of fairness, the Buffett Tax makes sense. FULL POST

Buffett rule is a calculated distraction
Warren Buffett.
April 10th, 2012
02:47 PM ET

Buffett rule is a calculated distraction

Editor's Note: J.D. Foster is the Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.  Curtis Dubay is a Senior Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation. They both blog at The Foundry, where this was originally published.

By J.D. Foster and Curtis Dubay, The Foundry

What do you do when you’re losing a debate?  Change the subject.  That’s really all you need to know to understand President Obama’s resuscitation of his infamous “Buffett Rule” that would impose a minimum 30 percent effective tax rate on businesses and families earning $1 million.

The Supreme Court gave Obamacare a nasty audition two weeks ago, leaving even staunch defenders of the law grasping for straws while the former constitutional law professor now in the White House outrageously flailed the court for doing exactly what the Constitution intends.  So what is the President’s response? Change the subject, of course. FULL POST

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Topics: Economy • Politics • President Obama
April 5th, 2012
06:27 PM ET

Bhagwati: Obama's blunder at the World Bank

Editor's Note: Jagdish Bhagwati is University Professor of Law and Economics at Columbia University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. For more, visit Project Syndicate's excellent new website or follow it on Facebook and Twitter

By Jagdish Bhagwati, Project Syndicate

The selection of a successor to Robert Zoellick as President of the World Bank was supposed to initiate a new era of open meritocratic competition, breaking the traditional hold that the United States has had on the job. Indeed, Zoellick’s own appointment was widely regarded as “illegitimate” from that perspective. But US President Barack Obama has let the world down even more distressingly with his nomination of Jim Yong Kim for the post.

To begin with, it should have been clear that a most remarkable candidate – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – was already at hand. She had impressive credentials: degrees in economics from Harvard and MIT, experience working on a wide variety of development issues as a managing director of the World Bank, and stints as Finance Minister and Foreign Minister of Nigeria. (She also possesses and has amply demonstrated that rarest of qualities: a willingness to fight corruption at the expense of her job.)

Moreover, Okonjo-Iweala is witty, articulate, and no wimp when it comes to taking on shoddy arguments. She is a dream candidate to lead the World Bank. FULL POST

Lindsay: Was Obama playing Medvedev?
President Obama’s candid conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was caught on an open mic.
March 31st, 2012
11:32 AM ET

Lindsay: Was Obama playing Medvedev?

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

President Obama got himself into hot water this week when he was overhead telling Russian president Dmitri Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” on issues like missile defense after the November election and that incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin should give him “space.”

The incident added to a long list of presidential and vice presidential “open mic” gaffes. During a sound-check before a 1984 radio interview, Ronald Reagan warmed up by saying,  “My fellow Americans, I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” That got people’s hearts pounding.

President Biden famously called the signing of Obama’s health-care bill in 2010 “a big f***ing deal.” Parents of young children were not pleased.

Obama’s critics have blistered him for this week’s gaffe, because, well, that’s what critics do.

FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • President Obama • Russia
Should foreign policy be politicized?
March 28th, 2012
11:55 AM ET

Should foreign policy be politicized?

Editor's Note: Richard Fontaine is a senior advisor at the Center for a New American Security and teaches the politics of national security in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

By Richard Fontaine - Special to CNN

It's that time of the election again. As the primaries wind down and the general election looms, foreign policy becomes ever more politicized, and particular events - such as President Obama speaking to Russia's Dmitry Medvedev over an open microphone - generate debate and partisan tussles.

Is that bad?

After all, the only thing more predictable than partisan sniping over foreign policy in the midst of an election year is the weary reaction of foreign policy leaders and experts that we should somehow be above all this. In an interview with Fareed Zakaria earlier this year, President Obama himself remarked that, "In foreign policy, the traditional saying is, 'partisan differences end at the water's edge.'"

The problem is that partisan differences in the United States do not end at the water's edge, and never have. As the 2012 election sharpens the political contest over American foreign policy, we might do well not only to lament the paralysis and bitterness our politics engenders, but also reflect for a moment on the advantages it conveys. FULL POST

Russia and geopolitics on the campaign trail
President Obama’s candid conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was caught on an open mic.
March 28th, 2012
09:25 AM ET

Russia and geopolitics on the campaign trail

Editor's Note: Matthew Rojansky is the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

By Matthew Rojansky – Special to CNN

President Obama has not had much luck with microphones.  The President’s unscripted exchange with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday in Seoul became the latest “whisper heard round the world.”

Unbeknownst to either leader, microphones caught Obama’s assurance that he would have more “flexibility” after the November presidential election to resolve tough issues like ballistic missile defense, and likewise broadcast Medvedev’s promise to “transmit this information to Vladimir.”

On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney seized this opportunity to lambast Obama for showing any flexibility in relations with Putin’s Russia, which he labeled America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”

Aside from confirming the view that Medvedev is little more than Putin’s go-between, this episode has served as a timely reminder that the wider world still matters for the remaining seven months of the U.S. presidential campaign season.  FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • President Obama • Russia
Republican presidents' efforts to reduce nuclear arms
U.S. President George Bush and Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev confer during their joint press conference July 31, 1991, in Moscow concluding the two-day U.S.-Soviet Summit dedicated to the disarmament. (Getty Images)
March 27th, 2012
06:55 PM ET

Republican presidents' efforts to reduce nuclear arms

Editor's NoteNickolas Roth is a policy fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. This post comes from Democracy Arsenal, a liberal foreign affairs blog.

By Nickolas Roth, Democracy Arsenal

President Obama was recently overheard saying to Russian President Medvedev that, assuming he prevails in the election this November, he would have more flexibility to negotiate on arms control issues. In response, some Congressional Republicans have implied that President Obama may have secret plans to aggressively pursue arms control in his second term.

Perhaps Republicans are concerned that the United States will cut its arsenal in half. Maybe they are concerned that President Obama will eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons.  Or maybe they are concerned he would do something dramatic like try to negotiate the total elimination of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. Well, if he were to accomplish any of these tasks, he would be in good company. These are all feats attempted by Republican Presidents in their second terms.  Every second term Republican President since the beginning of the nuclear age (i.e. Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush II) proposed drastic changes to the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Here's a review:

FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • Nuclear • Politics • President Obama
March 27th, 2012
09:04 AM ET

Romney alarmed by Obama open mic gaffe

Speaking with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul, an open mic caught President Obama saying, "This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility."  Medvedev responded, "I understand you. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you." Wolf Blitzer interviewed GOP candidate for president Mitt Romney about these comments. Here's a transcript of the discussion:

Wolf Blitzer: That is a factual statement that the president is making. If he doesn't have to worry getting reelected, he doesn't have to worry so much about domestic politics. Is there anything wrong when it comes to national security issues, to be saying something like that to the Russian leader?

Mitt Romney: Yes, there's something terribly wrong with that. It is alarming. It is troubling. The agreement that the president put in place with regards to nuclear weapons is one which I find very, very troubling already. The decision to withdraw our missile defense sites from Poland put us in greater jeopardy, in my view. The actions he's taken so far which he says are to reset relations with Russia have not worked out at all.

Russia continues to support Syria, supports Iran, has fought us with the crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran. Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage, and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia is very, very troubling, very alarming. I'm very, very concerned. I think the American people are going to feel the same way. This is a president who is telling us one thing and is doing something else, and is planning on doing something else even more frightening.  FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • President Obama • Russia
How nations risk nuclear terrorism
U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak hold a news conference in Seoul, South Korea.
March 26th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

How nations risk nuclear terrorism

Editor's note: Richard J. Chasdi is an adjunct assistant professor at the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Wayne State University and the author of "Counterterror Offensives for the Ghost War World: The Rudiments of Counterterrorism Policy" (Lexington Books, 2010).

By Richard J. Chasdi - Special to CNN

World leaders are meeting in Seoul this week to discuss how to deal with the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The effort to prevent the misuse of nuclear materials and the spread of nuclear weapons has long-placed most emphasis on defensive measures. These are essentially on the "supply side" - aiming to choke off the flow of nuclear weapon components and radiological materials to terrorists. While there is a place for such steps, there is another, and perhaps more successful way, to accomplish the goal.

One of the gravest threats to nuclear proliferation arises from the nations that use proxy groups - seemingly independent organizations that are paid to further the interests of governments.

Ending or reducing the use of such proxy groups has real potential to reduce the availability of such materials to terrorists. Perhaps the single, most dominant security threat stems from the nuclear-tipped country of Pakistan, with its accepted use of proxy groups to promote the perceived national interest.

Third-party transfer, where a country receiving weapons sells or gives them to another party, is always a danger, and with it looms the possible catastrophe of nuclear weapons in the wrong hands.

Read on here.

Topics: Nuclear • President Obama • Terrorism
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