Connect to share and comment

Could defeat for Democrats be good for the world?

Analysis: History tells us that presidents turn to foreign policy if they lose Congress.

Now on a fellowship at Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics, Milligan said, “After this election, Obama is going to have a hard time getting anything done. But the one place where he can continue to have impact is in America’s relationship with the world.”

“So much of foreign policy is public diplomacy, a sense that the world just wants to know you’re listening. That matters,” said Milligan, a longtime Washington correspondent for The Boston Globe.

“This is one of Obama’s strengths and he will play to his strengths after the election,” she added.

Clinton adopted this strategy after losing control of Congress to Republicans in 1994. He turned his attention to trying to quell conflict in the war-torn Balkans. And he focused on the seemingly intractable issue of Northern Ireland and paved the path for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which would eventually end “The Troubles” after decades of bloodshed. It’s worth noting that Clinton took on those difficult foreign policy challenges at a time when the American economy was going strong. In 1918, Woodrow Wilson pushed ahead with his foreign policy and international diplomacy despite resistance from a Republican-dominated Congress and ultimately won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. 

The raw politics of foreign policy were very much the order of the day for the 100 international journalists gathered for the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists and a three-week tour of America. The program is sponsored through a public-private partnership with State Department and The Aspen Institute and 10 leading American schools of journalism.

Today, these foreign journalists are fanning out across the country to watch the elections unfold in big cities and small towns across America. The idea, as Charles Firestone, executive director of The Aspen Institute, describes the Murrow program, is for the journalists to “see firsthand what American democracy and society is all about, warts and all.”

Last night, I reached Wojciech Cegielski, an international affairs correspondent for Polish Radio and TV, as he was watching the election unfold in North Carolina.

“Foreign policy is just invisible in this election,” said Cegielski. “I have to say I am surprised. I know the economy is the focus for most Americans. But I am surprised that the country is at war and there really is not much discussion about it.”

“If you just watch the election coverage,” said Cegielski, who said he plans to be clicking between CNN, Fox and NBC, “you wouldn’t even know there is a larger world out there.”