Obama and McCain Foreign Policy Brain Trusts

Matt Yglesias lists the people on Barack Obama’s “National Security Working Group” and finds that they’re “mostly names we’ve heard before in Obamaworld or else graybeard elder statesman types.” Kevin Drum is mildly disappointed, finding it kind of dull.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Brain Trust

And, indeed, there are no surprises here:

  • Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
  • Senator David Boren, former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Secretary of State Warren Christopher
  • Greg Craig, former director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning
  • Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig
  • Representative Lee Hamilton, former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Dr. Tony Lake, former National Security Advisor
  • Senator Sam Nunn, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  • Secretary of Defense William Perry
  • Dr. Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State
  • Representative Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commissioner
  • Jim Steinberg, former Deputy National Security Advisor

The same, incidentally, is true of Team McCain. I don’t know if there’s a parallel group, exactly, but CFR’s Robert McMahon took a look at McCain’s crew a couple weeks back for Newsweek.

The McCain campaign’s foreign policy coordinator is Randy Scheunemann, a former top legislative aide for Republicans on Capitol Hill, including two former leaders of the Senate, Trent Lott and Bob Dole. Former Congressional Budget Office chief Douglas Holtz-Eakin coordinates economic policy. On national security issues, McCain receives advice from several generations of Republican strategists and former top foreign policy officials such as Henry Kissinger and Richard Armitage, often grouped in the realist camp of foreign policy, as well as William Kristol and Robert Kagan, leading neoconservative voices. The campaign lists Kagan as a leading foreign policy adviser, as noted below, along with State Department veteran Richard Williamson, former top defense and national security official Peter W. Rodman, and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, who advises on national security and energy issues.

Both lists are pretty much what you’d expect: Party loyalists with deep foreign policy backgrounds and ties to previous administrations and/or Congressional leaders.

It’s hard to read the tea leaves with Obama’s team. He’s got some traditional Realists as well as some more ideological types. Mostly, though, it’s the usual suspects from the staffs of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton with a handful of Congressional types.

McCain’s team is dominated by neo-conservatives affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute (Kristol and Kagan) or Project for the New American Century (Scheunemann, Rodman). Richardson and Woolsey are the only mainstream guys listed in the piece, although there may be more of them.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Change.
    (Snort)

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Actually, Bit, I find it sort of reassuring that a good bit of the change rhetoric is boilerplate.

  3. Bithead says:

    I hink I see where you’re going, but let’s make sure.

    Expand.

  4. Obama` 08: Because hiring the people who were in charge during the Clinton Administration sounds like such a great idea.

    Or something like that.

  5. Spoker says:

    Sure looks like a lot of the same people that ran things for several years until just a few months before some changes were made on 9/11.

    I feel so much better now knowing we are going to be in such good hands.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Expand.

    These are the usual suspects (Democratic style). Not unknown quantities. Basically, I think the people in this group would advise a return to the variety of foreign policy realism that was practiced during the Clinton Administration (I’m skeptical of realism, BTW. I think it brought us to where we stood on September 11, 2001).

    As Walter Russell Mead has pointed out American foreign policy has been remarkably consistent over the years. This list of worthies suggests that, for good or ill, the consistency would continue.

    I think that’s how the Iraqi foreign minister interpreted his recent meeting with Sen. Obama: that Sen. Obama would not feel bound by the impressions he gave to some of his more radical supporters during his stump speeches but would act according to the situation on the ground. Saying that is what got Samantha Powers sacked. That fits the (I think) Michael Kinsley definition of “gaffe”: inadvertently telling the truth.

  7. M1EK says:

    Dave, it’s the height of hackism to say that Clintonian realism brought us to 9/11 when Clarke tried to get the Bush administration to focus their energy on alQaeda, and instead they spent their time on missile defense and Iraq.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    M1EK:

    I don’t think that the lead-up to the attack on 9/11 began on January 20, 2001. I think it most certainly goes back to the Bush 41 administration and the policies from that administration continued under the Clinton Administration. Indeed, it may go back to the 1960’s. If that’s “the height of hackism”, so be it.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    It’s the height of hackism to ignore Clarke’s indictments of the Clinton Administration.

  10. Davebo says:

    Richardson and Woolsey are the only mainstream guys listed in the piece, although there may be more of them.

    Woolsey Mainstream? On what planet?

    And I must ask, if Woolsey is indeed mainstream, does that mean Laurie Mylroie is mainstream as well James?

    I guess what I’m asking is, do you believe that Saddam was behind the OKC bombing too?

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    Looks like Danzig already put his foot in his mouth by mentioning foreign policy and Winnie the Pooh in the same sentence. He does know this is American politics doesn’t he?

  12. rodney dill says:

    SSDD

  13. rgaye says:

    I had to laugh at one name and the timing. This morning on the local news a segment aired which indicated that Rep Dan Boren (son of Sen David Boren), had said last week he wouldn’t support Obama because he was too liberal, issued a clarification this morning. He of course will support the nominee and will vote for Obama at the convention and in November.

  14. Floyd says:

    When I look at the political lineup this year…….I AM “a man of constant sorrow”!

  15. Bithead says:

    (I’m skeptical of realism, BTW. I think it brought us to where we stood on September 11, 2001).

    (nod) Agreed.

    As Walter Russell Mead has pointed out American foreign policy has been remarkably consistent over the years. This list of worthies suggests that, for good or ill, the consistency would continue.

    Well, as I’ve said previously… Consistency is only a virtue, if you’re not a total screwup. As the first quote line points up.

    Looks like Danzig already put his foot in his mouth by mentioning foreign policy and Winnie the Pooh in the same sentence.

    “Bother!” said Pooh, as Cthulhu rose up and ate him.