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America In The World

America In The World

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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Two weeks ago, we had a conversation with Greg Craig, a foreign policy and national security adviser to the Obama/Biden campaign, about how the Democratic nominee sees America's role in the world. (You can listen to that program here, or read a transcript of it here.)

On today's show, we'll ask his counterpart on the McCain/Palin campaign, Randy Scheunemann, to give us his candidate's vision. Like last time, Ted Koppel will join us.

We want to know what you think a McCain/Palin administration's top priority in foreign policy ought to be.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

The most pressing issue today is Climate Change coupled closely with Energy issues. We are reaching (have reached most likely) a critical point in history that will challenge all humanity to survive and thrive or shrivel and die.

This is an opportunity. The space race started as a cold war contest but in the decades since space exploration and development has largely been a means of international cooperation and futhred the cause of peace.

The same can and should be done with the climate and energy problems. Foreign policy of the next president should be founded in this.

Helping poor countries provide clean environments for their citizens, promoting deployment of current clean energy and industry technologies, promoting research in new techniques and technologies for sustainable living around the globe.

The US is in a singular position to act as a leader in all these areas and thus continue to benifit as a power in the world yet at the same time help the rest of the world grow and take on some of that responsibility of power in a peaceful and cooperative way that does not threaten US ecology, safety or economy.

Sent by Mike Cerone | 2:15 PM | 9-8-2008

I think we need clearer understanding of Palin's specific foreign policy experience, not related to geography. If she doesn't have any, then just state that.

Sent by Maria Guzman | 2:15 PM | 9-8-2008

Mr. Scheunemann just said Gov. Palin has more executive experience than Sen. Biden and Sen. Obama combined. Wouldn't that mean she has more executive experience than Senator McCain too?

Sent by Valyn Perini | 2:16 PM | 9-8-2008

I love that the McCain campaign considers physical proximity to Canada and Russia and hostessing foreign dignitaries as foreign policy experience for Sarah Palin. And that they are seriously challenging Barack Obama's experience as compared to Governor Palin's. Curiouser and curiouser. Thank you, Ted Koppel, for pointing out your home proximity to other principalities without claiming expertise.

Sent by Jennifer McClellan Sanders | 2:18 PM | 9-8-2008

It strikes me that every president will be a foreign policy neophyte. World leaders and relationships between nations change continuously; threats and challenges evolve. I'm more interested in how the next president will gather information and craft decisions and policy than I am in their current knowledge base.

Sent by Dana Stone | 2:20 PM | 9-8-2008

Whoa! When did the first priority of the president change???

Here's the oath the president takes:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I don't see how it can be clearer what the first priority of the president is.

The claim that the first priority is to defend the US from attack clearly reflects a world view that is more in line with imperialist leaders, than the intended priorities of the president circa 1790.

Sent by michael pettengill | 2:20 PM | 9-8-2008

Top priority with any Administration should be a full investigation of the 911 attacks. In particular, an investigation should be launched as to exactly why individuals who openly admitted aiding and abetting the terrorists (Omar al Bayoumi, Osama Basnan, among many others)were never arrested.
Anyone can find these names by using the names of the 19 9-11 terrorists as keywords and the names of their associates appear; anyone can search the names of those who openly admitted furnishing money, housing, and flying lessons (all sites roughly agree on the facts), and see that they left the US when they felt like it.
Now, shouldn't those directly complicit in the worst terror attack in US history face some sort of penalty?

Sent by Lionel Bottari | 2:23 PM | 9-8-2008

I am not sure how the the young man currently being interviewed processes and/or analyzes information but his apparent attempt to assert that Gov. Palin is a foreign affairs expert because she lives in Alaska near the Canadians and that there are military bases in Alaska so she doesn't need any ACTUAL AND MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE or advisors is as ludicrous as me claiming to be an expert on agriculture because I live in Kansas and I have driven past farms in my car for most of my 56 years. If his analysis is correct, then I have extensive experience and perhaps I could become the next Secretary of Agriculture ?

Sent by Susan Whitfield-Lungren | 2:24 PM | 9-8-2008

Thank you Neal for having Ted Koppel on your program today. No offense to you, but Ted's pushing for substantive answers from Mr. Scheunemann (especially on the campaign's claims that Gov. Palin has significant foreign policy experience) was like music to my ears. The media's continual "softballing" of questions to McCain and Palin and their readiness to accept the their often evasive responses, pulled straight from the Republican talking points memo, has served as an insult to American journalism. Leave it to the seasoned veterans to get the job done.

Sent by Jackie B. | 2:26 PM | 9-8-2008

Stop letting this McCain/Bush representative put down obama and not actually say anything.
Clearly the McCain campaign has not idea how to move forward on any international issue forward. They appear only to think that the only option is the ARMY.

Sent by Matt | 2:27 PM | 9-8-2008

Their top priority should be to reestablish our country's good reputation on the global stage. During this administration we have done nothing but alienate other countries. The McCain/Palin ticket will surely take us into another war. She seems to love a good fight - I can't imagine how she is prepared to negotiate or even talk to world leaders that she may not agree with. Previous foreign policy experience is necessary to understand the nuances and challenges that foreign relations can pose. Living near Russia isn't enough. McCain is almost tolerable, but if anything happened to him, we'd be in trouble.

Sent by Renee | 2:28 PM | 9-8-2008

todays topic is defining McCain's International Priorities, however so far Mr. Scheunemann has answered every question by saying more about what Obama's positions are or what he would like us to think they are. I'd appreciate it if he'd stick to telling us what McCain's positions are -- and let us do our own comparing and contrasting.

Sent by Bonnie Hanlin | 2:29 PM | 9-8-2008

Sara-cudda?!? Arctic Fox?!?

That's what I'm hearing from the right-leaning Republicans in Missouri and on popular talk shows. Who is this woman we've never heard of? What the heck is John McCain thinking?

Think he shot himself in the foot (arm) on this one.

Very Respectfully,

Joe Moran
Kansas City, Mo.

Sent by Joe Moran | 2:30 PM | 9-8-2008

It is extremely frustrating and disappointing to hear Mr. McCain's top foreign policy advisor answer questions by repeatedly criticizing Mr. Obama's policies and experience. How does this inform us about Sen. McCain's point of view?
I would also like to know what Randy S's expertise is -- all we heard was that he was previously a lobbyist.

Sent by Barbara Carmody | 2:30 PM | 9-8-2008

Your guest's comment that "Senator Mc Cain needs foreign policy experts like Tiger Woods needs a golf coach" is exactly the kind of arrogance we cannot afford to have in a president again. This is an especially notable comment because John McCain has shown that his knowledge is shaky even with regard to Iraq -- saying that Iraq borders Pakistan and -- more troubling -- repeatedly confusing Shiites and Sunnis. Once Joe Lieberman stepped in to correct him during a taped interview. This is quite telling and serious as I think it is indicative of his command of the different factions at war. And that is just one country in our vast, complicated and rapidly changing international landscape.

I want my president -- no matter what his or her experience is -- to believe that he/she needs many foreign policy experts and to consult with the best we have available, even if they disagree.

Sent by Kathleen | 2:30 PM | 9-8-2008

Thank you, Ted Koppel, for pressing on through the fog of this guest. I can't believe that McCain does not believe that he can use a little help with foreign policy advisors since he has clearly gone with the status quo for the administration which is not working well. We have to improve our image and status in the world. I just don't see this combination of deluded McCain and assertive uninformed Palin doing that.

Sent by Kay | 2:31 PM | 9-8-2008

How can Randy Scheunemann get away with saying to effect "McCain needs Foreign Policy advisor's to the extent Tiger Woods needs a Golf coach!!" This goes to the heart of the arrogance of GOP operatives and a future McCain administration - it will be exactly more of the same if not a more intensified version of the past 8 years! We'd have a "go it alone cowboy" - no need for anyone's counsel!

They like saying McCain hates War, but he sounded very different on the one night he was given to speak to the nation at the convention: "Stand up, Stand up and Fight!!! to thunderous applause! That sounds like a "belligerent" to me who can't wait to exercise power as a C-in-C and fight indefinitely in Iraq.


Sent by Paul Chabeda | 2:31 PM | 9-8-2008

I'd like to have the guest address the pressing question that I have about Sarah Palin's apparent lack of experience in foreign policy matters.

Obviously, if elected, Palin will be a proverbial "heart beat" away from being commander-in-chief, and the US's top diplomat.

Exactly what foreign policy decisions has Sarah Palin ever made?

Sent by Robert J. Eddington | 2:32 PM | 9-8-2008

I am frustrated by how the press blindly accepts the catch phrase, "the surge has worked" without challenging the underlying assumptions of policy makers like Sen. McCain. The surge has reduced violence to an important degree, back down to about 400 attacks per month according to the Pentagon. Hardly an acceptable level, just less than the 1200 per month before the surge. More importantly, the decrease in violence has resulted far more from the millions of dollars we are now paying former insurgents to work for us rather than shoot at us than the troop increase. Of greatest importance, the purported intent of the surge was to provide an opportunity for Iraqis to reach political solutions to their many problems which has not happened. So how does anyone, including Sen. McCain assert with a straight face that this strategy has been a success?

Sent by Seth | 2:33 PM | 9-8-2008

In light of your guest's comments about Gov. Palin's foreign policy experience, The Atlantic's Andew Sullivan wrote the following
"Yes, Obama is inexperienced in foreign policy. But at least he has thought seriously about it. Do you really believe that Sarah Palin understands the distinctions between Shia and Sunni, has an opinion about the future of Pakistan, has a view of how to exploit rifts within Tehran's leadership, knows about the tricky task of securing loose nuclear weapons? Does anyone even know if she has ever expressed a view on these matters? Here's a bleg: can anyone direct me to any statement she has ever made about foreign policy?"

So can your guest state one serious statement/speech/writing statement she has ever made about foreign policy?

Sent by John Ise | 2:33 PM | 9-8-2008

It was stated that Sen. McCain has 40 years foreign policy experience based on 20 years in the military and 20 in the senate. It seems to me that serving in the military gives one perspective about being a soldier, but not experience in governing. Although I will concede that Senator McCain still has a longer tenure in the Senate and significant committee assignments his experience is similar in nature to Senator Obama's. The difference has been greatly exaggerated.

Sent by Richard Thurman | 2:34 PM | 9-8-2008

McCain's spokesman has no more business using every answer to criticize his opponents than did Obama's spokesman.

NPR has no business allowing such one sided presentation.

Sent by Charlie Brummitt | 2:35 PM | 9-8-2008

The relative pacification of Iraq was not accomplished by the surge. The real difference was made by bribing the Sunni Sheiks to stop attacking Americans. Putting them on the payroll had a great deal do to do with stopping both their attacks and in their turning against the Saudi Wahhabi suicide bombers who they abetted or at least did not impede.

Sent by Lionel Bottari | 2:36 PM | 9-8-2008

I have not been able to hear the entire conversation, but what about Al Qaeda? Osama bin Laden is still at large 7 years after 9/11. From what I have heard, he is hiding somewhere on the border of Afghanistan/Pakistan. Would a President McCain go after the chief conspirator of 9/11, even though it might mean antagonizing Pakistan?

Sent by Adam Sowl | 2:37 PM | 9-8-2008

I would like to hear Senator McCain's responses to the questions. Randy Scheunemann's comments seem to mirror the Bush Admin's talking points.

Sent by Bill Hyatt | 2:37 PM | 9-8-2008

Isn't McCain's position on global warming----that it is a real threat, and at least partially caused by human activity---directly in conflict with that of his running mate Sarah Palin? As the perhaps the most urgent and dire issue that threatens us, is Palin's disagreement with McCain not something that should be explored?

Sent by Ian Fowler | 2:38 PM | 9-8-2008

I don't want to keep piling on to Governor Palin's National Security experience but John McCain said that she was right next to Russia and she is the head of the Alaska National Guard so that was her experience. Can you please elaborate for me what he meant and tell me what policy decisions she has had to make with Russia in her role as Governor or head of the National Guard?

Sent by Joe Williams | 2:39 PM | 9-8-2008

Just because Mr. Obama has not expressly disavowed military action against Iran is not the same as agreeing with it. It is amazing that the nuance and complexity of so many issues re. foreign policy can be reduced by the Republicans to 'black vs white' answers to honest questions.

Sent by James Puskar | 2:39 PM | 9-8-2008

Joe Biden was outspoken in stressing the importance of not allowing Iraq to sink into chaos through a premature withdrawal, in fact listening to his assessment last summer changed my opinion about supporting immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Biden's presence on the ticket and his understanding of foreign policy stands in clear distinction to the choice of the inexperienced Palin by McCain. It is unfortunate that McCain did not get his first choice - Joe Liberman - to balance his own weaknesses in foreign policy.

Sent by Steve Guth | 2:39 PM | 9-8-2008

John McCain has changed his stance against torture. He is not in disagreement with president Bush on this issue. Also, being critical of regimes around the world that are looking to acquire nuclear weapons is hypocritical when you consider that the U.S. is the only country to have detonated a nuclear weapon and killed thousands of innocent people(which we did twice).

Sent by Amanuel Medhanie | 2:40 PM | 9-8-2008

I admire John McCain's efforts toward changing the culture in Washington. But in the first half hour of this show, Mr. Scheuemann has demonstrated 'more of the same'. When asked a direct question (such as "Should we assume that Gov. Palin has considerable experience with Russian foreign affairs?" and others...), he evades a direct answer by deflecting the issue and aiming instead at a failing of Sen. Obama's policies. For me this is not change but more of the same. It is exactly the kind of managed political gobbleddy gook that Sen. McCain decries. It this what we should expect in our foreign policy for the next four years?

Sent by Barbara Guarnieri | 2:41 PM | 9-8-2008

Yes the Surge worked but isn't surge temporary? We have been surging what seems like a long time. To celebrate victory in Iraq is a lot like me celebrating my son getting of rehab for drug addiction. It is nice that he is drug free but the fact remains, it was a mistake that he got into drugs in the first place and it never should have happened. In addition, there was a $25,000 price associated with the treatment. Iraq has never attacked the US or any of our citizens and no wmd were found.

In addition, we have squandered our cold war gains from the 80's.

Sent by Chris | 2:41 PM | 9-8-2008

I was born in India, lived in New Zealand, and Singapore for over 5 yrs in each location. I have lived in US for 8 yrs now. I'm a business owner and have made decisions (executive, I guess) - does this make me an expert to lead the office of presidency?
These guys can speak with no shame...

Sent by Keshav Bhat | 2:42 PM | 9-8-2008

McCain's representative is perpetuating the myth about McCain's stance on torture. McCain voted AGAINST the bill that would have banned waterboarding. (This is easily verified in the Senate record.) It is disingenuous to imply that he voted against torture. He only talked the talk and failed to walk the walk with his vote.

Sent by Kathy Blackwelder | 2:43 PM | 9-8-2008

It is 2:34 PM in northern Michigan. I am still waiting for the answers to two of Mr. Koppel's questions re: Gov Palin's experience and Sen. McCain's position on Iraq and our oil needs. Why is Mr. Scheunemann telling us what an Obama/Biden campaign would do instead of answering the questions asked about the McCain/Palin ticket? I am listening to get information not more spin! Please, answer the questions! Your moderators are being very kind. I want information. I am not feeling kind!
Are your candidates not worthy of informative answers or should I be worried about what you won't say in answer to questions?

Sent by Sara Houk | 2:43 PM | 9-8-2008

How many times has Gov. Palin traveled abroad? Bush rarely traveled over seas and knew little about foreign cultures. How well traveled is Sarah?

Sent by Rich Pflugrath | 2:44 PM | 9-8-2008

Mr. Scheuneman is a recent highly-paid agent of the government of Georgia. Does this not strike anyone as improper?

Disclosure is not enough. He is an agent of a foreign government.

Sent by Richard Lindgren | 2:44 PM | 9-8-2008

Your guest selectively omitted McCain's position on birth control with reference to global issues. We know Palin's position (abstinence only). Is McCain so myopic to believe that only abstinence is a method of birth control? What is HIS position on this?

Sent by Marlene Looney | 2:44 PM | 9-8-2008

Randy S. has twisted the truth on ur show, please call him on georgia, iran, iraq, gov. palin, and obama slanders

Sent by mike | 2:45 PM | 9-8-2008

Thank goodness for Mr. Koppel, who asks reasonably direct questions. Otherwise Mr. Conan's comfortably conservative moderation would let this lobbyist continue bashing Obama and spouting the McCain/Palin fantasies ad nauseam and for his own great pleasure.

Sent by Will McTell | 2:45 PM | 9-8-2008

propaganda! just like the war on Iraq & how it was sold to us! It's a stretch to say that because the U.S. invaded Iraq, the cost of gas is much less today, it could be worst. If anyone remember, A lot of those who supported the war told us that if we are in control of Iraq, petroleum would be about $20 a barrel instead of $40+ before the invasion. Look where we are now! $108 per barrel!

Sent by al | 2:45 PM | 9-8-2008

Mr. Scheunemann claims that Mrs. Palin has more experience than Senator Biden and Obama, why isn't Ms. Palin has appeared before the press corp since her nomination?

Sent by Nasrin Pearce | 2:46 PM | 9-8-2008

Thank god for Ted Koppel!!
I'm sure Neil Conan is a very nice man, but he doesn't ask the tough questions. Ted Koppel is the reason I am listening today.
thank you.

Sent by Amelia | 2:46 PM | 9-8-2008

did the surge work? i feel that it is the 100's of millions of dollars the u.s tax payers are giving out to black mail insurgents to stay at home. would john mccain continue the policy of bribing insurgents to stay home?

Sent by james | 2:46 PM | 9-8-2008

I want her to be questioned on the apparent inconsistencies in the claims she makes in her stump speech and the actions she took as mayor/governor ('Bridge to Nowhere'/earmarks.) I want her to be questioned on why she thinks that book banning is OK. I want her to be questioned about her work for Ted Stevens' 527. I want to know why her husband, who has only a high school degree, sits in on state business meetings and is copied on official emails.

Sent by Bea | 2:47 PM | 9-8-2008

If South Ossetia wanted to withdraw from the Georgian Republic, and we make the situation all about US v Russia--how does that serve S. Ossetia, the smaller entity which has a long-time history of distinctiveness from Georgia?

I as an American recall my country's desire to exit from its relationship with Britain.

Sent by littleStomata | 2:47 PM | 9-8-2008

Wait a minute! If Mr. Obama makes a statement about going into Pakistan after Obama, this is more dangerous and irresponsible than just unilaterally going into Pakistan uninvited? Mr. Scheuneman absolutely has no shame!

Sent by James Puskar | 2:48 PM | 9-8-2008

I heard an author who'd written a bio of John McCain and he totally refutes what this Randy Scheuneumann (sp?) is saying that J.McC. is all about diplomacy!?! Seems, actually, that J.McC's family history goes back to the earliest battles America has been engaged in and they LOOOVE a good fight!! AND, that J.McC. was even earlier in calls to 'get Iraq' than the Bush admin. was!! This guy, today, is saying that J.McC. wants to talk! I'm NOT convinced of this given your guest last week, i think it was!

Sent by kathy berger | 2:49 PM | 9-8-2008

comment: We have found out from the Bush administration how important political appointees are. I shudder to think that Randy Scheunemann will be in McCain's cabinet. He doesn't seem to answer the questions.

Sent by shelley peters | 2:49 PM | 9-8-2008

Mr. Schenuemann is about as informed as Wolfowitz, and all the neocons that gave advice to Bush and got us into this mess in Iraq.

As a tenth-generation American, I resent that these insidious people continue to insult the intelligence of the American people with their lazy, uninformed ideas.

Instead of Holding the president of Georgia responsible for his reckless behavior, we are now rewarding him with billions of extorted tax dollars when so many Americans are suffering from the hight price of oil, food, housing, etc.

Mr. Schuenemann compels us to ask, "Do Republicans become liars or do liars become Republicans?"

Iran, unlike Israel, has not attacked another country in hundreds of years.

The similarities of the situation in Israel in the early 60s and the present situation in Iran are stunning! The concern that Iran's civilian nuclear power program would be converted to a weapons program is identical to the situation in Israel in the early 60s.


M. Delphia Block

Sent by M. Delphia Block | 2:51 PM | 9-8-2008

Why are you allowing this hack to speak for the Obama campaign related to Pakistan? I thought he was invited to discuss his candidate's positions. I'm disgusted by your lack of critical questions related to this. No wonder these people think they can say whatever they want-whether it's true or not.

Sent by Terry Benedict | 2:51 PM | 9-8-2008

it's ok for the Bush administration to *attack* inside Pakistan yet it's not ok for Obama to say he would do the same? what? Neil pretty much let him get away with that bull as well. Where's Jon Stewart?

Sent by gregario | 2:56 PM | 9-8-2008

It seems that McCain promotes the expansion of Nato into nations that have traditionally been under Russian influence. Is he willing to go to war against Russia and risk a nuclear holocaust for the sake of a place no american can find on the map?

Sent by Angel Rodriguez | 2:57 PM | 9-8-2008

Regarding the McCain campaign's views on Iran -
Given that:

Iran has never attacked any of its neighbors, whereas Israel has attacked its neighbors numerous times, most often without provocation;
Iran does not (according to the IAEA) have a nuclear weapons program, whereas Israel has possibly more than 100 nuclear weapons (see A. Vanunu);
Iran is a signatory to the Non-proliferation Treaty (with the legal right to develop nuclear energy), whereas israel is not;

Why does our government persist in naming Iran as the threat - and not Israel?

Could this possibly have something to do with Iran's oil reserves?

Sent by Julius Gordon | 3:01 PM | 9-8-2008

It is my opinion after listening to Sen. John McCain's speech on Sept.4th, that he has been demoted to the titular head only of the ticket. It looks like the Evangelical right-wing base has taken over the Republican Party, and positioned their candidate for the next election.

Sent by Jeanne | 3:04 PM | 9-8-2008

My feeling is that President McCain would appoint perhaps John C Bolton Scty of State so that his diplomacy could cure the world of anti-Americanism. Maybe Victor Hanson as Scty of War, with Krauthammer as his chief deputy, and let Sarah Palin run Homeland Security given her weapons training and all, like bordering Russia & the ver dangerous Canada.

Sent by Ed Von Ruden | 3:06 PM | 9-8-2008

The top priorities of the next president is to uphold the constitution, promote ethical integrity in government and work towards safey for Americans at home and abroad. Sen. Obama has a unique background as a professor of Consititutional Law as well as an emphasis in Foriegn policy studies. This gives him the clear advantage in this area not to mention his evident diplomacy skills.

Sent by C.B. Edmondson | 3:07 PM | 9-8-2008

In spite of the media's unrelenting efforts to make much of Sarah Palin's lack of foreign policy, I fail to see how this will impact her effectiveness as a vice president? Didn't Bill Clinton get elected directly from a governorship? And he skipped over the vice presidency and went straight to the presidency. How much previous foreign policy did he have? I'm sure there are numerous other examples, his is just the most recent that comes the most quickly to mind.

I, along with many others from both parties, are weary of this country being run by career politicians who are completly out of touch with everyday people. Having a "regular" person run for high office is like a breath of much-needed fresh air. Go Sarah!!!!

Sent by Michele | 3:08 PM | 9-8-2008

I love your show and listen everyday, even when I am abroad, I download the podcast. But today I could not believe you give Mr Schenuemann a almost free ride, you did not challenge him; his answers were Obama bashing as opposed to explaining McCain's policy. He should have been reminded of his reason for being on the air, ie Senator McCain's foreign policy. What happened? Is the "liberal media" afraid of doing its job, after the Gov Palin story? I will keep listening but I am really surprised.

Sent by Nathalie Brulebois | 3:15 PM | 9-8-2008

I Can not believe NPR and other media allow candidates and their representatives to get by with just soft questions. For instance, one of your today's callers asked at leasat 3 times if Se McCain talk directly with Iran. Your guest did no answer and you Neal cut the caller off. we all agree, this is an important election for our nation. Then why media is so so soft with their questions. If our nation goes down the tube even more than what it is now, partly is media fault because you are not brave enough to ask the though questions. If you do not know what are the though questions to ask please e-mail me, I will send you a few.

Sent by Farshid | 3:19 PM | 9-8-2008

To Michele:
I agree with you that the president does not need to have intensive, direct foreign policy experience. But that isn't what Mr. Koppel was asking. He asked the guest who was working with her on foreign affairs - a very reasonable assumption - and the guest refused to even admit that she would need the help. That's positively disgraceful arrogance that many others have already commented on.

As far as having a regular, "in-touch" person run for office, I happen to think that Obama does have a pulse on regular folk. He and his family seem down to earth, and I know he's worked with those in poverty in Chicago.

But apart from that, I don't think it's enough to be just "regular folk" - there are plenty of regular folk that may be likable, but terrible at the job (I think I'd be one of those, personally)... or others whose policies I agree with that would be inept... or still others who may be regular folk, but with whom I disagree with on such a fundamental level on policies and style of governance, that I would rather have a 40-year plus career politician and lawyer than that person in office!

Being closer to the median in demographics does not make you a good leader. And the numbers show her social policy stances place her well to the right of the median.

Sent by Shannon, Kansas City | 3:35 PM | 9-8-2008

Here's three rules of war that I challenge anyone to challenge...
1) The United States has the world's strongest military and can defeat any other country militarily.

2) Significant increases in military resources, personell and/or weapons, applied to the field of battle, will usually result in increased success in the area of conflict.

3) The enemy facing such an increase in military force, will defend themselves by going into hiding or otherwise reducing their attacks, UNTIL THE MILITARY RESOURCES OF THE INVADING COUNTRY ARE REDUCED.

If these propositions are true, then how could the "surge", the increase in U.S.personell and resources in Iraq NOT result in a decrease in enemy activity???
Why are the Republicans making such a big deal about the success of the "surge", when the enemy is most likely simply "laying low" until the military situation is more in their favor.

And considering the above, why would Sen. Obama admit that the surge "worked beyond our wildest expectations" implying that any reduction in violence in the face of an increase in our military presence was unxpected, and admitting that he, Sen. Obama was wrong in not voting for the increase, and they who voted for prolonging the war were right.

Sent by Jeff Kreps, Minneapolis, Minnesota | 3:40 PM | 9-8-2008

Mr. Scheunemann manners got in the way of my hearing what he had to say. If he would like to win people over to voting for his candidate, I wish he would be polite to the questioners, whether he agrees with them or not, and straightforward in his replies.

I respect and admire Senator McCain's intention to continue working with those "across the aisle." To accomplish that in the past, McCain treated colleagues, other elected officials, and those with different opinions, with respect. I wish Mr. Scheunemann would do the same.

I hear U.S. citizens from both parties and independent saying they are tired of counterproductive, divisive politics.

Leadership as I understand it does not include disrespectful public discourse. U.S. national politics as reality show also erodes our standing in the world.

Sent by A. M. Song | 3:41 PM | 9-8-2008

Randy Scheunemann is former director of Project for a New American Century (PNAC) so it's clear what his agenda is: Dominance of the entire middle east and its assets by Israel and the United States. That group has been pushing for the invasion and regime change in Iraq since the GHW Bush and Clinton's administration. I think it was a stupid mistake to pull us off course in the war against our 9/11 attackers and into this never-ending committment in Iraq. I wouldn't throw bad decision making after bad by voting for McCain and his Rooting-for-the-Rapture VP.

Sent by Joyce in Arizona | 3:42 PM | 9-8-2008

this interview with the lobbyist for Georgia who is now running John McCain's foreign policies showed him to be evasive and vague with the strategy of best defense is bring up the other guy and smear his policies. I am frightened for our country that so many have been charmed by Palin, who, as noted, is a governor of a place that has very little population and a very different culture which does not lend itself to being ready to govern billions of people. McCain has foreign relations on his resume because he was a POW (remember, he's a hot head when dealing with his fellow senators; I'd hate to have his finger near any red button). Integrity is one of the hallmarks I want for our next President and with all the double talk the McCain campaign is doing how can the people of the United States trust him, let alone the rest of the world??

Sent by Ellie | 3:47 PM | 9-8-2008

To Shannon:
I wasn't commenting just on Ted Koppel's question to the guest, but on the numerous commentaries I have heard on the media over the past week. But, just the fact that Ted Koppel raised this issue, helps to make my point. Which is that the media, which is well to the left of the median, is attempting to make much of Sarah Palin's lack of foreign policy experience. Again, I fail to see how this would impair her effectiveness as a vice president.

I take your point about "regular people", and I agree that the world is full of regular people who I would not want running this country!!! But I am still weary to the bone of people who graduate from college and go straight into politics. Career politicians become caught up in the gamesmanship and the constant power plays, and forget why they are really supposed to be there. Someone who is fresher from the "real world" will have a much stronger sense of purpose, of why they are there and who they are serving.

Sent by Michele | 3:54 PM | 9-8-2008

It's amazing how different publications, programs, etc. attract different ideologues. Now I guess I'll have to go back and see if the interview with the liberal attracted only right wingers.

Sent by William Melton | 4:13 PM | 9-8-2008

Did this Randy character just claim that Palin has more experience than both Obama and Biden combined? Or did I seriously misunderstand him?

Sent by Brandon | 4:17 PM | 9-8-2008

The first foreign policy priority of either candidate team, should it win the White House, should be to reestablish the principled, widely respected international leadership we enjoyed until the "gut-instinct-driven" George W. Bush administration squandered it away. This will call for action on many fronts - e.g., support for some regimes, negotiations with some, clearly defined policy statements and warnings to some, and always will be driven by adherence to fundamental American principles (we don't torture, we do welcome those needing political asuylum, we don't let politically driven embargoes keep us from providing humanitarian aid - as is relevant right now vis-a-vis Cuba).
A comment or two further: In my car during the Schuenemann interview, I couldn't then butt in after some of Mr. S's ridiculous assertions about Gov. Palin's "experience." Among other things, he alluded to her governing "the largest state." This ignores the reality that it is virtually an empty state. The southeast corner of Cook County and northwest corner of Indiana - where Sen. Obama worked in the community development assistance for people hit by steel mill and factory shutdowns in the area - have a population approximately four times that of all Alaska. She also has absolutely no experience dealing with a major problem afflicting most states right now - the severe drop in tax income due to slumping real estate values and gasoline tax revenues - while her state is so richly endowed with oil-based income that she can "buy popularity" with those checks going out to every Alaskan (and which more sober students of civic administration suggest represent money that could be much better spent on such priorities as infrastructure, health care and education). It was also ludicrous of Mr. Scheunemann to imply some sort of foreign relations savvy to Gov. Palin because - as he asserted - her state "is part of the Pacific basin." Close as one finger of Alaska is to one finger of Asia, I haven't heard a word about her venturing across that frigid stretch of the Bering Sea (not that she'd learn much from the few inhabitants on the other side, who live further from the center of Russia's overnment than she does from Washington, D.C.). She certainly hasn't said anything to convince me she knows more than I do about the current political quandary in Japan or the latest trends in Australian and New Zealand politics. Of course, Scheunemann has to put as much lipstick as he can on his "pit bull" (her word choice, not mine), but c'mon, fellas and girls - he's trying to suggest some parity between that novice and someone on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for almost four years (she's been Governor less than two). Give us a break!

Sent by Joseph J. Judge | 4:47 PM | 9-8-2008

McCain has flip flopped and pandered to the right on all his most "maverick" issues. He's kissed up to Jerry Falwell for the right wing Christian vote, he's flipped on Roe v. Wade, he's flipped on keeping Bush's tax cuts, he was one of the short sighted who thought Iraq was going to be a piece of cake and later contradicted that assessment, he's picked an extreme right winger for VP to pander to the fundamentalists, etc. He's Bush all over again. He's got nothing, so he only makes fun of the other guy. That's pathetic.

Sent by Eric Zammitt | 4:53 PM | 9-8-2008

Please, no more GOPbots. No more DEMbots either. There is a class of political commentator well-fit for running their mouths without pause while endlessly repeating vetted talking points meant to help their candidate and hurt the other. Randy Scheunemann is such an actor. They give off heat, not light, and irritate rather than inform. Keep a list of these pros, add names to the list as the election season progresses, and avoid them like the plague. Sure, they're easy to book. That's the problem. Dig deeper. Thank you.

Sent by Steve Jones | 5:02 PM | 9-8-2008

To Michele:
While I agree that most in the media lean left, it is also the job of the media to get at the truth even when they are stonewalled by politicians. Sadly, they have failed us to often, most recently in the build up to the Iraq war. I think that Mr. Koppel was simply asking Mr. Scheunemann to elaborate on the prepartion of Gov. Palin to answer foreign policy questions.

Mr. Scheunemann did not answer the question and instead repeated the assertion that she has FP experience because of Alaska's proximity to Russia and Canada. If the McCain camp had not been touting a FP experience that does not exist and instead stated that not having FP experience has no effect on her ability to be VP, this would not be an issue. In other words, this line of questioning is the McCain camps fault not the media for asking the logical question.

Sent by Antonio | 8:46 PM | 9-8-2008

The reason they bring up Palin's foreign policy experience is be cause the McCain campaign touts Palin as someone that has foreign policy experience. I fail to see how asking for examples of that experience makes the media "left of the median."

and then you say "Someone who is fresher from the "real world" will have a much stronger set of purpose." As far as i can see, Palin's first elected position (in real world politics) came in 1992 when she was elected to Wasilla town council, and then as mayor in 1996. Obama wasn't elected until 1996 into the state senate. So by your logic, Obama has a "much stronger sense of purpose" than Palin.

Sent by Tom | 9:25 PM | 9-8-2008

"Senator McCain needs foreign policy experts like Tiger Woods needs a golf coach"

um... actually Tiger does need (and uses) a golf coach. so either Scheunemann was saying McCain has and will use foreign policy advisors, or he's a complete moron.

Sent by Tom | 9:57 PM | 9-8-2008

Had it not been for Ted Koppel, the interview with Randy Scheunemann would have been a complete waste of time. As it happened, Mr. Scheunemann didn't even answer Mr. Koppel's questions. What's the use of having these hacks on the show when all you get is more campaign spin and attacks on Barack Obama like at the Republican Convention? I was very disappointed in today's interview and I'm even more disappointed in Senator McCain's refusal to address the ISSUES.

Sent by Ann Woods | 11:19 PM | 9-8-2008

Thank God, NPR, and Neal for Ted Koppel. I deeply respect and appreciate Neal but Mr. Koppel clearly challenged the more absurd assertions of Randy Scheunemann. So much for straight talk by Senator McCain if "Randy" is an example of his administration. Randy was clearly more interested in putting down Senator Obama than anything else. Are we voters as stupid as Randy implies? If this is the case my country is closer to doom than I realize. I have been an independent for 40 years. As yet, I have not decided on a candidate. But after listening the Randy's bull, I was almost ready to make my final decision. And yes, it would have been my final answer without a help line, except from Mr. Koppel. Randy should have a return invitation only after he has watched 40 consecutive hours of the original Dragnet TV show - just the facts, sir.

Sent by Maurice Simmons | 1:50 AM | 9-9-2008

To Michele:
Why do people who disagree with the media always claim its left of median? The media is all over the graph. Ask Clear Channel inc. To put Mr. Koppel to the left is crazy. Have you ever followed his career? The guest was evasive and gave the impression all or some significant portion of TON audience were less than stupid or at least simple minded. No one with any degree of respect for TON audience would have "performed" in such a manner. I wanted information to help me make an important decision - how to vote. I am angry I received trash. Mr. Koppel greatly assisted me, and from the looks of the number and tone of the comments to this blog, and others. I am now fearful that if Senator McCain wins people like Scheunemann will have important positions in his administration. At this point I remain an undecided independent. I now will be viewing Senator McCain with more critical eyes.

Sent by Maurice Simmons | 2:08 AM | 9-9-2008

I believe Mr. Scheunemann said that Sen. McCain "called for the closing of Guantanamo, he stood up to the Bush administration on issues of detainee treatment" yet in Gov Palin's speech at the RNC she called Barack Obama weak for "worrying whether these people (detainees) get their rights or not"

Sent by Michael | 10:10 AM | 9-9-2008

I'm very curious how the invasion and occupation of Iraq is a "mission from God." Is it our job to convert them to Christianity? Does God condone lying, the way the Bush administration lied about the facts?

Sent by Toni | 10:16 AM | 9-9-2008

I think Mr. Scheunemann sounded pretty nervous when talking about Mrs. Palin's foreign policy experience and how prepared she is - and he should be. We ALL should be.

St. Louis

Sent by Anne Osborne | 12:31 PM | 9-9-2008

As a 74 year old white, college and graduate school educated woman, I am terrified at the thought of Sarah Palin being in or near the White House. After the educational, financial and conservation losses of the past 8 years, what is the electorate thinking?

Sent by B. Boyer | 10:40 PM | 9-9-2008

Unfortunately, the transcript from the Randy Scheunemann interview does not appear to be up yet, but if I remember correctly, he was very critical of Obama for saying that he would consider the option of acting unilaterally against terrorist enclaves in the boarder regions of Pakistan without first alerting the government of Pakistan. It was pointed out, I believe by Mr. Conan, that Bush had acted recently in just such a fashion. Mr. Scheunemann's response was to suggest that for Obama to say such a thing was dangerous and irresponsible, but to actually act it out was a perfectly legitimate enterprise. Do it, just don't speak it. What world does Mr. Scheunemann come from? To say that one MIGHT use such force is bad--but to actually send cruise missiles to targets inside sovereign states is A-okay. Has he ever heard of the expression, "Actions speak louder than words?" Attempting to be open and truthful about American actions is certainly a novel idea, at least judging by the last 8 years, but it sounds appealing to me. Perhaps Scheunemann's comment is evidence that Obama is correct--that a McCain administration will be like another term for G. W. Bush--the most secretive, mendacious, and hypocritical presidency this country has ever seen.

Sent by Thomas W. Muther, Jr. | 11:39 PM | 9-9-2008

Please do some study of history. Woodrow Wilson wins on the most secretive, mendacious, and hypocritical presidency this country has ever seen. Of course I ask if the Bush presidency is so secretive how is it that the country has seen it.

Sent by Clifford | 4:28 PM | 9-11-2008

To Mr. Clifford--actually, history was one of my majors, and while I certainly do not deny that we have had more than our fair share of "secretive, mendacious and hypocritical" presidents, not least among them President Wilson, I maintain that the present administration would win the fickle finger of fallaciousness award in a walk. We could go back and forth with examples from either side, but I'll give you one that would be hard to top:

On June 26, 2003, in an address to commemorate the United Nations International Day in support of Torture Victims, George W. Bush said, "The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the US and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and PROSECUTING [emphasis mine] all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment . . . . Nowhere should the midnight knock foreshadow a nightmare of state-commissioned crime. The suffering of torture victims must end, and the United States calls on all governments to assume this great mission."

This was approximately 14 months after torture became, for the first time in US history, the official policy of the United States. And it did so as a result of a directive from the president himself (and note, that Bush cannot hide behind his self-serving definitions of what constitutes torture here as he also calls for the prohibition of "...other cruel and unusual punishments." Woodrow had nuttin' on George-III.

Sent by Thomas W. Muther, Jr. | 2:47 AM | 9-15-2008

Chopping someones head off is torture, chopping a hand off is torture, gouging an eye out is torture. Playing loud music and depriving someone of sleep is not torture. The news media and the left came up with a new definition of torture, the US did not change its official policy. Its the Post Modern thinking that allows this kind of parsing.
And once again the obvious question, if the administration is so secretive, how did you know the policy changed? I know, they told you it did.
Were the people responsible for Abu Grav(spelling) prosecuted? Why I believe they were. Was it covered by the news media? Hardly. Why? That doesn't fit the picture liberals are trying to draw of Bush.
Can you tell us about Wilson's goon squads assigned to ruff up opponents? And since you're a student of history wasn't it Wilson who created the federal reserve and in effect created the possibility of foreign governments buying our debt, which by the way is where we are at today with China holding I heard a trillion dollar note on us. He couldn't get the League of Nations going, so he back-doored it. Hey we couldn't have had a Great Depression without the Federal Reserve and oddly enough, with the Feds help, we are on the brink of another depression. Wilson wins with his wide sweeping change, some claim, unconstitutional change of adding the Fed.
And assuming Bush is doing things we don't like, he has not made a seemingly irreversable change like adding a quasi-governmental group with so much power and so little accountabilty like the Fed.

Sent by Cliff | 10:10 PM | 9-19-2008

Answer to Cliff--actually, I would suggest reading some credible material about what constitutes torture and what does not. First of all, we subjected some of the detainees to much more than "[p]laying loud music and depriving someone of sleep"--as evidenced by the fact that around a hundred such detainees met their deaths in ways that a coroner listed as "homicide." Does being hung by your arms from the ceiling, and beaten to death qualify as torture? How about waterboarding?* Probably not, as it was used extensively by such progressive and humane institutions as the Spanish Inquisition (SI), the Khmer Rouge (KR), and N. Korea (NK) [though ask any of the US soldiers who were waterboarded by their own to help them deal with torture should they ever fall into the wrong hands--they to a man agree that it IS torture]. And the Russians and N. Koreans discovered that exposure to prolonged stress positions or sleep deprivation can lead to levels of profound pain and suffering every bit as intense as more aggressive approaches [Isn't it great, the company we keep these days--the SI, KR, the USSR, NK, al Qaeda]. And you could not be more wrong about this idea that the "media" and the devilish "left" somehow conspired to change the definition of torture. I would suggest reading the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. These documents, signed by the US (in fact, Geneva was in great measure WRITTEN by the US) well before Bush became president prohibit torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, and define it in pellucid enough language that clearly many of the techniques used by the CIA and some of the military (the FBI refused to use these methods as they were convinced they were illegal according to the treaties mentioned, as well as according to US law) were unlawful, i.e., war crimes. Check it out. The media had no part in writing Geneva or CAT--or the McCain Anti-Torture Amendment for that matter . . . or the Constitution (which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment"). And yes, official US policy WAS changed when Bush and Rumsfeld authorized interrogation techniques that were prohibited by law--something that flew in the face of 230 years of American practice and principle. No less a figure than George Washington declared during the Revolutionary War that the Continental Army would not resort to torture, even though the British used it extensively on Washington's captured troops. And so it has been throughout US history. Even though it was known that the Japanese tortured our troops, we refused to return the favor during WWII (when we faced much more formidable foes than we do now). Until the advent of Bush, it has NEVER been the policy of the US to torture or abuse captured troops, criminals, or "illegal combatants." Of course, there has been the occasional unauthorized use of torture, but never before has a president made it official policy.

And as to the supposed "obvious" question: "[I]f the administration is so secretive"--how do we know these things? Is this a joke? We know these things because dedicated journalists have dug and dug and found a few patriots who were willing to speak out about Bush's abuses of power. It's because the ACLU, among others, has filled lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents that the administration tried mightily to keep from the public. It's because the Supreme Court has consistently ruled against this Executive Office of criminal conspirators, thus, for example, allowing attorneys to finally see these supposed "worst of the worst" we were hiding from the world and finding out that most were innocents, swept up by accident in the melee of war, or turned over to the US for the bounty by Afghan warlords.

And no, the people responsible for Abu Ghraib were NOT prosecuted. A few "grunts" who were told the rules of war no longer applied, told to "soften up" the prisoners for interrogation and given no direction or supervision--they were prosecuted (and I saw plenty of coverage on this), but the ones who twisted reason and the law to suit their purposes--the ones who set this process in motion--Cheney, Addington, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Wolfowitz, Bush, Gonzales, Philbin, Flanigan, Haynes, Tenet and the various generals and colonels who went along, remain free and unindicted.

As far as Wilson is concerned, it's been a long time since I studied that era of American History, and I don't feel an urgent need to bone up on it now--not when faced with a present chief executive whose widespread abuses of power amount to nothing less than dagger-thrusts aimed at the heart of our Republic.

Now, if you wish to continue this discussion about the authorization of torture and other abusive techniques of interrogation adopted by this administration, I suggest you educate yourself further (I mean no insult, just as I, if I wished to discuss the Wilson presidency further would have to open a few books in order to do so effectively). I'd suggest reading up on the Geneva Conventions first, then take a look at CAT. Follow that up with some well received (by everyone not a card-carrying right of far right anti-constitutionalist, that is) books on Torture and the Bush Administration. "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals" by J. Mayer is quite good. There have been several books written by attorneys who represented Guantanamo inmates (often innocent). One I'd recommend is "Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power" by J. Marguiles. For background, there's "Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency..." by Savage, or "The One Percent Doctrine" by Suskind.


*And let's not get into extraordinary rendition--save one example: an individual, later shown to be innocent, was rendered to Egypt where after enduring a myriad of mistreatments, he had his penis sliced open (without an anesthetic, obviously). Torture?

Sent by Thomas W. Muther, Jr. | 4:17 AM | 9-23-2008