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Samantha Power teaches Democrats how to be tough on national security

Posted on the August 12th, 2008

Earlier this week on a major American news show on CBS, the host and veteran newsman Bob Schieffer interviewed Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who’s been mentioned often in U.S. media as a top contender to be chosen as Obama’s vice presidential running mate.

Schieffer’s opening question to Kaine referred to the recent fighting between Russia and Georgia:

This morning’s headlines tell it all. American presidents, as we look at this situation going on in Russia, have to deal with problems that sometimes don’t come up at all in campaigns, so I guess my question this morning, Governor, is when we see what’s happening today, doesn’t that, won’t that bolster John McCain’s argument that the Presidency needs someone with experience dealing with issues like these?

What interested me most about Schieffer’s question was how much it reflected a perception — or rather misperception — that was analyzed recently in an article by Harvard University professor and foreign policy analyst Samantha Power (“The Democrats & National Security” by Samantha Power, The New York Review of Books, Aug 14, 2008).

In the essay, Power takes a close look at some of the factors that, according to her, have led American voters generally to regard the Republican Party to be much better on national security issues than the Democratic Party.

Power writes:

“This faith in Republican toughness has had profound electoral consequences. Since 1968, with the single exception of the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Americans have chosen Republican presidents in times of perceived danger and Democrats in times of relative calm.”

Power, who formerly served on Obama’s campaign as his foreign policy advisor, examines some of the origins of this faith in GOP toughness, and also questions its justification. She lays out some specific suggestions for how Obama and the Democratic Party leadership can reverse this crucial trend in voter thinking. Read full article here.

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