Lee Hamilton

When Barack Obama nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, I assume that he knew what he was getting into. The debate over Hagel’s nomination won’t be about whether he is qualified to run the Pentagon and to negotiate budgets with Congress, but about Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran. Initially, some of Hagel’s critics charged that he was an anti-Semite. But these charges rightfully met with derision.

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The U.S. war in Iraq has just been given an unexpected seal of approval. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what he billed as his “last major policy speech in Washington,” has owned up to the gains in Iraq, to the surprise that Iraq has emerged as “the most advanced Arab democracy in the region.” It was messy, this Iraqi democratic experience, but Iraqis “weren’t in the streets shooting each other, the government wasn’t in the streets shooting its people,” Gates observed.

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Guess Obama wasn't kidding when he gave all those shout-outs to nuclear power in his State of the Union address on Wednesday. According to Bloomberg, Obama's 2011 budget will request $54 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors—triple the previous amount. Here's the industry's case for expanded loan guarantees: Industry groups such as the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute have said the loan guarantees are critical to reviving the industry because most companies can’t afford the capital investment in a facility that can take a decade to complete.

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One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.

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Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror By Mahmood Mamdani (Pantheon, 398 pp., $26.95) The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All By Gareth Evans (Brookings, 349 pp., $24.95) I. IN THE SUMMER OF 2007, Mahmood Mamdani found himself at a meeting of activists and politicians, listening to sentiments that had by then become quite common among a certain class of politically active Americans. The speakers were calling on the United Nations to send peacekeepers to Darfur.

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As David Ignatius noted earlier this year, the views of former Congressman Lee Hamilton hold considerable sway within the Obama national security team. Hamilton, a member of the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group, has emerged as a Democratic foreign policy mandarin in recent years, and also, in Laura Rozen's words "a kind of wise-man mentor to Obama." Obama, for instance, dined with Hamilton a few days before his inauguration back in January. (Bolstering the connection: Several key national security council aides are former staffers for the Indiana Democrat.

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On the one hand, it's not so surprising that Lee Hamilton would endorse Barack Obama. Obama's foreign policy team consists of several former Hamilton staffers, and Obama himself seems to embody Hamilton's foreign policy sensibility. (See this recent piece for more on that.)   On the other hand, the Hamilton endorsement is actually pretty telling. While working on the piece I just linked to--this would have been in late February--I asked one of Obama's foreign policy advisers why, if the two men were on such similar wavelengths, Hamilton hadn't already endorsed Obama.

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Former 9/11 Commission chair Lee Hamilton is endorsing Obama today. It's a big pickup for the candidate--not merely because Hamilton's longtime congressional seat is in Indiana, which votes May 6th--but one that should not surprise loyal TNR readers. Noam may have foreseen the announcement in his wonderful explainer on Obama's "people" from last month.

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Barack Obama's surprisingly non-ideological policy shop.

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by Richard Stern The long-awaited Baker-Hamilton report is out, all 160 pages of it. It was introduced by a news conference presided over by James Baker with his familiar mix of witty condescension ("we has-beens") and aristo impatience (telling a reporter he could answer his question but "as it's answered in the Report it would be a waste of time"). Baker's co-chair, Lee Hamilton, the icon of gravitas, came close to the brink of pompous, if not senile garrulity.

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