Comparing the Approaches of the Presidential Candidates

Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Comparing the Approaches of the Presidential Candidates


Ms. ANDERSEN: I am very pleased to welcome today two individuals who are representatives of the two candidates. They both want me to be very clear, they are not officially representing the campaign for the candidates, but they both have long and close ties to the two camps, and they know their positions well and will reflect them well, I am sure.

So, first, I would like to introduce, taking the position on the left here, Professor Bill Burke-White, who is Deputy Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and has most recently, between 2009 and 2011, served as a member of the policy planning staff at the U.S. State Department in the Obama Administration under Secretary Clinton. And there, among many other things, he was a principal drafter of the Administration's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, so a very important document that sets out this Administration's foreign policy priorities and approach. So, Bill, go ahead and assume the position there.

And then on the right here, I would like to welcome Ambassador Pierre Prosper, who is currently of counsel at Arent Fox, but previously served in a number of positions in public life as a prosecutor for the United States, a prosecutor at the Rwanda Tribunal, and as the ambassador for wax crimes issues in the Bush Administration. He has also been an advisor to the Romney campaign and will be representing that perspective here. And I am going to play Gwen Eiffel in the middle.

Our format is going to be relatively informal, debate style. I am going to pose some questions to each of the two representatives, hopefully try to find the fault lines, and spark a little debate between them. After we have three or four questions and discussion of those among us, we will open it up to the floor and welcome your questions as well. And I understand, timekeepers, that we are allowed to go a little bit over, so indulge us. We were only allotted 30 minutes, and we have lots to talk about.

Let me start with a general framing question about the candidates' approach to presidential power and foreign policy, and I will start with you, Bill. We have had a discussion today--and this has been a critique that we heard elsewhere, too--that in terms of exerting the presidential authority in foreign affairs, many have characterized the Obama Administration as representing more similarities to the prior Bush Administration than differences. Do you think that that's a fair and accurate characterization, and would you expect to see any difference in a second Obama Administration? Are we going to have a little bit more flexing of muscles when you don't face re-election, or will the president be the ultimate lame duck?

PROF. BURKE-WHITE: So thanks for the question, and four years ago it was great fun, right? We were on all these policy teams, you know, dreaming up policy for then Senator and candidate Obama.

Now, as Pierre and I were just remarking, I am constrained because I am in a sense representing administration policy because that is, in fact, the president's campaign platform, which does sort of narrow how one can respond on some of these issues. I would also say that four years ago I was perhaps more of a naive academic, who could tell you all of the reasons that presidential power was too inflated and was a dangerous thing. And then I got to government and quickly said that, well, where is that presidential power that we thought the Bush Administration had and realized that there is an awful lot more constraint than, as perhaps academics, we had once argued. So that, again, kind of constrains me.

Jack Goldsmith this morning, I think, answered that question better than perhaps I possibly could, but let me try to focus on the question of what we might see differently going forward, and I think the things that will drive possible differences are less internal, less, you know, policy shifts than they are external. …

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