Corn on Newshour: Obama’s To-Do List Is Horizontal, Not Vertical

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Newshour asked me to join a panel discussion on Monday night’s program to ponder this issue: when it comes to foreign policy, does President-elect Barack Obama have too much on his plate, and should he get started now by, say, involving himself in the Gaza crisis? Here’s a slice:

RAY SUAREZ: So, David Corn, what’s President Obama’s role beyond simply waiting until January 20th?

DAVID CORN, Mother Jones Magazine: You know, there are some times when political rhetoric is useful because it’s true and convenient. His camp keeps saying over and over again, “We have one president at a time.” And they are not saying anything at all about this foreign policy matter or basically any other.

It’s true that President Obama has, you know, received calls from leaders from around the world, but he insists — or his people insist — they’ve talked about nothing substantive in these calls. It’s all just been congratulatory.

And so right now I think he’s kind of just waiting. And I assume that he’s hoping that whatever is going on now, whatever Israel is intending to do, that they have a two-, three-week timeline on it so, when he comes into office three weeks from tomorrow, that maybe the shooting end of this aspect of the crisis will have passed and, you know, we’ll be back to having the Middle East as a problem, but at least not with this type of imagery that you have now, because it’s, indeed, true that I think the rest of the world will be turning to him rather soon, if not even before January 20th, to do something about this, whether he’s in power to do so or not.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, you just heard Trudy Rubin suggest that this inevitably pushes up Israel and the Palestinians on the lists of Obama administration priorities. Do you agree?

DAVID CORN: To a degree. I was talking to one Obama person today, and we quickly put together a list. It’s Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, the wider Middle East, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, maybe Zimbabwe, maybe the Congo, even Somalia. They have a to-do list that’s not vertical, but horizontal, and that’s the issue.

And I think — I don’t think any president in recent memory has come to office with that type of agenda facing them, and there may be other items that pop up. You know, who knows what might happen with Russia, Mexico, China, at any given point in time?

So I think he has to put together a great cabinet-style government with lots of envoys, Middle East envoys, African envoys, who can go out there and at the same time start working on a lot of these different flashpoints.

You can see the full transcript here and download the video here.

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