The multiyear respite from political campaigning afforded to Americans by their Constitution appears to shrink further with every passing electoral cycle. And while the “permanent campaign” as foretold by Jimmy Carter’s pollster Patrick Caddell back in 1976 still applies primarily to political professionals, neither the public, nor policymakers, nor even lame duck presidents can ignore the battle lines once formed. So it is that eighteen months before the 2008 election, presidential politics influences almost every aspect of government.
International issues are no exception. Citing the early onset of the political season, James M. Lindsay, a leading expert on U.S. foreign policy at the University of Texas, wonders “to what extent either Republicans or Democrats are developing a strategy for what happens next in Iraq.” Indeed, he tells CFR.org’s Bernard Gwertzman, “one of the things Iraq has done is crowd out a lot of other foreign policy issues.”
With a focus on the most significant international issues in mind, CFR.org has launched its Campaign 2008 site, engineered to track the campaign through the prism of foreign policy, trade, international economics, and national and homeland security issues. Pundits may bemoan the extended campaign period, yet a silver lining may exist if the added months of scrutiny cause serious candidates to grapple with an unprecedented level of detail on international questions. Our site is designed to encourage precisely that, providing regularly updated Candidate Issue Guides that track stances on specific topics like energy policy, homeland security, international trade, or U.S. policy toward Iran.
Along with these unique resources, edited by CFR.org area specialists with input from the world’s most prestigious, nonpartisan foreign policy think tank, the site also features a new weblog, The Candidates and the World, which tracks these vital issues out on the stump on a daily basis. Edited by Washington-based Deputy Editor Robert McMahon, it will take the same nonpartisan, analytical approach to the debate on the campaign trail that CFR.org applies to its Daily Analyses, Backgrounders, and other well-known franchises.
As we have since 2000, when CFR launched its first foreign policy-oriented presidential campaign site, the Campaign 2008 site also will feature exclusive interviews in text, audio, and video with many of the candidates, as well as multimedia of candidates’ speeches at CFR, including Wednesday’s appearance by Democratic candidate John Edwards. The C2008 site also houses links to the best analysis from other media and academic outlets, known as C2008 Must Reads, to major foreign policy speeches and debates by the presidential hopefuls, and to an updated page of Research Links for those eager to delve deeper.
Primarily, though, the Campaign 2008 site aims to do what CFR.org has done for years: focus sharply on international affairs and policymaking. With these matters as relevant to the electorate as they have been in a generation, there should be little question in this round about the need for the future president to demonstrate a command of these issues.