Outside the Box

The Election, the Presidency, and Foreign Policy

August 2, 2012

The closer we get to the presidential election, the more we are bombarded with facts, opinions, predictions, and the like from both ends of the political spectrum.

One thing I like about this analysis from my friend and geopolitical expert George Friedman is that he starts off with an obvious yet understated fact: you can't believe what presidential candidates say. Not because they are pathological liars, but because they must make promises that, once elected, they cannot keep, given the reality of the office.

Whether or not you buy the idea that presidents have much less power than we think, George's assessment of each candidate in terms of foreign policy is as unbiased and dispassionate as they come – definitely worth some considered thought.

If you like this piece, I suggest you check out George's company, Stratfor. They publish geopolitical analysis, and a subscription to their website and email alerts is one of the best ways to stay smart about what's going on in the world and how it might affect your investment portfolio. <<Click here to access a special discount on a 1-year subscription>>, plus get a complimentary copy of George's bestselling book, The Next Decade.

Your thinking the presidency still matters analyst,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

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The Election, the Presidency and Foreign Policy

July 31, 2012

The American presidency is designed to disappoint. Each candidate must promise things that are beyond his power to deliver. No candidate could expect to be elected by emphasizing how little power the office actually has and how voters should therefore expect little from him. So candidates promise great, transformative programs.…

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Jim Buslepp

Aug. 8, 2012, 9:34 p.m.

Events drive things to an extent, but the President’s responses can make a lot of differences. After the World Trade Center was bombed in the early 90’s, President Clinton responded to it as a criminal matter. In due course those involved were dead or in prison. No wars were fought over it.

How would things have been different if President Bush had taken a similar approach?

It’s interesting that it took a more investigative approach by another Democratic President to finally take out the leadership of al Queda.

Gerald Ferguson

Aug. 3, 2012, 11:07 p.m.

Remember how Britain tried to maintain a balance of power, for example opposing France when they were stronger, and allying with France when Germany was stronger.Ended up ruining Britain. The USSR collapsed because of internal contradictions, not American belligerency. Russia is a sick sister. China is careful with its growing strength. The US is constrained by misunderstanding its own financial system, as if we were still on the Gold standard.

Thomas Childs

Aug. 3, 2012, 6:27 p.m.

It seems to me that Mr. Friedman is doing a white-wash job the likes of which I would not have thought possible on his website. The Obama presidency circumscribed in its powers to manipulate and skew the management of the American society?? That is simply too unpleasantly inaccurate to seriously consider! The raft of un-documented, un-vetted Czars, the utterly cynical use of un-constitutional executive privilege in virtually dictating to Congress, the Supreme Court, and the People how “Change” should be construed!!! Hell, let’s call a spade a spade! Obama has managed to convert Washington and Jefferson’s magnificent Republic into a banana republic tyranny! A Stalinist style police state! A Nazi goon-run dictatorship!! And with 140 million gun owners not likely to accept a pending dictum criminalizing them all – there WILL be trouble!

Don Bishop

Aug. 3, 2012, 4:26 p.m.

Domestically the President has enormous power through the regulatory processs. A case in point is Obama’s war on fossil fuels; he clearly stated before the 2008 election that he would bankrupt coal companies, and through EPA edicts he is moving in that direction.

Steve Herr

Aug. 3, 2012, 2:51 p.m.

I agree that the President, and for that matter the Congress, is weaker than most people think.  However I see a different reason.  The President and Congress are just pawns of the military and it’s associated industrial complex.  The predictions of President Eisenhower have come true in spades.  Polls show that the American People want out of Afghanistan by a two to one margin and yet even a Democratic President cannot pull it off.  Anyone who thinks we are there for “strategic” reasons is a fool.  We are there because it is good business.  Witness the current debate about the “fiscal cliff”.  It appears that we need to maintain a ruinous level of military spending forever so that we don’t loose jobs.  Of course we will not be able to maintain this level of spending forever.  The real question will be:  What do the supporters of the military industrial complex do when they have bankrupted the country?  Germany in World War II might be a good example.  Let’s pray not!

John Hunter

Aug. 3, 2012, 7:26 a.m.

The revelation that there is little difference between presidential-candidate policies when they reach office, may not be news to many people.  What is evident at this pre-election stage is that the challenger has more freedom to weigh in with the gun-toting rhetoric of the Bush era to impress the red-necks.  By any measure, Romney is unelectable and it really doesn’t matter what he says—he will never be in a situation to deliver on promises.  And I suspect that the fact anyone takes any notice is more to do with the American love of a parade, rather than anything of substance.

But there has been a substantial shift in thinking on both sides of politics since the last war in Iraq.  What is referred to in the article above as ‘American Interests’ is really about oil and energy.  For most of the last century and a part of this one, America chose to focus efforts for its ‘balancing’ very carefully so that they aligned with energy supply.  The morality argument was used only when convenient.  Now there is a stark realization that the US must become self-sufficient in energy and take this out of the balancing act.

Jack Hiller

Aug. 2, 2012, 7:43 p.m.

This article is either amazingly stupid, given the intelligence and knowledge of the writer, or dissingenuous. The incumbent President’s actions have been marked by Executive orders that effectively violate law (e.g., amnesty for illegal immigrants and disregard for welfare work rules), disregard of court orders (e.g., the offshore drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico), pursuit of a Green agenda not approved by the Congress (e.g., funding Solindra and placing the Gov last for bankruptcy, as well as “blocking the Canadian pipeline otherwise approved, and pursuit of economically impractical regulation thru the EPA).
This President has acted as King, not bound by the courts and legislation. How could Freedman have missed seeing this extreme Presidential behavior ?