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Monday, July 28, 2008

Obama and Economic Policy

Obama to Meet With Rubin, Volcker, Buffett on Economic Plans

By Julianna Goldman

July 27 (Bloomberg) -- Democrat Barack Obama said he is convening a meeting on the economy tomorrow that will include former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and billionaire investor Warren Buffett as he pivots to the U.S. economy after a nine-day trip abroad.

``I expect some further fine-tuning of short-term policies based on what's happened over the last several months,'' Obama said in an interview last night aboard his presidential campaign plane returning to Chicago from London.

The meeting in Washington will also include former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Anna Burger, secretary- treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist.

Rubin advised New York Senator Hillary Clinton during her primary campaign against Obama. Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., plans to phone in to the meeting, Axelrod said.

Obama, 46, an Illinois senator, said he wants to ``really work through in detail some of the immediate steps that may need to be taken both between now and the end of the year and after inauguration'' to strengthen the housing and financial markets and to talk more about long-term economic strategies.

`Do Business With Me'

Obama expressed satisfaction with his foreign trip.

``I think voters can take a look at this trip and say to themselves that this guy can function effectively on the world stage,'' Obama said.

He stopped in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, where he visited troops, conferred with military commanders and met with dozens of foreign leaders. The trip allowed Obama to make his case that he's ready to be commander-in-chief as John McCain, 71, the presumptive Republican nominee, casts him as a neophyte on foreign affairs and national security.

``The reports of the heads of state that I met with were that they could do business with me and that obviously is what we wanted to make clear,'' Obama said.

The threat of a nuclear Iran dominated discussions in Jordan, Germany, France, Britain and especially in Israel, where Obama's stated willingness to meet with adversaries has raised concern. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened Israel and questioned its right to exist.

Obama said Israeli leaders he met with, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Likud Party Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, didn't express those concerns, and he praised Olmert for engaging in diplomacy with Syria and Hamas through intermediaries.

``They recognize that we have to have a very hard-headed, non-ideological approach about how do we move our strategic interest forward,'' Obama said.

Military Power

``I think they have confidence that my interest in diplomacy does not preclude all other approaches to potential American power, including military power,'' Obama said.

The U.S. and its European allies accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program; Iran insists its activities are peaceful and legal under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Obama, whose stops in Afghanistan and Iraq came during the first leg of his trip, also said he's ``not yet'' confident that the recently elected Pakistani government will provide the necessary cooperation with U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization efforts to root out al-Qaeda and Taliban base camps in the tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

`Inadequate' Cooperation

``What we've seen so far has been inadequate,'' Obama said. ``There is no doubt that we have to have a greater cooperation with Pakistan.''

Obama, who has said the U.S. must refocus on Afghanistan, has called for a phased 16-month withdrawal of troops from Iraq to redeploy two or three more brigades to Afghanistan. He said, however, that the extra brigades are a ``necessary but not sufficient requirement for us to solve the problem.''

Pakistan's newly elected Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will visit Washington this week and meet tomorrow with President George W. Bush.

Obama said he's ``hoping that I have a chance to meet him and have discussions with him,'' though he didn't say any meeting has been arranged.

When it comes to asking for more cooperation from European allies in the NATO effort in Afghanistan, Obama said, ``we need to make sure that we are helping to make clear what's at stake.''

``Hopefully to the extent that we are showing an interest in their top agenda items like climate change, that strengthens cooperation and gives them more political room to put more resources and more efforts in Afghanistan,'' he said.

In one month, Obama will accept his party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He refused to comment on his vice presidential search.

`Inclusive' Convention

He said he's focusing on making the convention ``more open and inclusive,'' and that he's been thinking ``thematically'' about his acceptance speech at Invesco Field on Aug. 28.

Obama said he has been ``spending a lot of time figuring out how can we refresh the format so it's not only an interesting TV show but also it builds on grassroots organization.''

Obama said in his meeting with advisers he expects to ``get their read on where the economy is going,'' and fashion some ``additional steps'' to address the short-term economic and financial and housing issues.

After the foreign trip, he is expected over the next week to spend most of his time talking about domestic issues with a special focus on the economy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julianna Goldman in Chicago at

Last Updated: July 27, 2008 00:35 EDT

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

My comment is on America's foreign policy. I think the best arrangement would be for the US to respect all other states' sovereignty and allow them to work out their own domestic politics. The US has played God so many times in other state's domestic affairs, and it has almost always come back to bite us.

We need to adopt a foreign policy that respects all other states' sovereignty, and allows for specific bilateral arrangements as needed without offsetting our overall multilateral commitments. This way, America can be the country that everyone else trusts. We can be the country that the world looks to for humanitarian assistant, economic assistant, technological assistance, and democratic leadership; rather than what we are today, feared and hated by the international community. How long can any state continue in such a way?

What if we were spending $500 billion/year feeding, educating and healing our own citizens, and repairing our own infrastructure? It wouldn’t be long before we could start extending those benefits to the rest of the world. Who would hate us for that? No state would want to be at war with such a country.

What other realistic choice do we have? As it stands, unless we intend to use nukes, or fight solely from the air, we can’t stand against nations such as Pakistan (or Iran) in traditional, boots on the ground combat; our military is far too small. Waging such a battle in a prolonged war against countless non-state actors is nothing short of insane, foolish and arrogant.

The most intelligent option we have is to adopt a new foreign policy that will ensure the all the current states of the world that the US no longer intends to encroach on their sovereignty (something the greater majority certainly do not believe today). That doesn't sound like Obama or McCain.

Consider Senator Obama. He’s just returned from a world tour, in which he proclaimed his intention to continue the military war on terror, and to take it to the soil of one of America’s own allies. It's ironic that Senator Obama has publicly proclaimed a unilateral policy of preemptive war, yet we still tend to associate Senator McCain with President Bush.

Now consider Senator McCain. He’s proclaiming the need to continue the military war on terrorism as well. How long will it be before either of these candidates has the United States in direct opposition to the greater Muslim world? Both candidates are blindly assisting the efforts to radicalize moderates against the United States. In this great political campaign, what we need is a candidate that understands that the hearts and minds of over a billion Muslim people hang in the balance; not between Obama and McCain, but between moderate and radical. And US foreign policy can tip the scales. What we need is a candidate that can wage war where it can be won, at the negotiating table.