THE BLOG

Democrats Fumble Russia Question

02/27/2008 11:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hmm, so neither Hillary nor Barack are up on their Russian pronunciations of Putin's successor. Come on guys. It's not like Russert asked you to identify Turkmenistan's Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow. Or the capital of Moldova.

I'm glad the subject of Russia came up during the debate but I'm saddened by the Democratic candidates' fumbling of the question (Rest assured that no presidential contender in any part of the world does not know the first, middle, and last names of all the U.S. candidates). Worse, the awkward exchange shows that where they are weakest -- foreign policy -- neither candidate has given much thought beyond the black-and-white kneejerk assessment of: NAFTA bad, protectionism good. That's not a recipe for a successful longterm foreign policy.

They also seemed confident -- overly so, if you ask me -- that Putin would be calling all the shots. That may be the case. But then who do they invite to Camp David as president? Both Medvedeveva [sic] and Putin? Under Russia's constitution, the president is in charge of foreign affairs (similar strains showed during the 1990s when prime ministers Yevgeny Primakov and Viktor Chernomyrdin seemed to usurp President Yeltsin's authority when it came to U.S.-Russian relations.

To be sure, nobody in Ohio or Texas will pull the voting lever based on the candidates' thoughts on Russia. But the issue will come up again when whoever wins goes head-to-head against John McCain, who may run circles around his Democratic challenger on this issue. I would start by learning (at least) the names of a few foreign leaders. Otherwise, they may come off sounding like George W. Bush in 2000.