THE BLOG

Is That Fair? John Kennedy vs. Mamie Eisenhower??

03/21/2008 12:06 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

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Zbigniew Brzezinski just engaged in a high-sizzle, must watch exchange on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this morning with Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and his daughter -- Mika Brzezinski.

He offers unadulterated praise for Barack Obama -- but as usual and beyond the issue of his endorsement, Brzezinski's incisive intellect, analysis and wit penetrate to the core many fundamental realities that DC pundits and news commentators and analysts rarely get to.

But before the serious, there was a shockingly humorous metaphor Brzezinski offered.

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Brzezinski provocatively compared Hillary Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower in his commentary and suggested that despite Clinton traveling to more than 80 countries during her First Lady tenure (Brzezinski said his travel agent has been to 150), he said that it's basically like John F. Kennedy being faced by a challenge from Mamie Eisenhower.

Tucker Carlson said that he would have loved to have had a Clinton surrogate on the show to see the person's facial shade -- which he speculated would be "crimson."

I am a devoted Brzezinski fan -- and his critique of Hillary Clinton's Iraq War positions are similar to my own -- but I differ from him on the Mamie Eisenhower front. Hillary Clinton is a policy junky. Although Ike's First Lady was a well respected hostess for what was then an unprecedented number of global leaders calling on one of the great American generals turned president of the era, no one would have found Mamie Eisenhower drilling down deep into public policy complexities like Hillary Clinton is known to do.

Brzezinski also fails to note that Hillary Clinton is not only a US Senator (Liddy Dole is too after all) -- Clinton is considered by Republicans and Democrats to be one of the few who actually excel in their Senate responsibilities and Senate-craft.

Also and lastly, the role of the First Lady has been changing. Ronald Reagan's wife, Nancy, clearly had a policy impact. Hillary Clinton was given a formal role by her husband on health care policy. In a similar way, the Office of the Vice President has been changing and has statutorily acquired more power and importance because of the way in which Cheney's team -- particularly his success chiefs of staff Scooter Libby and David Addington -- have modified the explicit powers of the VP's office. No Vice President in the future will be directly comparable to the VP's of the past.

But on other fronts, Zbigniew Brzezinski frames some of the challenges that Americans need to hear and consider. The entire 8-minute clip should be watched.

But on the Iraq War, Brzezinski stated that America is bogged down in Iraq and now "part of the problem in Iraq." He said that we need to "disengage intelligently" and "create a political framework in the region that can mitigate the consequences of American withdrawal."

Brzezinski continued -- saying that "McCain will continue the war until there is some kind of victory -- the definition of which keeps changing."

On the economy, Brzezinski stated:

The economy is not only stumbling but the economy reflects fundamental economic injustices in America.

The rich have gotten richer. The poor have gotten poorer. The gaps have widened and the system is unresponsive. . .

On the Middle East and specifically on Israel-Palestine, Brzezinski said:

. . .The region to change has to evolve on its own and its own culture has to adapt.

You don't change a region by injecting a foreign army and pulverizing a state and then saying that you are in fact nurturing democracy.

I think we have to be helpful but we have to avoid actions that inflame the region. This is why it is very important to try to bring the war in Iraq to an end.

It is equally important to try to help the Israelis and the Palestinans reach peace because their conflict not only inflames the region but is devastating for the Israelis and for the Palestinians -- and in different ways, there is suffering on both sides.

And if we can step in and in some fashion broker a compromise between the Israelis and the Palestinians, for which incidentally the public opinions on both sides in Israel and among the Palestinians is far more ready than many people in this country realize, we can really contribute to a much more stable Middle East.

I have learned recently that Zbigniew Brzezinski's primer on the presidential decision-making approaches on national security taken by George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush -- Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower -- will be out this next month in paperback with a new foreward.

Regardless of whether people agree with Brzezinski on his comparisons of Hillary Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower, his deeper analysis of the way in which presidents approach national security crises and make decisions is important.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note