12/11/2006 07:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Thinking About It: Barack Is Running Hard for President; Iraq Study Group Report Is Strong; Remembering Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick

Originally posted here.

Senator Barack Obama is running hard and most likely will announce his intentions to run for president sometime early in 2007. No one else of either party on the 2008 campaign trail is generating the crowds and enthusiasm that are apparent for Obama. The Illinois senator is definitely lighting up the campaign trail this holiday season.

As the candidate of the hour Obama could very quickly become the alternative for Democrats who do not support Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign for president and there could quickly be a two person contest on the Democratic side. However, it is good to have a sense of history about presidential campaigns and presidential candidates. Looking back at 1980 Senator Ted Kennedy seemed to have the rock star status that Obama is enjoying today. But, as soon as Kennedy officially announced that he was running for president his support fell dramatically. And, as we all know President Jimmy Carter defeated Kennedy for the Democratic nomination. As the saying goes: A day is a long time in politics. Today, Obama is the star with Senator Clinton close behind but tomorrow who knows?

There are other candidates "exploring" almost on a weekly basis the possibility of running for president in 2008. I interviewed outgoing Governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack last week. Vilsack is not exploring, he has already officially announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

Vilsack, the first official Democrat to announce, is not well known in the polls and doesn't have nearly the star power of Senators Obama and Clinton but he is an impressive candidate who appears to know the issues. He is out front on having an energy policy and his campaign theme is "the courage to create change".

As I mentioned to him, if I had interviewed Jimmy Carter two years out from the 1976 election or if I had interviewed Bill Clinton two years out from the 1992 election I would not have given them a chance to be the nominee. So, time will tell if Vilsack can pull off a Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. He certainly has guts and determination to be the first Democrat out of the starting gate.

On the Republican side, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel spoke at Johns Hopkins SAIS last week. He certainly sounds and acts as if he is actively seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Hagel has an impressive speaking style sounding strong and serious in his foreign policy views. The Vietnam War veteran gave a speech that was pessimistic about American foreign policy.

Saying "we are standing at a defining time in our history today" he went on to remark that "Iraq is not a prize to win or lose". Hagel discussed how American prestige has dropped around the world and especially in the Middle East.

As an outspoken critic of the president in Iraq, he may have a hard time winning the Republican base in order to win the nomination. But, if he should win the nomination he would be a strong candidate in the general election.

I read the Iraq Study Group Report this weekend and used the Report as the basis for my discussion in my graduate course at Johns Hopkins this week. The Iraq Study Group Report is quite brutal and devastating in its findings.

Starting off the executive summary by stating "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating" sets the tone for the report. It is not uplifting. It is an almost complete repudiation of the Bush Administration policy not only in Iraq but in the entire Middle East. This is a unique report in American history for its harsh criticism of ongoing U.S. foreign policy.

However, while it makes for sobering reading, it is a necessary report and James Baker, Lee Hamilton and the other "wise men and women" should be highly commended for putting together this summary with its valuable recommendations for America's future course in Iraq.

The Iraq Study Group Report is "tough love" for the Administration. It has to be remembered this is only a report by a non-elected group of highly respected statesman but only elected officials can make U.S. foreign policy.

President Bush can follow the recommendations of the Report or he can throw it in the wastebasket. As I said before, the president cannot outsource his foreign policy. As the commander-in-chief for the next two years he has the power and responsibility to run the war as he sees fit. However, with more than 60% of the American public saying they do not favor his policies in Iraq it will be very difficult for the president to continue to "stay the course".

The excellent Iraq Study Group Report provides the president new recommendations to "change the course" in Iraq. Bush has said he will give a speech on his Iraq policy before Christmas. Baker, Hamilton and the other members have given the president an insightful and comprehensive roadmap for "the way forward- a new approach" in Iraq and the Middle East. Let's hope Bush is responsive - in a positive-way to the Iraq Study Group Report!

I remember several interviews I had with former United Nations Ambassador Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick when she was Reagan's envoy in New York in the 1980s. Kirkpatrick, a Georgetown professor who passed away last week, was a forceful advocate for Reagan's policies at the UN. As the first woman UN ambassador in U.S. history, Kirkpatrick made a reputation at the UN for her strong and opinionated views.

When I interviewed Ambassador Kirkpatrick in the 1980s, she lived at the Waldorf Astoria and had locked herself out of her room. She asked me if I could open the door and I said I was not very good with keys or other technical things. The Ambassador said to forget getting into the apartment and instead asked me to dinner. We went out for cheeseburgers and then she invited me to a party she was hosting at the UN that night. I said I didn't know anyone and Kirkpatrick told me that was okay and just to say "hello Mr. or Mrs. Ambassador as everyone at the party will be an ambassador".

She was a charming hostess and a wonderful person to talk with and we continued our interview the next week at her office at the State Department in Washington.

While I many not have agreed with many of her views, I was impressed with her vast knowledge of the world and her strong opinions. Of the 1,000 or more policymakers I have interviewed in the last 30 years, she was one of my top five for her comprehensive and well thought out views on world affairs.

Kirkpatrick had a tough public image but in person she was cordial and charming. I will always remember our interviews. She was a strong advocate for her views, a good public servant, and will be missed.