Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University and a PSA Advisory Board Member. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This originally appeared on the Center on Congress’ blog.
How Politics Has Changed
When two senators recently got into a spat over whether the Boston Marathon bombings were being politicized, the news was everywhere within minutes. Reams of commentary quickly followed. In the maneuvering over gun-control legislation, every twist and turn was instantly reported and then endlessly debated. As the effects of the federal sequester start to make themselves felt, outlets in every medium — print, television, online — are carrying both the news and the inevitable partisan sniping over its meaning.
This is political reality today, and when people ask me how politics has changed since I first ran for Congress in 1964, it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Back then, when you spoke to the Rotary in a small town, you were speaking to a few members of the Rotary. Today, you might well be speaking to the world. A debate on Capitol Hill back then might or might not have made the news, but even if it did, days could go by before the rest of the country reacted. Today, the response is instantaneous, often hot-blooded, and almost inconceivably far-reaching. (more…)
Thomas R. Pickering is a member of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment. He was undersecretary of state for political affairs from 1997 to 2001 and served as ambassador and representative to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992. Ambassador Pickering is also a member of the Partnership for a Secure America Advisory Board. This article was originally published in the Washington Post.
America Must Atone for the Torture it Inflicted
It’s never easy in this volatile world to advance America’s strategic aims. For more than four decades, in the service of Democratic and Republican presidents, it was often my job to persuade foreign governments to adhere to international law and observe the highest standards of conduct in human rights — including the strict prohibition of torture. A report released Tuesday by an independent task force on detainee treatment (to which I contributed) makes it clear that U.S. officials could have used the same advice. (more…)
This is an excerpt from former Senator Richard Lugar’s April 9, 2013 Georgetown Public Policy Institute Whittington Lecture. He is a visiting professor at the institute and head of www.TheLugarCenter.org. This version was published in The Hill.
Budgets, Bipartisanship and Our National Security
With the release of his budget, President Obama must attempt reestablishing a closer working relationship with Congress that gives those members who are inclined toward bipartisanship some assurance that their sacrifices can lead to productive outcomes.
Such bipartisan cooperation – the suspension of the pursuit of political advantage in the interest of doing something necessary for our country — is necessary not only to achieve important national goals, but also to undergird national unity in the event of severe crises.
This cooperation depends both on congressional leaders willing to set aside partisan advantage and on administration officials who understand that the benefits of having the support of Congress is worth the effort and political capital it takes to secure that support.Both parties clearly recognize that enacting a long-term budget is important for our domestic welfare. Failing to construct a credible deficit reduction plan carries extreme risks, as markets and managers look for assurances that the United States is prepared to arrest the long-term fiscal spiral. Given the recent upheaval over Europe’s debt crises, further signs that the United States is incapable of addressing its fiscal situation could have dire consequences for the U.S. economy.
But we also should see budget deliberations as a national security priority, because our current economic posture leaves us highly vulnerable to both economic and national security disasters. The president should regard the conclusion of a comprehensive budget deal as central to his commander-in-chief duties. (more…)
By LEE HAMILTON
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.
March 20, 2013| Cypress Creek Manor
Congress Falls Short on National Security
Wherever you stood on Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster to delay John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director, or on the Senate’s confirmation hearings for Brennan and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, they all serve as a reminder of just how feeble Congress has proven to be when it comes to foreign policy.
This wasn’t immediately obvious, of course. Paul’s speech questioned whether there are limits on the President’s power to use drones to kill Americans who’ve been declared “enemy combatants.” But the CIA and military have been using drones overseas for years and this was the first time Congress really pondered the issue. That’s a measure of its dereliction, not of stepping up to the plate. Why has it taken so long to see significant congressional review of the President’s power to use drones?
The author, Julia Pyper, is a writer for E & E News’s ClimateWire. Reproduced with permission. Copyright 2013, E&E Publishing, LLC www.ClimateWire.net.
NATIONAL SECURITY: Defense experts say costs of climate change could be staggering
The ramifications of climate change pose a serious threat to U.S. security interests and will have devastating effects unless Washington takes immediate action, a bipartisan group of 38 former politicians and retired military officials wrote in a letter released yesterday.
“As a matter of risk management, the United States must work with international partners, public and private, to address this impending crisis,” the letter says. “Potential consequences are undeniable, and the cost of inaction, paid for in lives and valuable U.S. resources, will be staggering.”
Lee Hamilton is the Co-Founder of Partnership for a Secure America and Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. This article was originally published in the Winona Daily News and can be found here.
Lee Hamilton: Some Suggestions for Improving Congress
A few weeks ago, the survey firm Public Policy Polling made headlines when it released a poll comparing Congress’s standing to a variety of unloved things.
Respondents did prefer our national legislature to the ebola virus, but otherwise the news was grim: Americans, the survey suggested, have a lower opinion of Congress than of head lice, Genghis Khan, used-car salesmen and root canals.
Congressman Hamilton (D-IN) and Governor Kean (R-PA) are members of PSA’s bipartisan Advisory Board. They co-chaired the 9/11 Commission and are now co-chairs for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Homeland Security Project. This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill newspaper.
We can’t forget national security
During the presidential campaign, there was a striking lack of debate on homeland security. Given the country’s economic problems, the public understandably wasn’t focused on terrorism, and President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney may have been satisfied that the government’s reforms since the 9/11 attacks enhanced our safety and left little to debate.
The silence is eerily reminiscent of the 2000 presidential campaign, when, despite a horrific attack on a U.S. warship during the height of the campaign and the bombings of two U.S. embassies only two years before, neither candidate had much to say about terrorism. As then, we cannot afford to forego an ongoing debate on our security.
This article was written by three Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
A Security Broach:
How Security Clearance Reform Can Address Employment Challenges, Reduce Costs, and Improve National Security
In 1953, Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize, the Crucible debuted on Broadway, and Queen Elizabeth was crowned. Stalin died; a cease-fire agreement was reached on the Korean peninsula; the Rosenbergs were executed; Che Gueverra was touring Latin America, and the first color television made its debut.
The Cold War was a grave reality for all Americans; McCarthyism was at its peak, and the question of how to protect American national security interests and secrets was a serious test. It was in this environment that the newly inaugurated President Eisenhower issued an historic and often overlooked Executive Order to establish security standards for federal employees and contractors.
This article was written by Katherine Ehly and Matthew Hays, two Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
The Need for US Leadership as China Continues to Exert its Influence in the South and East China Seas
In late 2011 the Obama Administration announced that it would increase America’s visibility in Asia. These efforts were described by the Administration as a “pivot” or “rebalancing” of U.S. military planning, foreign policy, and economic policy toward the region. Washington, however, has wrestled with how to engage the most prominent and powerful country in the region, China. With troops nearly gone from Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan, this shift could not have come at a better time. As the region has grown more prosperous, the issue of sovereignty over the South and East China Seas has become intense with China exhibiting worrisome acts of aggression toward its neighboring countries. China, in attempting to control these waters, appears to be demonstrating its intent to exert dominance over the region.
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Richard Lugar is a Senator for Indiana who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is one of the authors of the highly celebrated Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. This article was originally published in the National Interest.
Overcoming Foreign-Policy Disunity
I tend to resist hyperbolic assessments of the condition of American society. But when I reflect on what is different now from when I entered politics, it is clear that partisan divisions are much sharper than they were in past decades.
These divisions routinely affect U.S. foreign policy in ways that they rarely did in years past. It was never strictly the case that “politics stopped at the water’s edge.” During the Cold War and the Vietnam War, for example, it was common for some candidates to be attacked as being soft on Communism and others to be attacked as warmongers. But there almost always was an undercurrent of bipartisanship and communication between party leaders on national security issues that enabled action when it was needed.
That is not the case today. In recent years, the U.S. Congress has been unable to act decisively on foreign policy, or, in many cases, even debate international issues. Faced with reflexive partisan roadblocks and the growing number of unresolvable hot button issues that get attached to foreign policy bills, Congress has retreated from legislation dealing with foreign policy.
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.