The multi-year respite from political campaigning afforded to the American public by their Constitution appears to shrink further with every passing electoral cycle. And while the “permanent campaign” as foretold by Jimmy Carter’s pollster Pat Caddell back in 1976 still applies primarily to political professionals, neither the public, nor policymakers, nor even lame duck presidents can ignore the battle lines once formed. So it is that 18 months before the 2008 election, presidential politics influences almost every aspect of government. International issues are no exception. Citing the early onset of the political season, James A. Lindsay, a leading expert on American foreign policy at the University of Texas, questions “to what extent either Republicans or Democrats are developing a strategy for what happens next in Iraq.” Indeed, he tells CFR.org’s Bernard Gwertzman, “one of the things Iraq has done is crowd out a lot of other foreign policy issues.” With that in mind, CFR.org has launched a Campaign 2008 site engineered specifically to track the campaign through the prism of foreign policy, trade, international economics, and national and homeland security issues. As part of this effort, CFR has launched its very first weblog, The Candidates and the World, which aims to track the appearance of these vital issues out on the stump on a daily basis. Edited by CFR.org Washington-based Deputy Editor Robert McMahon, it will take the same nonpartisan, analytical approach to the debate on the campaign trail that we apply to our Daily Analyses, Backgrounders, and other well-known franchises.
Pundits may bemoan the extended campaign period, and many bloggers dislike the idea of blog software being employed analytically by “crogs” or “Carefully Researched Weblogs” – as Robert Kuttner recently termed blogs like this one in Columbia Journalism Review. We beg to differ. Op-Ed, in print or blogged form, is a powerful, viable part of the modern debate. Yet expertise matters, too. For instance, we see that a silver lining may exist if the added months of scrutiny cause 2008 presidential candidates to grapple with an unprecedented level of detail on international questions. Our site is designed, indeed, to force precisely that, providing constantly updated Candidate Issue Guides that track stances on specific topics like energy policy, homeland security, or international trade.
Enough about us. From here on, it’s about them. While others track the horse race, we’ll concentrate on the horses’ mouths.
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