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Joe Lieberman

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was a panelist Wednesday at the University conference on election year politics and policies.

Presidential politics: take two

Panelists tackle Middle East, transportation

By Deane Morrison

Wednesday's panelists at the University conference on "America's Future: Conversations about Politics and Policy during the 2008 Republican National Convention" laid out the Middle East situation that will confront the new president and urged the adoption of a national transportation plan. Along the way, they had some fun talking convention politics. This is the second of three reports on the conference, which is being held through Thursday, September 4, in the Humphrey Institute on the Minneapolis campus. A Web archive of the proceedings is available. To no one's surprise, Iraq figured prominently in a discussion of the Middle East. Meghan O'Sullivan from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government warned that Iraqis, especially Kurds, were likely to want to consolidate their political gains before American troops are withdrawn. Their neighbor Iran also has its agenda, said Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Iranians want to create some sort of relationship with the United States," he said. "The question is, how will they get there? They won't give up things easily. What they want from the United States is a commitment to the diplomatic process. I think Iranians would like to see the United States [withdraw] its military presence in the Persian Gulf." On the subject of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Michael Barnett of the Humphrey Institute said, "I've never been more depressed." Without a negotiated solution, the possibilities are one side defeating the other militarily, or a single state in which Palestinians have equal rights; the latter, said Barnett, would mean the end of the Zionist vision.

"The candidate who's losing is the one who attacks the media."

Asked by moderator Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, if Hamas, which holds power in the Gaza Strip, should be brought into the equation, Barnett said yes. "At some point, Hamas will have to be brought into it," he said. "You don't make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies." With President Pervez Musharraf gone, Pakistan could very well collapse, said Nasr. Decisions concerning relations with Afghanistan, arch-rival India, and nuclear weapons will be made by the military, not by civilian rulers. The country will have its hands full wrestling with 24 percent inflation, plus shortages of food and electricity, while simultaneously trying to fight extremists within its borders. "There will be a window of opportunity from about January through March 2009 to change the situation on the ground in Pakistan," said Nasr, who added that he fears a major surge by the Taliban in Afghanistan. A session on convention politics and the election brought some relief from the deadly serious issues of the Middle East, including advice on how to size up candidates' chances. "The candidate who's losing is the one who attacks the media," observed Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. In a third session, four advisers to McCain--including Robert "Bud" McFarlane, former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman--assessed the candidate's potential for making the world better and safer and pronounced him up to the task. A panel on transportation opened with an assessment by the Brookings Institution's Bruce Katz that the nation's system is "broke and broken." Florida Congressman John Mica called for a national strategic transportation infrastructure plan while Tom Darden CEO of Cherokee Investment Partners in North Carolina, stressed that a transportation policy is also a land use policy and as such either promotes or discourages sprawl. Which is to say, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. Darden told a horror story about how planners decided to pave every road in Wade County, home to the state capital, Raleigh. Then they did it--even a road that saw only five trips a day. Darden, a self-described conservative, said the use of tax money for subsidizing sprawl was completely illogical to him. A big issue in transportation is how to help metro areas grow "sustainably" while maximizing their productivity. "Europeans have gone there, but we have not," said Katz. "Some places [in the United States] know how to, others don't." St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman saw roles for government and private businesses in building a new transportation network. Government's role, he said, should be primarily in building roads, bridges, light rail, and so forth. Businesses would handle development along the corridors. "It's a question of what kind of country and community we want," he said.
Read the first and third articles in this series.