Forging Foreign Policy

Friday, June 15, 2012

James Mann, former Washington reporter, columnist, and foreign correspondent for The Los Angeles Times and author in residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, talks about his new book, The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power and discusses the Obama administration's decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants who came to the US as children.


James Mann
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Comments [50]

Dann from NYC

Uh...Mexican Morman? For Romney? Go fig. Sometimes I really love this country, hilars!

Jun. 15 2012 04:39 PM

It drives me crazy when people criticize a politician for doing something politically-motivated. WHO CARES? This is how representative, electoral government is supposed to work! Obama did this Dream Act thing because he thought a lot of citizens wanted it, and because he is going to be answerable to the citizens directly in a few months. Is that wrong? The guy can't win! Sheesh!

Jun. 15 2012 02:26 PM
Charles from Carmel, NY

I would have liked to have heard something on Yemen - I didn't hear the whole piece so I apologize if I missed this. There was a U.S. bombing raid in Yemen not too long ago where many women and children were killed in an attempt to get at a potential few embedded guerrillas, just as in Vietnam. It is EXTREMELY DISPIRITING that Obama has learned nothing from Vietnam and our other recent client wars - you cannot win a people over by killing their relatives. Yemen atrocities by the U.S. have been largely unreported by the media, with the exception of one or two of the e-magazines. Brian, please, how about some attention paid to this undeclared and awful backwater war?

Jun. 15 2012 12:08 PM

We have moderated a comment. Please remember to stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.

Jun. 15 2012 11:42 AM
Julie from Astoria

At the very end, the idea was floated that if it weren't for our dependence on low oil prices, we wouldn't need such an active, powerful and expensive military, and that while many liberals find that dilemma frustrating, most also wouldn't accept the prospect of very expensive oil. Mr. Mann said "we'd have to willing to drive less".

My immediate thought was: Wait, why not take federal resources out of our military, state dept and other attempts to secure a stable and cheap-oil-friendly middle east and put it into subsidies designed to offset higher oil costs for consumers?

Surely the cost to the federal government budget of bringing otherwise $8/gallon gas down to $4/gallon for consumers at the pump would be far less than what we're spending now to secure essentially the same effect. And that's before you even consider the human and diplomatic benefits of such a shift. (Over the longer term, we could of course also incentivize and perhaps initially subsidize the research and development of independently affordable alternative energy sources, which could eventually wean us of the need to subsidize oil.)

Jun. 15 2012 11:23 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I've gotten emails from United to End Genocide saying that the US military has a billion-dollar contract w/a state-owned Russian arms supplier called Rosoboronexport that's selling weapons to Syria. UEG is calling for the US to end this contract. (I called in to ask the guest about this but didn't get on.)

I don't know if WNYC allows links to actual calls for political action, so I'll just give the URL of the organization's home page: Syria is in the dropdown list under "Conflict Areas."

Jun. 15 2012 11:10 AM
daniel from manhattan

re: presidential immigration reform, why is there an upper age limit? what about immigrants who came before they were 16 but are now older than 30?

Jun. 15 2012 11:05 AM
Norm from New Jersey

Why has the media decided to forget that Syria is one of the nations to which the CIA has routinely rendered civilians to be tortured?

Jun. 15 2012 10:48 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

It would be delusional to think that the Obama adminstration's foreign policy is that much different then the previous administration or in fact what has gone on since the end of World War II.
The foreign policy establishment calls the shoots and each president falls on one side or the other in the on going policy makings via think tanks and influence peddlers and interest groups.
It is all about tweaking around the edges.
With on going policy failures, misunderstanding, and myopia and the eternal influence of pressure groups on one issue or another. Who is president is simply not relevant when it come to foreign policy. It’s the same old same old.

Jun. 15 2012 10:47 AM
The Truth from Becky

Yes, caller "Isabel" you are right, maybe all mexicans should vote for romney and when the troops storm your "predominately mexican" neighborhood demanding to see proof of citizenship, with a promise to boot you outta the country when they can't produce, they can ALL thank YOU for that. Talk about naive!!

Jun. 15 2012 10:45 AM

Tim, seriously? PLEASE work with congress? How has that worked out for Obama in the past?

"Excuse me Mr. Tea Party representative, would you be interested in some bipartisanship?" That'll go well!

Jun. 15 2012 10:44 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

"work with congress"? Tim - you are having a laugh.

Obama should have done the dream act 3 years ago, this is clearly politically motivated, to put Romney in the immigration hole he dug for himself during the primaries. Still good news.

Jun. 15 2012 10:44 AM
Mike In Brooklyn from Brooklyn

Invariably, people are going to say that this immigration decision is political. But it seem that, even after 3 1/2 years, Americans have not figured out the Obama approach to governance.

This decision is NOT political, but the logical conclusion to a process that was going nowhere because of congressional obstructionism.

Sure it would have been nice great if he had done this at the first site of stagnation on the immigration issue. But, Obama wants first to give the democratic process its fair shot before having to act by decree.

This is the sad state of American politics and American democracy. Everything is now black and white and no has the ability to appreciate the grey.

Jun. 15 2012 10:43 AM

The whole thrust of U.S. foreign policy is to dominate the earth for the profit benefit of U.S. corps, or rather those corps that donate to U.S. politicians.

Jun. 15 2012 10:43 AM
john from office

Brian, you are being fooled by these callers. Mitts forces are calling in to sway the calls.

Jun. 15 2012 10:42 AM
Amy from Manhattan

1) James Mann cited Pres. Obama's acting without Congress to take military action in Libya as a way that he acted like Pres. Bush, but Obama didn't present false info to justify doing so, didn't actually invade Libya, & did act in response to a request for intervention by the Arab League.

2) 3 years ago, Pres. Obama didn't know that Congressional Republicans would say no (w/a 1-vote filibuster margin) to nearly everything he tried to do. Why would he have gone w/unilateral action right off the bat?

Jun. 15 2012 10:42 AM
The Truth from Becky

Talk about ungrateful!

Jun. 15 2012 10:42 AM

Marcella and the like-minded:

I bet the Native Americans feel the same way. Everyone here that's not a Native American was an illegal immigrant at some point!

Jun. 15 2012 10:41 AM

If there is a problem with Valerie Jarrett, it's the fact that she's waaaay too soft on Israel.

Jun. 15 2012 10:39 AM
fuva from harlemworld

That caller's suggestion that black folk support Romney may be nuts. But her questioning of Obama's immunity offer to underground immigrants, in light of -- for instance -- the high black unemployment rate, is valid.

Jun. 15 2012 10:39 AM
Dan from Somerset

Immigrants are here no matter what your opinion is of them. Their presence has created a situation that has to be dealt with humanely and intelligently. Protecting and helping the innocent is a noble first step at addressing them.

Jun. 15 2012 10:39 AM

The immigrant thing is a funny lie we have with ourselves. I remember a good article about the "browns and the grays". Basically the 'grays' (seniors - a growing demographic, even though many attempt to put it off with dye) need the 'browns' (IE darker skinned immigrants) to buy their houses, grow their vegetables, work in restaurants, etc etc. Without the immigrants the housing numbers would be even worse, and businesses wouldn't have a cheap source of labor, which trickles into consumer prices.

I think blaming everything on illegal immigrants is just an easy political decision because they can't vote. If people really want to go this direction though, I say prosecute the user. Go after the businesses employing all these illegals, and you'll get rid of the illegals incentives for coming here in the first place though. Then the full economic repercussions will become obvious and my guess is there will be many negatives realized.

Jun. 15 2012 10:38 AM
JD from upper wets side

In my dream, Obama flips the bird at Congress. Oh wait, he just did!

Jun. 15 2012 10:38 AM
The Truth from Becky

I think the outrage should be towards YOU, for calling in saying what ALL Black Americans should be outraged about lady, the nerve! Voting for romney is surely not the answer for any minority and most whites, whether or not they acknowledge that fact.

Jun. 15 2012 10:37 AM

eCAHNomics ~

...has a point.

Jun. 15 2012 10:35 AM

I totally disagreed with Obama’s’ position in legalizing illegal immigrants, that it is most definitely, rewarding undocumented for their illegal crime. Now, what Obama would do with the one that does not qualified for legalization? Does He going to deported them?
When parents decided to bring their children illegally…it was not the American people’s problem or choice but the illegal children parents.

Jun. 15 2012 10:34 AM

Romney caller:


Jun. 15 2012 10:34 AM

What an idiot caller!!!! Blacks should vote/work for Romney? Get real.

Jun. 15 2012 10:34 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Is this immigration decree and skirting of Congess any different from what the Egyptian military did to the Egyptian Parliament?

Jun. 15 2012 10:33 AM
Dave from NJ

I wonder if this what what the White House was thinking...

Later today EPA has to publish new regulations on soot standards, which is going to REALLY make someone angry - be it the left or the right depending on how the standards go. Maybe this policy change is a more politically safe distraction from the new EPA standards?

Jun. 15 2012 10:33 AM
Hugh Sansom

Obama's ratings around the world have plummeted — especially in the Middle East and in China. So the rest of the world isn't drinking the Obama kool-aid that American journalists are.

Obama can claim fewer civilian casualties from drone attacks ONLY because he is calling all the people around the drone attack site terrorists. This is the LITERAL meaning of his claim that all men in the vicinity are terrorists until proven otherwise AFTER they're dead! The absurdity of this is transparently obvious, yet the media has treated it very tamely (though they have not ignored it).

Obama's stipulation of guilt before the fact and without evidence is a violation of American and international law.

Jun. 15 2012 10:33 AM

This action on immigrants are just electioneering crumbs to O's "base."

Jun. 15 2012 10:33 AM

I live and work in Santa Fe, NM as a social worker in a high school that is mostly populated with undocumented immigrants from Mexico who were brought to the States by their parents when they were very young. Our graduation rate is 50% and teen pregnancy rate is astonishing. KIds express frustration and discouragement all the time because even if they finish school they can't work and so the task of finishing school becomes a lot less appealing and purpose needs to be found elsewhere. And they don't want to live in Mexico because they grew up here. I have been waiting for a law like this, it would change so much for them. I am so excited.

Jun. 15 2012 10:33 AM
Howard from The Bronx

Why negatively characterize the order as a "faux" dream act? It isn't fake and would be effective.

Jun. 15 2012 10:33 AM

pushing the dream act through unilaterally is a big mistake. i understand obama's desire to appease liberal and particularly hispanic voters but PLEASE work with the congress to get this mess straightened out.

Jun. 15 2012 10:31 AM

This is nuts.

All drones do is allow O to conduct war in every country on the globe.

The only reason for O's allegedly multilateralism is because right wing nutcases have gained power in many countries.

O is FAR to the right of W. He just hides it better.

Jun. 15 2012 10:31 AM
carolita from NNYC

I think that Obama is beginning to feel the reality of what all that Republican money is going to mean to this election and is doing two things with this impromptu "dream act": 1- he's fighting big money with big action, and 2 - he's making sure that if he isn't elected, he'll have at least DONE one of the things he'd planned on doing in his second term, before he leaves.
I think it's brilliant.

Jun. 15 2012 10:31 AM
Frank from NYC

On immigration move: perhaps this is really just a move to draw GOP into a reaction, thereby energizing Hispanics in an election year. Whether it happens or not, Obama will need them to win. The question: what does it do for already tenuous working class white vote in places like Ohio and North Carolina?

Jun. 15 2012 10:30 AM
The Truth from Becky

We know in America "illegal immigrants" is code for Mexican Americans but let's be clear, there are MANY immigrant groups that contain illegals.

Jun. 15 2012 10:28 AM

I think the West and perhaps some secularists in the Arab world were really hoping for a bunch of 'Ataturks' to pop up, but unfortunately democracy doesn't often play itself out the way one wishes. What we need to be doing is focus on strengthening the moderate democracies that emerge with financial trade incentives and let the ones who continue to flout human rights just flop under their own weight. This would all be easier if we weren't addicted to the teat of oil and our intentions in the Mid East weren't continuously flouted by our junior partner there [which often acts as the senior partner].

Jun. 15 2012 10:28 AM
bernie from bklyn

it's time for aggressive isolationism in combination with socializing some parts of certain industries-energy, pharma etc....we have no business in egypt, syria and especially israel. they all need to be left on their own to sort it out while we concentrate on the big problems and solutions within our own borders.

Jun. 15 2012 10:25 AM
Hugh Sansom

Perhaps Mr. Lehrer can explain why tossing out the law and the Constitution makes a president or his idolaters like Harold Koh "pragmatists" as opposed to war criminals.

Jun. 15 2012 10:23 AM
The Truth from Becky

Brian what do you mean? "he can do that?" Yes he can and should. Why should those brought here as children be penalized for the actions of their parents? and deport them to where? They never lived anywhere else, now that would be inhumane to send illegal immigrants let's say jews, back to israel with no family to speak of, no home, no lively hood, not a good idea.

Jun. 15 2012 10:23 AM
Hugh Sansom

Contrary to what Mr. Lehrer says, quite a few conservative Republicans have _praised_ Obama on his extremist, unconstitutional acts in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Chief among these has been Congress's leading anti-Muslim racist — New York's Rep. Peter King.

Jun. 15 2012 10:22 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

re Obama and immigrant "decree".
Gee, and we're talking about the erosion of Democracy in the Mideast for political gain?

Jun. 15 2012 10:20 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Did the Egyptian military look at what the Isamist Erdegun did in Turkey......put the military leaders all in jail when he got full power....and said "we're not falling for that here"?

Jun. 15 2012 10:16 AM


"Judicial Coup". Wasn't this invented here, in the USA™??

Jun. 15 2012 10:15 AM

When Jefferson said “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” he meant what has to happen in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya not what the teebaggers talk about

Jun. 15 2012 10:12 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


You MUST ask Mann about the role of Valerie Jarrett....the most powerful person in the country that the public knows nothing about (and was never thoroughly vetted by some reports from disgruntled Democrats).

To think that Joe Biden has one tenth of the foreign policy influence with Obama that she has is laughable. Ask Dennis Ross. Ask Bill Daly. When Hillary Clinton was MIA in the first year of this administration, it was Jarrett who urged Obama to go quickly to Egypt and Turkey...and to play tough with the Israelis on linkage to settlement construction (How did that work out?)
Please don't ignore a discussion of the ONLY member of the inner circle of the first 2 years who has survived and still has Obama's ear.

Jun. 15 2012 09:23 AM
Ed from Larchmont

If the US had supported the democratic groups in Egypt could they have competed with the Muslim Brotherhood and prevented the military from having to take over the government to stop the Islamists?

Jun. 15 2012 08:02 AM

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