It's a Mad, Mad World!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state under Bill Clinton and author, believes our nation has lost the moral high ground in world politics, and she has some advice for our next president on how to repair our reputation abroad and restore U.S. leadership on the world stage.

Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership is available for purchase at


Madeleine Albright

Comments [42]

Gary Krasner from New York

Ms. Albright's obsession with other nation's loving us is emblematic of the risk averse administration in which she served as Secretary of State.

In point of fact, any nation's first responsibility is to serve the interests of it's citizens. Every other nation does that, and does not implement international or domestic policy with a mind to how popular it will be abroad. But Albright and most Democrats feel the US must act differently. This reflects an insecure self image of themselves, more than anything else.

The second responsibility of a nation, in terms of priority, is to act altruistically to serve human rights internationally. Other readers on this blog already mentioned a few of the Clinton Admin failures to act in that respect. By contrast, Bush has acted to aid tsunami victims in the south pacific, pakistani victims of earthquake, and stopped the genecide or Shiits and Marsh Arabs in Iraq.

By contrast, what has any other nation done to serve altruism more than the US? None. So what more does Albright think the US must do to "restore our resputation"? And why?

Feb. 14 2008 10:58 AM
eva from spiritually? Newark

Asking why Obama's parents gave him the middle name Hussein is like asking Kosuke Fukudome's parents why they didn't change their last name in order that solipsistic Brooklynites could avoid fistfights when they watched baseball.

Hussein simply translates to "good-looking." So your question, Pete, is like asking why someone would name their daughter Belle or Bella.

I think the fact that Obama attended school in Indonesia from age six to ten is irrelevant, unless you give him credit for living in another country.

But your comments reflect a bigger problem Obama would have in November - overcoming the ignorance of U.S. voters. I heard on the radio that he was hurt slightly on SuperDuperTuesday because some less educated voters actually believed that he wasn't American because he was born in HAWAII. It'll be a long road for that guy... I hope he makes it, because the options aren't good.

Feb. 12 2008 01:33 PM
hjs from 11211

besides that, when ur daughter gets to school they are not going to tease her because of her middle name, rather naming a child anything rhyming with a female part starting with V is just plain CRUEL. what were u thinking.

Feb. 12 2008 12:28 PM
hjs from 11211

why in the world would anyone change their childs name because other peole thought they were catholic. sounds crazy to me!!
just say "why no. we're not catholic."
even easier don't tell anyone her middle name. i don't know most of my friends middle name.

why are there so many crazies in the country??

Feb. 12 2008 12:13 PM
Wendy Bellows from New York

The discussion about Obama's MIDDLE name is ridiculous. First of all, my GUESS is that Hussein is a common name -- perhaps like John in the U.S. Second of all, since Obama's father was an atheist, perhaps he just picked a name that he liked, with no implications whatsoever. I myself ran into this, having named my daughter Regina Marie (first & middle) because I love the name Regina, along with possible nicknames, and I liked the way Regina Marie sounded together, and Marie was my grandmother's name -- so it all worked out perfectly, or so I thought! What a surprise when SO MANY PEOPLE thought we were Catholic!!! (Because of this I PAID to change her middle name.)

Feb. 12 2008 12:08 PM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

It is weird to me that some people will take one of the most innocuous things (like a name) to attempt to divide people. I would suggest Pete that you take yourself out onto your Brooklyn street and try to get to know all of the people you see that look different, sound different, have funny sounding names etc… you might learn that they are more similar you than you might want to admit.

Feb. 12 2008 11:47 AM
Chris O from New York

My name is Chris but I am not a Christian. I would like to see me explain that!

Feb. 12 2008 11:38 AM
hjs from 11211

what is your point about the name Hussein. i'm sure many people in the world have the name Hussein? some of them are religious and some are not

are all people named Adolf evil?

Feb. 12 2008 11:36 AM
Alber from Greenwich, CT

Sorry I did not reply sooner (had to take a call). I don’t understand what you are suggesting. I don’t know why his parents gave him the middle name of Hussein. Why did your parents give you the name you have? Was it because of some hard core Christian religious doctrine, or because they liked the name. As far as I know his Kenyan side of the family is Moslem. His father chose to reject religion, but Hussein is common name in Moslem cultures. You live in Brooklyn. When you walk around outside, don’t you see people of every different culture, religion, ethnicity … What are you suggesting about someone who happens to be named Hussein. I don’t understand what you are driving at.

Feb. 12 2008 11:35 AM

Out of respect for Brian if nothing else can we keep these boards interesting and open-eared and good-hearted?

The final posts always seem to say mean and ignorant things about Jews and Muslims.

And it's often the same handful of names. I hate to sound like a school marm but it seems like a shame to kill these boards.

Feb. 12 2008 11:31 AM
Chris O from New York

Your words are a comment on your thinking ability. Did you know that madrassa is an Arabic word for school? You must have, because you wrote that Obama went to violent madrassa. (He went to a regular public school, fool.)

As for the name, boy I am surprised you can not understand something so simple but I will spell it out for you. His father (I presume) was born a Muslim. His father rejected Islam and became an atheist. Barack never grew up in the Muslim faith because his mother was not a Muslim and his father rejected it. I don't know what his parents were thinking when they gave him the middle name Hussein.,0,7180545.story

Feb. 12 2008 11:28 AM
hjs from 11211

chris o,
that is one of the basic myths of america. (along with "the american dream")

all peoples have myths. it helps the simple people get through life.

Feb. 12 2008 11:24 AM
Pete from Brooklyn, NY

Chris, I'm sorry, you didn't respond to my question: How did he get the middle name Hussein, was it by accident? What was the name of the school he attended in Indonesia. Did YOU go to school in Indonesia? Probably not. What did they teach there? Since you are SO informed, I'm sure you'll consult your excellent news sources where YOU get all your information and post an accurate reply to both questions, which you and your LIKE avoid. That is a comment on your thinking ability, isn't it?

Feb. 12 2008 11:21 AM
Chris O from New York

Pete, You are spreading misinformation when you say Obama went to violent Madrassas. Wherever you got that information, you should be aware that it is false. (You probably don't care.)

Feb. 12 2008 11:18 AM
Chris O from New York

I don't believe the world wants the US to occupy the moral high ground. I believe the world is in awe of US power and wealth, and want a piece of it. That is very normal and understandable. The world would be content with our leadership but what the world most wants is for us to get out of the way. It was succinctly put that way at a global warming conference. Or on another issue, the International Criminal Court. Or on the Geneva Conventions. Or on the laws of war concerning aggression. I probably should not mention Israel because while the world sees millions of Palestinians suffering under a US-sponsored and paid for illegal occupation, the US sees... the US sees.. crazy anti-Semitic terrorists who want to destroy freedom, or something like that.

Feb. 12 2008 11:15 AM
Pete from Brooklyn, NY

You didn't answer my question: How did he get named Hussein, by accident? I'd appreciate an answer.


Feb. 12 2008 11:14 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

You need to stop reading sleazy tabloids and check out some acurate news. Where do you get your info from?

Feb. 12 2008 11:09 AM
Pete from Brooklyn, NY

You keep saying his father was an atheist. Okay okay Barack Hussein Obama got named by accident and went to violent madrasas, by accident!

Feb. 12 2008 11:06 AM

eCahn -- i hope you can at least try to see my somewhat nuanced point, tried to articulate more in following post.

Bush mortifies me but that in itself does not qualify other leaders as superior -- or in many cases even equal.

Feb. 12 2008 11:00 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

Mr. Lehrer,
Sen. Obama's father was an atheist, not a Moslem. Please stop saying that.

Feb. 12 2008 10:57 AM

Looking back at other comments I see that my comments are contrary to the sentiments of other posters here.

I agree that the US has made mistakes -- in fact all the ones you pointed out.

My conclusion comes from having seen the mistakes -- and hopes -- of those living outside the US -- I was surprised at how many living outside (not to mention within) the US expect us to walk upon the high moral ground, and how proud I always am at that.

Feb. 12 2008 10:54 AM

Gee, that's interesting levine.ii, saying that a leader should not care about the opinions of those who a led. I guess that's one of the reasons why people think the U.S. is an empire.

Feb. 12 2008 10:52 AM

I think of myself as very liberal on trade and foreign affairs but I am having a strong reaction

against that caller reminding Americans that folks abroad are ambivalent about our foreign policy.


The world expects us to set the lead -- our mistakes are glaring not because they clash with the world's opinion but when they are arrogant and ignorant.

Feb. 12 2008 10:49 AM
Howard from Brooklyn

The only thing worse than keeping troops in Iraq is removing them and abandoning Iraq.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban are products of our abandoning Afganistan after their war with the Soviet Union, leaving a power vacuum and anarchy.

If we were to also abandon Iraq, the ensuing power vacuum would create all the nightmares we are afraid of.

Instead we should think in terms of nation building in Iraq, turning from a military to a CIVILIAN perspective -- probably having the UN with a strong role. But it must be without a military occupying role.

Feb. 12 2008 10:49 AM
AWM from UWS

Chris O,

History, reality, humility. I wish everyone in this country saw the world through your point of view. We'd be so much better than we think we are.

Feb. 12 2008 10:48 AM
Sarah from Rego Park

I am very interested to know what Ms. Albright thinks Syria and Iran (and the rest of the countries in the region will do) if and when the U.S. pulls out its troops. How might we pull out without leaving a disaster within Iraq and then having the surrounding countries fight for power there? The situation once we leave (and I wish we could) strikes me as extremely dangerous.

Feb. 12 2008 10:44 AM
hjs from 11211

to the caller
poland and the baltic states have about 1000 troops in iraq right now. i would not call them our BIGGEST ally

Feb. 12 2008 10:43 AM

LOL Chris O. Succinctly put.

My simple A to your Q (What the hell is this high ground based on?) is that the winner writes the history. So U.S. has moral high ground because we say have it. Remember, W thinks the Iraqis should be grateful for what he did to them.

Feb. 12 2008 10:41 AM
rick from brooklyn

ask her about the sanctions on Iraq in 1990's that killed 500,000 children. was it (still) worth it?

Feb. 12 2008 10:40 AM

Chris O you hit the nail on its head.

Feb. 12 2008 10:39 AM
Laura from Nyack, NY

I wonder what she thinks about the announcement to try some people for 9/11 connections, and the timing relative to the upcoming elections?

Feb. 12 2008 10:36 AM
Chris O from New York

I must admit to dismissing our lost moral high ground. I mean, the US is a great country, a dynamic, unique country. But so are all countries. First it was a genocide of many peoples living here. This happened before, during and after slavery of the African people. We have the Monroe Doctrine, which basically says we will control this hemisphere. We dropped 2 nuclear bombs, bombarded Vietnam who never did anything to us into the stone age, killing millions of innocents. We savaged left-wing movements in Latin America, contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents. We bombed Panama, killing hundreds. When the hell did we have the high ground?! What the hell is this high ground based on? Winning World War 2?

Feb. 12 2008 10:35 AM

A new president will restore America's reputation immediately.

The world wants/needs the US to work -- 2009 onward, the US' reputation will be his or hers to improve or damage.

agree or disagree MME. A?

Feb. 12 2008 10:34 AM
AWM from UWS

No worries eCHAN,

We're both on the same page, figuratively and literally.

Feb. 12 2008 10:32 AM

Thanks for clarifying. I stand corrected.

Feb. 12 2008 10:29 AM
Derek Tutschulte from Brooklyn

Ask her how she felt calling 21 year old super delegate, Jason Rae to solicit his vote.

In general, what does she think about the super delegate process? Is the cohesion Democratic party at risk?

Feb. 12 2008 10:27 AM
Mike from Bellport

How much of what Ms. Albright wanted to do was influenced by Republican control of Congress?

Feb. 12 2008 10:26 AM
AWM from UWS


I didn't say anything about sending US troops.

She and the Clinton administration dismissed the pleas of Roméo Dallaire, Force Commander of UNAMIR in Rwanda as the situation deteriorated. Via the UN security council they opposed his demand for logistical support and reinforcements of 2,000 soldiers for UNAMIR; he estimated that a total of 4,000 well-equipped troops would give the UN enough leverage to put an end to the killings.

In the end the UN security council sent in 5,500 troops to stop the massacre, about 800,000 people too late.

Feb. 12 2008 10:25 AM
hjs from 11211

scalia on torture

Feb. 12 2008 10:03 AM

What makes you think that Madeleine Albright or anyone in the United States knew enough about the Rwandan civil war to intervene? Bosnia & Kosovo are still a mess, and those were the most successful interventions. All the others have been miserable failures. If the U.S. had sent troops to Rwanda, they'd still be there and there would be no settlement between the factions.

Feb. 12 2008 09:58 AM
AWM from UWS


Ms. Albright "believes our nation has lost the moral high ground in world politics?"

If her idea of moral high ground is sitting on her hands and stalling when she could have been working to prevent the massacre hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda, then we must be at the absolute depths now.

Ms. Albright, you shouldn't be making appearances solely to wag your finger and scold the current administration on foreign policy (no matter how much they deserve it), you should use your failures as an example as well. That would be humble, truly constructive and, yes, moral.

Feb. 12 2008 09:51 AM

Ask her why she thinks U.S. sanctions on Iraq that were responsible for half a million children's deaths on her watch, was worth it? (Background: When asked was it worth it, she answered "Yes.") What did the U.S. get in exchange for being responsible for those dead kids?

Feb. 12 2008 09:45 AM

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