How Domestic Policy Usurped Foreign Policy

Topic: How domestic policy usurped foreign policy

James Goldgeier:  So in the 1992 election, this was the first election after the end of the Cold War. And although foreign policy had been hugely important during the Cold War, now the American people felt that "we don't have to worry about foreign policy, because we've defeated our main enemy." And one of the reasons George H. W. Bush had so much trouble in 1992, first from Pat Buchanan on the Republican side, Buchanan basically said, "You're spending too much time on foreign policy. You need to worry about the United States." And George H. W. Bush, who had taken great pride in his foreign policy abilities, his foreign policy experience, started, you know, running away from that record because it seemed like it wasn't working for him. And he was running against a guy, Bill Clinton, who never could have been president during the Cold War. Never could have won an election during the Cold War. He had almost no experience; he was derided by the Republicans, who argued that his only foreign policy experience was the time he spent at the International House of Pancakes. And, you know, he wasn't trying to be a foreign policy president. He ran on a theme of "It's the Economy, Stupid." It's interesting. He had some experience as governor with international trade issues and those would be very helpful to him when he became president, but he was not running to make a claim that he was going to, you know, be a foreign policy president. His goal was to try reap the benefits at the end of the Cold War to help rebuild the American economy. And throughout the '90s, foreign policy was seen as a loser, politically. When the Republicans come in in '94 in Congress, their contract with America-- they've got ten planks. You know, there's one on foreign policy, but it was really seen as not very important at all. The big issues were cutting taxes, and term limits for members of Congress and, you know, other issues focused on sort of the conservative agenda, domestically. And the Republicans in '96 nominate Bob Dole for president, you know, it was sort of one of the senior members of the Congress; had been in the Senate, majority leader, World War II hero and it didn't do anything for them. And, you know, then in 2000, you know, they nominate George W. Bush who has no foreign policy experience because it wasn't seen as important. So there really was this sense, in the 1990s, that foreign policy just didn’t matter.

 

Recorded on: 07/08/2008

 

James Goldgeier describes how Pat Buchanan challenged George H.W. Bush by saying the world outside our borders comes second.

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