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Ted Sorensen on Inexperience, George Bush and Barack Obama
Theodore C. Sorensen, former special counsel and adviser to President John F. Kennedy and a widely published author on the presidency and foreign affairs, practiced international law for more than 36 years as a senior partner, and now of counsel, at the prominent U.S. law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. The former chairman of the firm’s International Practice Committee, he has represented U.S. and multinational corporations in negotiations with governments all over the world and advised and assisted a large number of foreign governments and government leaders, ranging from the late President Sadat of Egypt to former President Mandela of South Africa.
Mr. Sorensen and his team at Paul, Weiss have advised U.S. corporations on factories in Russia and Africa, pipelines in the Caribbean and Latin America, and disputes in the Middle East and North America, and negotiated on their behalf with government officials at the highest level in dozens of countries. He has advised foreign corporations from five continents on investments in the United States and elsewhere, foreign governments on problems with the World Bank, the United Nations, the U.S. government and foreign investors, and on changes in their respective mining, petroleum, investment and election codes, and constitutions.
In 2002, Mr. Sorensen was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Sorensen is on the advisory board of the Foreign Policy Leadership Council, a director of the Council on Foreign Relations (until 2004) and the Century Foundation, a member of the advisory board of the Partnership for a Secure America and an honorary co-chair of the ABA Commission on the Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession. Mr. Sorensen is the author of the 1965 international best seller Kennedy, seven other books on the presidency, politics or foreign policy and numerous articles on those subjects in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times and other publications. As an active figure in the Democratic Party, he has participated in 10 of the last 12 Democratic Party National Conventions and served in a number of governmental, political and civic posts. Appointed by President Bill Clinton, he served on the boards of the Central Asian-American Enterprise Fund (covering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) and the Commission on White House Fellows. He is experienced in the ways of Washington, the United Nations and the multilateral (World Bank, IFC, etc.) and U.S. (AID, OPIC, etc.) financing institutions.
Mr. Sorensen was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1928. He is father of three sons, one daughter and is married to Gillian Martin Sorensen, a former New York City commissioner, a former United Nations under-secretary general and current senior advisor and national advocate at the United Nations Foundation. Mr. Sorensen's memoirs, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History, were published by HarperCollins in May of 2008.
Question: How is George Bush’s lack of foreign policy experience different than Obama’s
Ted Sorensen: Well I have a feeling that sentence may have been taken out of a much broader, more relevant context in which I said, “George W. Bush came to Washington with no judgment; with no sense; with no brains.” And unlike John F. Kennedy who had traveled all over the world; who had served many years in both the House and the Senate; who had written two books; who had written extensively on foreign policy . . . So the difference between the experience and qualifications of George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy . . . If that’s what I was addressing, it’s too vast to make that possibility. But I would add that the same vast difference exists between George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Obama has demonstrated judgment in opposing Bush’s war in Iraq. Obama has the . . . as I mentioned earlier, has a perspective of viewing the United States from other countries. George W. Bush had been around . . . had been . . . I was told he had been outside this country only once, which was to visit his father when his father was our representative in China. And even then Bush expressed no interest in learning about China. So Obama has experience and judgment that George W. Bush, even after seven and a half years in the White House, still doesn’t have.
Recorded on: 1/30/08
Sorensen wrote that George Bush’s lack of foreign policy experience pre-2000 led us astray in Iraq. How is Obama’s lack of experience any different?
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