Albright: Next president's first move should be closing Guantanamo Bay
The 2008 election season promises the opportunity for great change for the American people, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Saturday afternoon.
Following her commencement address at Knox College, Albright took some time to answer questions posed to her by members of the media. At times, she was very frank about what she believes needs to happen in this country.
“I think the first thing the new president should do is close Guantanamo Bay,” she said matter-of-factly. “There has to be a way to restore American leadership and to work with others to deal with issues. It’s evident that, as strong as the United States is, and we do have the best military in the world to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude, it cannot be done without employing other tools, and diplomacy is the foremost of these.”
In a conversation that ranged from discussing relations with Cuba to the impending presidential election, Albright expressed optimism that Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, will be the next commander in chief. At one point, she said, “I think that the next president, Barack Obama, will, in fact, have a very large job to do.”
While many in Washington have expressed concern for Obama’s lack of foreign policy potentially affecting his ability to be president, Albright is confident that he will be able to get the job done, commenting that he espouses an approach to foreign nations with which she agrees.
“I know that he has a strong group of people around him who have been doing national security,” she said. “The only way to deliver a message is to actually be talking to the leaders or the various diplomatic services within the countries that you’re having problems with.
“You have to make peace with your enemies, not your friends. I personally spent a lot of time with people I didn’t like: (former Serbian president Slobodan) Milosevic, (Korean dictator) Kim Jong-Il. For me, it’s passing strange to kind of think that you can just say that you’re not going to talk to (enemy countries) or declare them the axis of evil or whatever so that, in fact, you are not delivering a message, and/or, what is equally important, listening to what they have to say.”
The past two terms under President George Bush have been what Albright called “a disaster,” with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan being “the greatest disaster in American foreign policy.”
On the brighter side, though, Albright does believe this election season will prove a turning point for the country and the Democratic party. Young people, she said, have helped create that change by their political involvement.
“I have really found that the students of today are much more into things and motivated and politically minded,” she said. “I honestly think that many of us older people are willing to admit that we have not done everything right and that it is very important to get younger people into politics and campaigning.”
But now that the Democratic party has a nominee, she foresees unity for the purpose of winning the White House, and plans to do her part.
“I have been waiting to figure out to whom to send it (her book, “Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership’), and now I am about to go home and send him my book,” she joked. “I think what you’re going to see is the Democratic party coming together.”
Michelle Anstett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.