Challenges Await Whoever Wins Today

Foreign Policy has a laundry list of potential threats and catastrophes the next President will face, along with the political reality that he will not benefit for avoiding them:

Both Eisenhower and Bush paid a price for their successes. Eisenhower’s image was for decades shaped by the Kennedy caricature of him, and it is only now that he is rightfully gaining recognition as being among the best presidents of the last century.  Bush did not win a second term as president in part because his accomplishments were too subtle to resonate with the public during the 1992 campaign.

We get a distorted view of real leadership when we discount sometimes hard to see accomplishments that come from presidents with vision, restraint, and a knack for behind-the-scenes deftness. This struck me again last week when President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie toured the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. They were hailed as leaders for their very public reaction to a crisis when in fact, real leadership would have involved avoiding the crisis in the first place — or reducing its consequences, as we might have done had Obama, Christie, and other officials taken warnings about the consequences of climate change, severe weather, and deteriorating infrastructure more seriously.  Indeed, just exercising enough prudence to take the measures that many urban planners around the world already do in areas threatened by such severe storms (regardless of their views about why such storms are now occurring with greater regularity) would have made the consequences of Sandy less grievous.

They then list 12 potential calamities the President must navigate. The list isn’t pretty, but all the problems are solvable, or at the very least manageable. I take heart knowing that these two candidates are both thoughtful technocrats (despite what their respective campaigns would have you believe) who are capable of traversing this foreign policy minefield.

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