When You Have Three Presidents
08-12-2008
For many years, I taught my students that a primary concern of the Founders was that America speak with a single voice in its external affairs with other nations. These statesmen believed that establishing the presidency as a unitary actor was one means of avoiding the conflicting articulation of national interest that can occur when multiple politicians speak internationally on behalf of the country, especially during times of crisis. But the presidential campaign provides an interesting complication for this rule, with two presidents-in-waiting jockeying to appear the most qualified to fill that unitary role.
 
So it was with a sense of the inevitable that I watched President Bush’s official statement on the conflict between Russia and Georgia be followed closely by similarly presidential statements by John McCain and Barack Obama. With both campaigns eager to cast their candidates as strong leaders on the international stage, this dueling podiums (or podia, if you’d prefer) phenomenon was unavoidable. It would have been refreshing to see both candidates stand down during this crisis so as not to step on the words of a sitting president, but my guess is that neither campaign wanted to give its opponent fodder for yet another negative campaign ad.


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