Calling the current global political climate the worst crisis he has ever seen, worse than the Cold War, Dr. David Abshire told a campus audience that coupled with the fragile U.S. economy, “this perfect storm could go into another dimension.”
Abshire, an accomplished diplomat and academician, endorsed a low-key approach with small delegations to speak with leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Abshire is convinced that through diplomacy, the United States can recover a way to use leverage and again reclaim its status in the world.
Abshire was in Chattanooga to promote his new book, A Call to Greatness: Challenging Our Next President, currently available.
Careful not to endorse any of the presidential candidates, Abshire discussed their strengths and weaknesses with Chancellor Roger Brown and Tom Griscom, Publisher and Executive Editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Calling Senator Barack Obama “a movement,” Abshire suggested “the smartest thing Obama could do is court Senator Sam Nunn as his Number Two.” Abshire acknowledged Obama’s attractiveness in his call for unity, asking Americans to disregard center, left and right wing politics. He commended Senator Hillary Clinton’s performance on the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that message has not been conveyed to the public. To win the presidency, Senator John McCain will need to shore up the Republican right, Abshire said.
Saying the debates are a “peculiar thing,” Abshire said in the last presidential race between Senator John Kerry and President George Bush that “Kerry won on points and Bush won on trust. Kerry got ‘Swiftboated’ and never recovered.”
Using President Abraham Lincoln as an example of a president who was “a genius,” Abshire used the issue of slavery as a transformational moment in Lincoln’s presidency. In the case of President George W. Bush, Abshire applauded his strength and leadership after 9/11, however Abshire says Bush did not build a coalition at home, and therefore missed his transformational moment.
“Bush, after 9/11, should have gotten his opponent Al Gore to go around the world for him,” Abshire said. Lacking a strategic approach, Abshire said Bush was not open to diverse advice and his administration’s timing “has been off in practically everything.” He did commend Bush for his attempt to improve education with “No Child Left Behind,” and Abshire said the Democrats should not dismiss the plan but build upon it.
Abshire recommends that the next president needs to have a transformational moment at the beginning of his or her presidency to avoid further decline in the United States.