Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Slides to Aaron Mannes Presentation on VP's role in national security affairs

Last week I gave a talk at the Hudson Institute, previewing my case study on the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission and the vice president and foreign policy for the Project for National Security Reform. The case study is embargoed until it is published, and the audio is off record. But I was permitted to distribute my presentation slides. While the slides are only the barest bones of my presentation (and don't included any of my jokes) they provide an overview of the changing role of the Vice President in the national security process, the nuts and bolts of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, and some points about the advantages and disadvantages of an active vice presidential role in foreign policy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dreams of Power

No more blogging before bedtime for me.

When my alarm went off this morning I was very surprised. I thought I was awake and working - I'd been dreaming about the National Security Council.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joe & the King, Joe gets a Job

President-elect Obama has a truly unenviable task. Biden, however, has the luxury of following one of the least popular VPs ever. But maybe if he works at it...

But it remains an open question what Biden will do. He has stated that he wants to be "Counselor-in-Chief." An appropriate role, more or less filled by several of his predecessors, but whether or not he will be called upon to do so is a open question. Obama has stocked his cabinet with heavyweights, inspired by Lincoln's "Team of Rivals." It is worth remembering that Lincoln's VP (Hannibal Hamlin) was not a player.

Vice President-elect Biden just appeared on Larry King Live and talked about his role in the administration. He discussed his role heading The White House Task Force on Working Families. This commission is intended to strengthen the middle class. While it will include cabinet secretaries and other power players, it is unclear what it will actually do. This may be a throwback to the many well-intentioned, but essentially powerless commissions VPs have chaired since the 1960s. They can play a valuable political role, but rarely do they exercise real power. Considering that the issues before this committee will be the responsibilities major departments like Health and Human Services - and that the task force will include power players like HHS Secretary Tom Daschle and National Economic Advisor Larry Summers - it is tough to see Biden exercising much real power from this post.

In the interview, Biden mentioned taking a leading role in preventing the proliferation and infiltration of WMD. Again, a worthy cause. But the foreign policy team is also full of heavyweights. Hillary at State is likely to command center stage wherever she goes. Gates has several advantages in any power struggle: he is already in place and is considered to have been a success as SecDef. The National Security Advisor, James Jones, is a four-star general. Again, tough to see where he will have a spot in this line-up.

That being said, if Biden has the President's ear then he has the President's ear - and in any administration that is what matters most. However, smart VPs who did have this influence kept quiet about it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Aaron Mannes Speaking@Hudson

Mark you calendars. On December 18 at 9:30 AM I am speaking at the Hudson Institute about case study I wrote for the Project for National Security Reform about the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. This case study was also useful spadework for my thesis. The full invitation reads:
The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) is pleased to invite you to a Roundtable on Interagency Reform discussing a case study on “The Vice President and Foreign Policy: From "the most insignificant office" to Gore as Russia Czar,” by Aaron Mannes, researcher and PhD student at the University of Maryland.

Tuesday, December 18, 2008; 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM

Please RSVP (affirmative replies only) by sending your name and current institutional affiliation to Richard Weitz at

Location: Hudson Institute, Betsy and Walter Stern Conference Center, 1015 15th Street, N.W., 6th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005

This case study reviews the role of the Vice President in national security policy, with a focus on Vice President Gore's role in U.S.-Russian relationships during the Clinton Administration. As the co-chair of the U.S.-Russia Bi-National Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation (better known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission), Vice President Gore played a central role in shaping and implementing the administration's Russia policy. Examining Gore's role in the American policy towards Russia provides useful insight regarding the advantages and disadvantages of an active Vice Presidential role in the national security process.

The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) is a non-partisan initiative that seeks to improve the U.S. Government’s ability to integrate all elements of national power and more effectively respond to the strategic challenges of the 21st century. The PNSR case studies inform the other analytic work of PNSR by highlighting recurring trends in how the U.S. national security system addresses complex national security problems.

Attendees at PNSR workshops may use the information as background, but may not identify the speaker, the other attendees, or PNSR itself or quote anything said at the event.