Sanger reflects on Obama administration
New York Times correspondent discusses president’s first 18 months
July 8, 2010
Seminars at Steamboat
All seminars are at 5 p.m. at Strings Music Pavilion, and all are free. Learn more at http://www.seminarsatsteamboat.com.
■ July 22: Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board: Can We Make the Government and the Economy Work for Us?
■ Aug. 5: Paul Peterson, professor of government at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University: Saving the American School
■ Aug. 12: Joseph Nye, professor of international relations and former dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard University: Smart Power — America’s Global Position
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs resident Karen Schulman had extra motivation to go see The New York Times chief Washington correspondent David Sanger speak at the Seminars at Steamboat lecture series Thursday. Schulman called the Times on Tuesday and confirmed that she had been Sanger's fifth-grade teacher.
"I was the student tonight," she said after the lecture. "I learned so much."
Sanger addressed a full house at the Strings Music Pavilion about the state of President Barack Obama's administration and the challenges the president now faces. He offered the first in a series of four summer lectures in Steamboat on public policy.
"I have to approach the mission tonight with some humility," Sanger said in prefacing his analysis of the first 18 months of the Obama administration. "We are only beginning to learn what Obama's presidency is all about."
Sanger's book, "The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power," recently was updated to include a discussion of Obama's first year in office. Bob Stein, the Seminars at Steamboat board member who introduced the speaker, said Sanger was about to deliver an "update of the update."
"We're really pleased to have him as our first speaker," Stein said.
In his presentation, Sanger discussed what he called the "curious crossroads" the current administration faces as it navigates pressing issues such as the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the fragile economy and the state of America's influence in the world. He also talked about the challenges Obama inherited from the Bush administration, as well as the effects of the decisions Obama has made during his first 18 months.
"When President Obama took office in January '09, I think it's fair to say he inherited the biggest array of problems since Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933," Sanger said.
Sanger spent much of the speech discussing the current state of the economy, focusing on the relationship between stimulus spending and deficits. He said the administration doesn't want to run big deficits but also doesn't want to see a higher unemployment rate.
"It's fair to say the Obama administration hasn't figured this out yet," he said. "They know that the only thing worse than big deficits is higher unemployment."
Sanger discussed other challenges the administration has faced in its first 18 months, including the increase of nuclear centrifuges in Iran.
"We have two clocks ticking at different paces," he said. "We have an American clock ticking to see if sanctions against Iran will work, and an Israeli clock that is ticking faster. There is a point they cannot define in which they couldn't allow Iranians to go."
Sanger said the nuclear situation in Iran and the war in Afghanistan would continue to be issues with great consequences for the administration.
Although Sanger said the Obama administration faces many challenges, he is certain that there is plenty of time for the president's legacy to change. He noted the administration's troop reduction in Iraq, the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the ongoing BP oil leak as events that continue to change the appearance of Obama's presidency.
Steamboat resident Jim Kurowski, who has come to the lecture series for several years, said he enjoyed the speech.
"It was a very Washington perspective," he said. "It was very helpful and informative."