Stay tuned to www.steamboatpilot.com throughout the week for extended coverage of the Democratic National Convention.
Pilot & Today City Editor Mike Lawrence and reporter Brandon Gee are covering the convention from Denver. They will report on issues pertinent to Northwest Colorado, touch base with Colorado Democratic leaders and chronicle Denver's convention buzz in articles, photos and audio interviews.
Wednesday in Denver, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama became the first African-American nominated for president by a major party.
But our next president will make history another way - whether it's Obama or U.S. Sen. John McCain.
"No president has ever inherited two wars," Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. representative to the United Nations, said Wednesday morning in a panel about our country's role in the world. He added that the next president will begin the job with "the worst opening-day position in history."
Tom Brokaw moderated the discussion, which also included former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, among others. The event was part of the Democratic National Convention's ongoing Rocky Mountain Roundtable.
Brokaw said the next president will take on "the greatest agenda of our time," referring to broad challenges at home and, especially, abroad. The panel's conversation quickly spun into doomsday scenarios on several international fronts.
Holbrooke, who was referring to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, also described Russia's recent invasion of Georgia as "extraordinarily dangerous."
"No one knows the long-term consequences," he said of that occupation. "Moscow has broken the post-Cold War rules and invaded a neighboring state."
"There's so many problems out there," Haass said about the world, mentioning Iran and Pakistan before adding a quip.
"The world is not Las Vegas," he said. "What happens there won't stay there."
The panel's ominous feel came to mind during Wednesday night's speech by Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for vice president to resounding cheers in the Pepsi Center. Biden chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been a senator for more than 35 years.
He focused largely Wednesday night on his lunch-pail roots in Scranton, Pa., stating that he is here for the working class, the cops and firefighters, the teachers and factory workers. The Democratic Party needs that kind of rhetoric and that honest set of ethics to win votes in November. But should Obama take office, he will need every ounce of Biden's foreign policy experience in the years ahead.
Biden included warnings about foreign conflict in his remarks, too, saying the plotters of Sept. 11 "have regrouped in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan" and are planning "new attacks."
The web of international entanglements is so complex, Albright said, that the next president should avoid the usual rush of ambitious goal-setting upon taking office.
"I think we need to do away with the '100 Days' (idea)," she said, cautioning that goals should be set modestly.
Facing what Brokaw called "the greatest agenda of our time" will require the formation of broad international coalitions, Holbrooke said. "America can not go it alone," he said. "And that was a historic mistake in the current administration." Albright also stressed the importance of working with other nations when tackling foreign relations issues - while restoring America's leadership role in the world.
"People want to see us back, but they want to see us cooperate," she said.
Holbrooke noted that the U.S. consumes 21 million barrels of oil a day, while importing 14 million barrels a day - for a price that has quadrupled in the past four years.
"In the end, nations rise and fall on their economic strength," he said.
The saying, of course, is that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
But our next president will have no such past lessons.
He will be dealing with a new kind of history.