The Great Debate

First 100 Days: Obama and Chavez

Pedro Burelli — Pedro Burelli, a former Member of the Executive Board of Petróleos de Venezuela is a frequent commentator on matters dealing with Venezuela and oil. He is the Managing Partner of B+V Consulting, a corporate finance advisory firm. The views expressed are his own. —

In the early days of his unrelenting scrap with President George W. Bush, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez laid a boastful wager: I will outlast you! For most of eight years, Chavez accused Mister Danger – a favorite moniker – of trying to eliminate him and lobbed countless epithets – drunkard, assassin, devil, coward, illiterate, criminal, donkey are but a sample – against the growingly unpopular U.S. president.

Besides sky-rocketing oil prices, nothing aided Chavez’s domestic standing and international projection more than George W. Bush’s mere existence. Blaring “truth” to power and dispensing petrodollars left and right, north and south, brought Chavez both acolytes and notoriety.

President Bush never once uttered publicly the name of Venezuela’s latest caudillo, nor did he respond to any of his often obscene tirades. Close aides report that he almost lost his cool when Condoleezza Rice became the subject of the obscenities. But he chose not to react as nothing rattles a narcissist more than being ignored…all of the time!  In effect, U.S. policy during the second part of the Bush administration was simply to ignore the man and his banter, but painstakingly track his deeds.

While there are mundane topics like energy and commerce that could eek out the beginnings of a dialogue; i.e. $75 billion of bilateral trade in 2008, there are a host of other issues that ensure the parties will remain miles apart. Verifiable facts will continue to impede fruitful dialogue between the U.S and Venezuela. The expectation that the incoming administration in Washington – full of seasoned hands – would shove this information aside and design an agenda to charm and mollify Caracas is ludicrous.

First 100 Days: Obama and trade

Sean West– Sean West is a Comparative Analytics analyst at the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. The views expressed are his own. —

Fear that President Barack Obama will backslide on America’s free trade commitments is misplaced—in fact, he may eventually expand America’s commitment to liberalization. His pledge to revisit the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) amidst an economic slump was one of his most widely discussed policy positions of the campaign season.

The economy—and, notably, unemployment—has gotten far worse since Obama derived political benefit from making the rhetorical connection between trade and job loss. Obama could use the magic policy window of his first 100 days to push through controversial but politically plausible anti-free trade measures. He will not do so—and if he does not do it now, he is unlikely to revisit it later.

First 100 Days: Fix the banks

morici– Peter Morici is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The views expressed are his own. —

For every new president, campaign promises and inaugural idealism must give way to the hard choices that measure the mettle of their leadership.

Now Barack Obama must act pragmatically to fix the banks or the economy will sink under their weight.

First 100 Days: The mirage of pay equity

Diana Furchtgott-Roth-Debate– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. –

President Obama takes office facing the challenge of high expectations—of ending the recession, fixing the nation’s financial and housing problems, and withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.

In addition, feminists expect him to end inequality in pay between men and women.

Obama: plus ça change?

Robin Shepherd is a senior research fellow at Chatham House in London. The opinions expressed are his own.

robinshepherd-cropped1Which part of the word “change” did Barack Obama not understand? A year from now it is a question that many outside America will be asking about his foreign policy.

American forces will still be in Afghanistan; the handover in Iraq will continue, with some  troops coming home as they would have under President Bush; U.S. support for Israel will remain unchanged, while the Annapolis process begun under Obama’s predecessor continues to take its course.

First 100 Days: Prioritize and take a hands-on approach

ram-charan-photo– Ram Charan is the author several book, including “Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty: The New Rules for Getting the Right Things Done in Difficult Times.” A noted expert on business strategy, Charan has coached CEOs and helped companies like GE, Bank of America, Verizon, KLM, and Thomson shape and implement their strategic direction. The opinions expressed are his own. –

The first 100 days demand that President Barack Obama sort out his priorities and choose the ones that will help solve many others. With many constituencies and direct reports clamoring for his time and attention, he cannot attend to them all.  He has to decide which of the many complex and urgent issues that have accumulated must be resolved first.

The new president will inevitably be pushed to spend a huge amount of time on foreign policy.  But I suggest that the president’s top priority should be to get the nation out of this economic and psychological funk.  He has selected some very capable people who will help sort out the economic mess. He made a brilliant move to have Paul Volcker in the White House.

First 100 Days: Manufacturing a dream and a recovery

Scott_Paul– Scott Paul is executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a labor-management partnership of several leading U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers. The views expressed are his own. —

Barack Obama knows the story of American manufacturing firsthand. He cut his political teeth as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago in the shadow of shuttered steel mills, working to salvage hopes and dreams that had been crushed by the weight of layoffs and economic decline. As President, he can authoritatively recall America’s industrial heritage and decline, but more importantly, Obama can lead the nation to a renaissance in American manufacturing.

Manufacturing has boosted the American economy, jobs, and wages for generations dating back to World War II. Recently, it has fallen on very hard times. Nearly one in four manufacturing jobs has vanished since 2000, and 40,000 factories have closed since 1998. Last year, manufacturing accounted for nearly a third of all lost jobs in the U.S., while factory orders plummeted to record lows.