In an op-ed in the New York Times, HLS Professor Noah Feldman discusses the challenges and opportunities President Barack Obama faces, after the midterm elections, to have an impact internationally. He writes: “To achieve more tangible foreign-policy results will require focusing on a familiar, thorny problem: the Middle East, where the Obama administration has already begun to engage.” Feldman’s op-ed, “Midterm Maneuvers,” appeared in the Nov. 21, 2010 edition of the New York Times Magazine.
by Noah Feldman
Historically, presidents thwarted by the loss of a Congressional majority have turned their attention to foreign policy — no doubt the reason that Obama left for Asia within a few days of the election. The explanation for the shift in focus is constitutional as much as tactical. The founding fathers, convinced that diplomacy could not be conducted by committee, gave the executive substantial discretion in conducting foreign affairs. Although Congress can ask questions and conduct oversight hearings, a president who wants to have an impact internationally can act more or less on his own.