In discussing the upcoming Democratic presidential debate on the April 24 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Peter Alexander claimed that "the conventional wisdom on Barack Obama is that he's a great speaker, a terrific orator, but hasn't really been all that specific about policy," and asked Washington Post staff writer Chris Cillizza: "Is his performance likely to be the most scrutinized? Does he have the most to win or lose, perhaps?" Neither Alexander nor Cillizza noted that Obama gave a detailed foreign policy speech the previous day and offered an energy policy proposal on April 20.
Presenting himself as a presidential candidate ''who can speak directly to the world,'' Senator Barack Obama on Monday outlined his approach to foreign policy, vowing to double foreign aid, expand and modernize the military, and rebuild fractured alliances.
In a speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Mr. Obama combined a harsh critique of the Bush administration with a call for the United States to resist the temptation to turn inward. A robust engagement in world affairs, he said, will help reduce the threat of terrorism and repair what he characterized as the nation's bruised image across the globe.
''America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America,'' Mr. Obama said. ''We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission -- we must lead the world, by deed and example.''
If elected, he said, he would double foreign aid to $50 billion by 2012, which would be the final year of his first term.
"I know that many Americans are skeptical about the value of foreign aid today," Mr. Obama said. "A relatively small investment in these fragile states up front can be one of the most effective ways to prevent the terror and strife that is far more costly both in lives and treasure to the United States down the road."
The United States also must build a 21st-century military, Mr. Obama said, in addition to "showing wisdom in how we deploy it." He called for expanding ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 to the Marines. Less than 1 percent of the military can speak foreign languages like Arabic, Mandarin or Korean, he said, calling for additional training and recruitment to address the problem.
Mr. Obama said he would lead an effort to secure nuclear stockpiles and materials across the world within four years.
To prevent countries from building weapons programs, Mr. Obama endorsed the concept of an international nuclear fuel bank, proposed last year by former Senator Sam Nunn, who now advises the Nuclear Threat Initiative. As president, Mr. Obama said he would provide $50 million to get the fuel bank started and urge Russia and other countries to join.
The Times further noted that Obama's April 23 speech "was the first of several policy speeches that Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, is to deliver in coming weeks as he works to define his candidacy with specific proposals to pursue if elected."
Obama's approach echoes California's. The state's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, issued an executive order this year requiring all fuels sold in the state to contain less carbon. The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from passenger vehicles 10 percent by 2020.
The Obama campaign said its effort would take that plan nationally. Specifically, Obama wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars by 5 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2020.
"It will take a grass-roots effort to make America greener and end the tyranny of oil," Obama said two days before Earth Day.
Obama's plan counts on new limits to stimulate increased production of renewable biofuels, such as corn and cellulosic ethanol, which naturally have lower emissions. The plan would create incentives for increased research, investment in cleaner fuels and flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on ethanol.
The campaign says a national fuel standard would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 200 million tons in 2020, compared with 2007 levels -- the equivalent of taking about 32 million cars off the road in 2020. The campaign also estimates the annual consumption of gasoline derived from foreign oil imports would drop by about 30 billion gallons in 2020.
Furthermore, as Media Matters for America noted, Obama delivered what the Chicago Tribune described as a "major policy speech on U.S.-Israel policy" on March 2 and has offered specific policy proposals on Iraq, education, and health care.
From the April 24 edition of MSNBC Live:
ALEXANDER: Chris, we're at less than a minute left, the conventional wisdom on Barack Obama is that he's a great speaker, a terrific orator, but hasn't really been all that specific about policy, and some say he's gotten a little bit of a free pass from the media. Is his performance likely to be the most scrutinized? Does he have the most to win or lose, perhaps?
CILLIZZA: Well, I think probably the most scrutinized because she's always the most scrutinized is Senator [Hillary Rodham] Clinton [D-NY]. I think every word that she says will probably be parsed. But yes, absolutely, Barack Obama's going to be watched closely. Remember, this is someone who was in the state Senate four years ago, is very new to the national stage. So everything that he does is sort of his first time debating, his first time, you know, going to New Hampshire and Iowa. So we're going to be watching him real closely.