10:00 am. Freshman Democratic congressman Tim Walz’s (MN-01) talk today is entitled “Tomorrow’s Foreign Policy: What We’re Teaching Today’s Students and Why It Matters.”
10:10 am. Walz begins his talk by discussing the importance of opening a line of communication between citizens and the government. He explains how his first 100 days of Congress have been dominated by foreign policy legislation. Gallup polling has demonstrated America’s view of U.S. foreign policy has eroded steeply in recent years. In February 2002 75 percent of Americans believed foreign leaders respected President Bush – five years later, in February 2007, the same poll found that number had dropped to just 21 percent.
10:15 am. “Nuance” is the word of the day — Walz believes there is too much simplicity in the public discourse on foreign policy. (Walz – a former teacher – is a natural at the podium, rarely speaking from notes, with his baritone voice booming throughout the auditorium). One of the erroneous ‘lessons’ Americans are being taught, Walz says, is that “everything changed after 9/11.” Walz says things may have changed in the United States, but not across the world – and the U.S. must realize this.
10:25 am. Walz acknowledges the U.S. is not viewed very well around the world. Gallup polling on this subject bolsters Walz’s point. In February 2002 79 percent of Americans believed the U.S. was viewed favorably in the eyes of the world. By February 2004 that number had fallen to 54 percent. By February 2007 only 45 percent of Americans believed this – with 54 percent believing the U.S. was viewed unfavorably by the world.
10:30 am. Walz says people in Congress are not listening to the rational center – and are instead being driven by ‘big ideas’ like American exceptionalism. Walz calls the Iraq War one of the most devastating foreign policy acts in U.S. history.
10:35 am. Walz claims the U.S. public education system is presenting a myopic view of American history – with just a fraction of their education devoted to world history. Walz says – although he believes in some educational standards – there must be much greater freedom, creativity, and nuance taught in the educational curriculum.
10:45 am. Walz wonders worries about what the next generation of foreign diplomats will look like as the current group retires and passes on. Walz worries about how this generation is being educated and this will impact future foreign policy decisions. Walz ended his speech after 40 minutes – riveting, and well-received by the audience.
10:48 am. DFL Senate candidate Al Franken is in attendance at Walz’s speech – sitting just behind the live bloggers in the electronic media row. Walz now begins to answer questions from Larry Jacobs, Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, and members of the audience.
10:50 am. With regards to building a coalition in the House among his Democratic colleagues, Walz quoted a fellow party member from Hawaii who said, “If we were in Europe, we’d have 15 different political parties.” Walz says that several members on the left-wing of the Democratic party did not think the Iraq Supplemental bill did not go far enough, while Blue Dog democrats did not think it provided enough flexibility.
10:53 am. Walz believes the U.S. combat troops should leave Iraq, and the sooner the better. Walz does concede some U.S. forces should remain – such as special operation forces, who will be needed to help keep in check the estimated 6 percent of insurgents who hail from foreign countries (who Walz believes will continue to wreck havoc in the region even if the U.S. troops leave the country).
10:56 am. Walz rejects the military leadership’s view that combat troops will need to remain in Iraq for 5 to 10 years. He says Congress sets the policy, not the military — U.S. policy is not determined by a military dictatorship.
11:00 am. Walz feels a sense of responsibility to the Iraqi innocents to help prevent a bloodbath if the U.S. leaves. The Congressman cites Colin Powell who stated, “If you broke it, you own it.” But Walz says this is something the world community can help assist the U.S. in doing.
11:05 am. Walz says the U.S. cannot afford the Iraq war financially as well – especially with regards to the budget President Bush has proposed for 2008. The Congressman implies the U.S. needs to better balance security with the American tradition of openness to the world – and not turn inwards to build walls, missile shields etc.
11:08 am. Walz criticizes President Bush for cutting spending on the care of veterans. He also rips Bush for nominating a former GOP Party chair (Jim Nicholson) as the Secretary for Veterans Affairs.
11:10 am. The Walz event comes to a close…