Online NewsHour The web site of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
By The PeopleBy The PeopleBy The People
By the People
Transcript - January 12, 2003

Participants for the January 2003 By the People National Issues Convention prepared for their deliberations by considering four different perspectives on what America's global priorities should be. These background print materials were prepared by the Kettering Foundation.

Just prior to America's invasion of Iraq, American citizenry was more likely to see Iraq as a threat - but they wished to deal with that threat only within the framework of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. This was according to a Deliberative Opinion Poll, conducted as part of the January 12, 2003, By the People National Issues Convention.

By the People's latest national effort, Deliberation Week-October 22-29, 2005-- is built on public broadcasting's unique local-national base, its commitment to public affairs programming and its mission as a convener of civic dialogue.

The National Issues Convention
January 12, 2003 -- from Philadelphia, Penn.

What if the entire United States could sit down in a single room to tackle the toughest issues facing the nation? That was the guiding principle behind the National Issues Convention that convened the weekend of Jan. 10-12, 2003 in Philadelphia, Penn. The 344 delegates from across the nation represented a scientifically selected sample of the American public. After a full day and a half of deliberations and discussions, the delegates gathered to question two key foreign policy makers to further explore the issues facing the U.S. The meeting occurred during a two-hour live broadcast hosted by Jim Lehrer and broadcast on many PBS stations. The following is a description of the program with links to audio and video presentations from the broadcast.

Section One: Introductions
Jim LehrerTo begin the broadcast, anchor Jim Lehrer discussed the goals of the National Issues Convention. The NewsHour's Tom Bearden then reported on the some of the delegates who have traveled to Philadelphia to discuss the proper role of the United States in the world. Some 344 delegates have spent a full weekend discussing the issues and this two-hour broadcast in the culmination of their deliberations.

You can watch or listen to the first part of the broadcast in RealVideo and RealAudio.

Section II: Questions and Answers with Ambassador Richard Haass
Amb. Richard HaassThe citizen delegates spent all of January 11th meeting in small groups and engaging former diplomats and other experts. They discussed national security in general and the possibility of war with Iraq in particular. To present the views of the Bush administration Ambassador Richard Haass, director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department appeared before the general convention and took questions.

During his first exchange with delegates, Amb. Haass said the U.S. had made no decision about acting unilaterally against Iraq, but that the Bush Administration remained committed to enforcing U.N. resolutions about weapons of mass destruction. He also told participants that when the U.S. move unilaterally or preemptively it must have a compelling need to defend itself and must make its case for why it moved alone.

You can listen to this part of the broadcast in RealAudio.

Section III: Approaches One and Two -- Background and Small Group Discussion
deliberations continueThe delegates to the National Issues Convention came prepared. As soon as they were selected by the Survey Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley, many began to take a greater interest in international issues. All of them were also sent a background briefing book specially prepared by the National Issues Forum, a nonpartisan organization that helps develop community dialogues.

The first two approaches to foreign policy that the delegates considered dealt with the use of America's military strength and the promotion of western-style democracies. Delegates discussed both ideas and whether either would lead to a more stable and peaceful world. You may read the background book here in .pdf form.

  • Approach #1: Peace through strength.
    The premise of this first approach is that the most promising path to security lies in our own strength and our willingness to use force, when necessary, to deal with serious threats. The basic point of the Bush Doctrine, which illustrates this approach, is to ensure that the United States has an overwhelming military superiority, and the will to use it to maintain peace and stability.

  • Approach #2: The democracy project.
    A second approach underlines the importance of the fundamental ideals on which the United States was founded-democracy and human rights-and reiterates their continued importance as a guide to international action. Democracy is this nation's founding value. Our commitment to it must be backed up by our willingness to take various actions to promote its worldwide expansion.

After a report on these two approaches, the program went inside one of the small group discussions to see how the deliberations played out.

You can listen to this part of the broadcast in RealAudio.

Section IV: Zbigniew Brzezinski on Preemption, Deterrence and Aid
A delegate asks a questionThe other lead expert the delegates to the National Issues Convention talked with was Zbigniew Brzezinski. He served under President Carter, working on issues like the Camp David Accords and the Panama Canal Treaty, and is a professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

During the first part of his question and answer session, Dr. Brzezinski questioned the wisdom of President Bush's stated policy of possible military preemption. He also cautioned against those who would propose slashing defense budgets in order to fund more humanitarian efforts. The former security adviser said American strength serves as the keystone to much of the world's political stability.

You can listen to this part of the broadcast in RealAudio.

Section V: Approaches One and Two -- Background and Small Group Discussion
Jim Lehrer and Zbignew BrzezinskiThe discussion with the former national security adviser continues as delegates question Mr. Brzezinski about efforts to prevent terrorism and to limit the continued spread of nuclear weapons.

During this section, Mr. Brzezinski also commented on the ability for average Americans to comprehend the complexities of foreign policy. A delegate from Northwalk, Mass. asked, "Has foreign policy become so specialized and so complex that it is impossible for average citizens to have informed opinions about foreign policy and to influence foreign policy."

"You know I probably would have said yes, but my experience this morning makes me think otherwise," the former national security adviser said from Washington. "I was told, I hope that's true, that you are really a cross-section of the American public. If you are, you're damn good. In which case it isn't... Now of course it may be that if we sat down on some subjects probably I know more than some of the participants in the group. But in terms of making basic, sound judgments based on broad information which provides an adequate point of departure for rational conduct, responsible conduct, a conduct infused at least in some measure with ethical content, I think that one is very reassured by this kind of an experience."

You can listen to this part of the broadcast in RealAudio.

Section VI: Approaches Three and Four -- Background and Small Group Discussion
A Small Group in DiscussionFollowing the appearance by Dr. Brzezinski, the program returned to the four basic approaches to foreign policy outlined in the delegate's background briefing book.

The second approaches focused on role economics and humanitarian goals ought to play in America's relationship with the world You may read the background book here in .pdf form.

  • Approach #3: The world-wide market prescription.
    A third approach makes the case for leading from our economic strength, following the same path that led to America's prosperity and our international prominence. In today's world, global stability and well-being depend less on promoting democratic regimes than on raising the standard of living. Following the free-market approach is the most promising way-indeed the only proven way-to achieve global prosperity for ourselves and for people around the world, including developing nations.

  • Approach #4: Global partnerships, common concerns.
    The fourth approach is a very different perspective about which problems demand urgent attention, and how we -- through government actions, and the actions of millions of individuals and thousands of organizations and alliances -- should use the nation's global influence and resources. This fourth approach puts forward a vision of America's global leadership that focuses not mainly on dealing with threats to security, nor in being leader of the free and democratic world, nor in leading a global free market economy. American leadership, in this view, should take a different direction: We should lead a global partnership that takes seriously urgent and growing global problems.

After a report on these two approaches, the program went back inside the delegates discussions and reports on one group's efforts to grapple with these issues.

You can listen to this part of the broadcast in RealAudio.

Section VII: Amb. Haass Discusses Trade, Health and Cultural Issues
Jim Lehrer and Richard HaassBuilding off of the discussion of the the final two approaches to America's relationship to the world, Ambassador Richard Haass returned to take more questions from the delegates. In this second round of questions, the citizens focused on economic development efforts, questions of equity and efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

Amb. Haass defended free trade policies, calling them the best approach to helping America and the world and the decision to not sign on to the Kyoto climate treaty and the International Criminal Court.

You can listen to this part of the broadcast in RealAudio.

Section VIII: Amb. Haass and Conclusions
Delegate Asking a QuestionAs the delegates wrapped up the two hour broadcast, they asked Amb. Haass final questions about the use of America's superpower status, the views of this country overseas and the role of Americans in shaping their country's foreign policy.

"You can't devise much less sustain an American foreign policy that will succeed without the support of the American people," the State Department official said. "And that means it has got to take into account everything we have talked about, not just simply issues of war and peace, but also issues of financial and economic health, and also matters of principle like democracy and human rights and also matters of humanitarian concern. At the end of the day we obviously need a blended foreign policy if the American people are going to support it."

You can listen to this part of the broadcast in RealAudio.