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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Dean's Advisors: Who is Clyde Prestowitz?

Previously, I noted that Clyde Prestowitz is a foreign policy advisor to Howard Dean.

Recently, Prestowitz published Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions (Basic Books, 2003), which is apparently a through critique of George W. Bush's foreign policy. Lance Knobel of Davos Newbies plugged the book a couple of weeks ago as "the most powerful indictment I've seen of the Bush foreign policy. What makes it particularly potent for me is that it comes from someone who should, on past form, be a friend of the administration."

Prestowitz has criticized Bush's approach to the post 9/11 terror problem, Kyoto, free trade, the ICC, land mine ban, etc.

Here's the oddity: Prestowitz served in the Reagan administration Commerce Department and considers himself a conservative. Actually, this former foreign service member considers himself a product of a "middle-class, conservative, super-patriotic, Republican, Born Again Christian family."

That quote comes from a very interesting transcript of Prestowitz speaking as part of the Carnegie Council's "Books for Breakfast" program.

Here's what he had to say about the US media "filter."
One, the elite American press -- The Washington Post and The New York Times -- is pretty good. But one of the negative aspects of the media in the U.S. is that you travel through this big country and pick up the local newspaper and you read it in thirty seconds. There is a huge vacuum of information out there in much of the heartland.

Secondly, all the major hotels in the world have CNN, BBC, many of them have one of the French channels, many of them are now carrying Al Jazeera, Fox is increasingly there. During the Jenin incident in Palestinem I happened to be in Malaysia, so I was able to get Fox, CNN, BBC, France, Germany, and Al Jazeera. I watched the same incident on all the different channels.

If you look at CNN and Fox and then you switch to BBC, there is more similarity between CNN and Fox than between either of them and BBC. Looking at that through BBC, if it didn’t have the word “Jenin,” you would have thought it was another place. And on Al Jazeera, it looks like a different world.

CNN is a reputable, hard-working news organization; they try to do their best to show you the facts as they see it, and the same of BBC. But what I am seeing is a cultural prism. The American audiences are seeing this through a pre-selected set of presumptions. So they never see what the BBC audience sees. That means that even our elite policymakers are getting a somewhat distorted view.
Prestowitz sounds quite interesting and the interview is worth a quick read. He apparently abandoned the Republican party some time ago, however, as he voted for Clinton in 1992.

Note: I posted a slightly different version of this to DailyKos, if anyone wants to add comments.

Update: Based on the comments I already received, Prestowitz is controversial because the Jewish community (and Joe Lieberman) disagree with his proposed policies towards Israel. Dean took some heat for similar remarks some time ago, so I don't think it's the kind of stuff that can stick.

Prestowitz is also known as a Japan trade hawk, so this might make him appealing to the anti-globalization crowd.

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