The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Cabler of the week: Ellen Tauscher

Where we ask 10 questions that help us to understand one of the personalities making foreign policy in the Obama administration. This week’s subject: Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher: 1. Which American president do you look to as the model for your approach to foreign policy? Jefferson, ...

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574173_100122_Tauscherofficial_150_12.jpg

Where we ask 10 questions that help us to understand one of the personalities making foreign policy in the Obama administration. This week's subject: Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher:

1. Which American president do you look to as the model for your approach to foreign policy? Jefferson, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, JFK, George W. Bush, someone else?

I have been struck by the talents and approaches that different presidents have taken toward the conduct of foreign policy. I admire President Obama's view of the world, his boldness, and his willingness to tackle big challenges and wanting to move our country and the world forward; President Clinton for his ability to relate to world leaders one-on-one; President George H.W. Bush for his foresight to secure loose nuclear weapons; and Ronald Reagan for his clarity of vision.

Where we ask 10 questions that help us to understand one of the personalities making foreign policy in the Obama administration. This week’s subject: Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher:

1. Which American president do you look to as the model for your approach to foreign policy? Jefferson, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, JFK, George W. Bush, someone else?

I have been struck by the talents and approaches that different presidents have taken toward the conduct of foreign policy. I admire President Obama‘s view of the world, his boldness, and his willingness to tackle big challenges and wanting to move our country and the world forward; President Clinton for his ability to relate to world leaders one-on-one; President George H.W. Bush for his foresight to secure loose nuclear weapons; and Ronald Reagan for his clarity of vision.

2. How do you view U.S. leadership in the world in the 21st century? Is America a hegemon in decline or going strong? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Like my colleague Mr. Hormats, I believe America remains the “indispensable” nation, but nonproliferation issues require that we work with others. Unfortunately, we cannot just negotiate with ourselves. Arms control and curbing proliferation of weapons — nuclear and conventional — can’t be done without the cooperation of others.

3. What’s the No. 1 narrative about the Obama administration’s foreign policy so far that you feel has been mischaracterized by the media?

The media has at times written stories first and asked questions later. I was particularly concerned about the media’s coverage of our missile defense strategy in Eastern Europe. To be sure, we did change the policy, but the mainstream media’s first assumption was that we did it to appease Russia when the strategy actually was bolder, more comprehensive and tougher than the previous strategy. We decided on our strategy because it enhanced the security of the United States and our NATO allies. But none of the initial reporting reflected this. Many issues do not lend themselves to instant analysis. They require reflection and depth.

4. Which Obama administration foreign-policy official should we watch more closely?

We have a great team and many talents, but I would take a look at Dan Poneman, the deputy secretary at the Department of Energy.

5. What do you see as the top three challenges for U.S. foreign policy over the next three decades?

Curbing the proliferation of all weapons, conventional or otherwise, will remain a challenge. We are going to have to continue to focus on our relationship with the major powers like Russia and China as well as the so-called “rising” or “middle powers.”

6. Why did you decide to go to work for the Obama administration? What do you hope to accomplish?

It was an honor to be asked to serve in the Obama administration and to work for Secretary Clinton. I have great admiration and respect for both of them and I saw this job as a chance to pursue what has become my life’s work. I want to help the president and the secretary of state implement the arms control and nonproliferation agenda that the president set forth in Prague last year. It’s really that simple.

7. Who was your mentor in the early stages of your career and how did they help you?

For 15 years, I worked on Wall Street at a time when there were many more men than women so I didn’t really have a mentor. But when I moved to California in the late 1980s, I got to know Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who as you know had been on the political scene for a long time and had become an icon in her own right. I worked on her Senate campaign in 1992 and she’s been a great friend and role model all these years.

8. Who is the foreign leader or figure you most admire and why?

There are lesser known public figures, elected and non-elected, who I have worked with as a member of Congress and in my post at State that I admire. They are hard working, conscientious and smart.

9. What is your favorite country to visit for pleasure and what should we do when we go there?

Italy and the Amalfi Coast, of course.

10. If you had the chance to meet with any leading figure from history, who would it be and what would you say to them?

Having been born and raised in East Newark, New Jersey, I would want to meet Albert Einstein. What would I say to him? I’d let him do the talking.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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