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David Ignatius: Mr. President, go big

BY DAVID IGNATIUS Published: November 9, 2012

In foreign policy, Obama will need to be equally strategic. What does he want to accomplish? My list: A deal with Iran that verifiably limits its nuclear program and avoids war; a deal in Afghanistan that averts civil war when U.S. forces leave in 2014; a deal for a political transition in Syria. And, finally, a deal to create a Palestinian state so that Israel has secure borders and the Arab world can get on with the process of becoming modern and democratic.

All these primary foreign policy goals are “deals,” and it follows that the president needs a dealmaker as secretary of state. Who could do that, after Hillary Clinton leaves, probably at the end of January? John Kerry is an experienced man who thinks outside the box and is willing to take risks. Kerry has shown over the past four years a willingness to negotiate with adversaries, in secret, and achieve results.

A longtime Democratic adviser argues that Obama needs the “Bolten Plan,” as in Josh Bolten, the White House chief of staff who mobilized the machinery of government to get it moving in the same direction in George W. Bush's second term. This will never be a happy model for Democrats, but it captures an important point: A successful second term is less about ideology than about results.

Think big. Take risks. Get it done. Maybe someone should slip a note in Obama's desk drawer that asks: What would Lyndon Johnson have done to make it happen?



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