Michael Signer, who worked on foreign policy and national security issues for John Edwards, has a great piece in The Washington Post about the difficulty of getting any coverage of the foreign policy distinctions between the presidential candidates. He (rightly) cites Michael Gordon’s series of interview/analysis articles for The New York Times as an important exception, along with some of the stuff Jason Horowitz did for The New York Observer, but “mostly you had to look to the blogs — places such as the Atlantic Online, the American Prospect, TPMCafe and Democracy Arsenal — for serious, sustained foreign policy reporting.”
He observes, in what I think is a telling moment, that “there were few deep contrast articles — the sort of thing we’d see from columnists such as Paul Krugman on domestic policy.” I think a large part of the issue here is simply that we don’t really have a Krugmanesque figure who primarily focuses on foreign policy issues. Instead, we have a couple of other important progressive columnists (E.J. Dionne, Harold Meyerson) who don’t focus mainly on foreign policy, and we have a few foreign policy focused columnists (Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan) who aren’t interested in trying to follow Democratic Party primary policy arguments in a sympathetic and engaged way.
That said, it’s clearly a problem. Not on are foreign policy issues very important, but the president’s level of control over them is much, much, much higher. A president who wants to implement sweeping change of the country’s national security policies can snap his finger and get it done, whereas domestic policymaking is a complicated interplay between administration, congress, interest groups, etc.