Brookings Launches Opportunity 08

The Brookings Institution, in partnership with ABC News, formally announced today the launch of Opportunity 08, a new project to help presidential candidates and the public focus on critical issues facing the nation.

Opportunity 08 will provide independent policy ideas and information on a broad range of issues facing America's next president. It will also serve as a forum to discuss solutions to America's most pressing policy challenges. More than 25 experts from the Brookings Institution and other policy professionals will publicly present policy ideas which will be featured on the project's website, www.opportunity08.org and on the ABC News website at www.abcnews.go.com/politics and on ABC News Now, which provides live 24/7 news coverage online, on television and on mobile devices.

"Opportunity 08 is being launched with the strong belief that issues do matter to voters," said Brookings President Strobe Talbott. "Americans are increasingly demanding more sound-bites. They're looking for solutions to the critical issues facing the nation. That's what Opportunity 08-and Brookings-are all about."

Opportunity 08 was launched by Strobe Talbott and kicked off with a spirited discussion on why issues matter in the upcoming presidential election. The panel, moderated by ABC Chief Washington Correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, included Opportunity 08 advisory committee chairs Kenneth Duberstein, former Chief of Staff to President Reagan and an advisor to every Republican president since Nixon; and Thomas Donilon, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Warren Christopher and a Democratic presidential advisor for more than 20 years. The three provided their thoughts and insights on the role issues have played in past presidential elections and looked ahead to what issues will dominate the upcoming election.

"This year's campaign is starting earlier than ever and candidates are searching for new policy ideas," Tom Donilon said. "I fully expect this to be an exciting, substantive race."

"If this campaign is about ideas and issues, people will engage," said Ken Duberstein. "Iraq is the main issue now, but if candidates are going to maintain momentum, they will have to specifically explain how they're going to make America different and better."

The second panel on foreign policy, moderated by former Pentagon spokesperson and now ABC News consultant Torie Clarke, showcased policy ideas on three pressing international challenges - Iraq, China and the broader Middle East - and featured political commentary by Amy Walter, Senior Editor and Political Analyst for the Cook Political Report.

Former Ambassador Martin Indyk, currently director of the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy, discussed the paper he co-authored proposing a new strategy for the Middle East. Recognizing changed dynamics, such as an emerging regional struggle for power between Shias and Sunnis, as well as reduced American credibility and leverage, Indyk advocates a reinvigorated U.S. role in the Mideast peace process, support for the region's moderates, continued efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons-and perhaps most notably, should that latter effort fail, consideration of new regional security structures designed to reassure (most Sunni-majority) states so they do not feel the obligation to develop nuclear weapons of their own.

Brookings Senior Fellow Jeffrey Bader provided his assessment of the significance of China's economic and political rise. While Bader and his co-author generally support the overall thrust of engaging China and promoting reform, they stress that presidential campaigns have often made it difficult for newly elected presidents to pursue wise China policy and emphatically advise candidates to be very careful in what they say about China while pursuing the presidency.

Former Ambassador Carlos Pascual, Vice President and Director of Brookings' Foreign Policy Studies Program, discussed his new paper proposing a new strategy for Iraq. The new strategy encourages a strong American role in helping Iraqis negotiate an end to what they describe as a civil war, and contemplates a much-reduced American presence with most forces redeployed back to the States or to Iraq's borders if progress is not made.

The third panel, moderated by former Bush Administration official and current Brookings Visiting Senior Fellow Mark McClellan, presented policy ideas and discussion on domestic and economic policy issues including trade, poverty and energy security.

Brookings Vice President Lael Brainard, former international economic advisor to President Clinton, focused on China's economic rise in the context of US trade policy. Brainard advocates for much stronger use of available policy tools to improve Chinese compliance with intellectual property rights requirements, including pressing Chinese regional and municipal governments to do much more on enforcement. She also calls for an appreciated yuan and a much smaller American budget deficit to address the trade deficit problem, which she views as a serious economic and political issue.

Brookings Senior Fellow Ron Haskins, former Republican Congressional staff director and Senior Advisor for Welfare Policy for President George W. Bush, proposes an ambitious plan to tackle poverty and reduce inequality. Specifically, Haskins discussed the need to expand the earned income tax credit, increase further the minimum wage, subsidize child care for low-wage workers, invest more in high-quality early childhood education, and use some non-economic tools such as teaching relationship skills to individuals getting married.

The policy ideas discussed at today's launch, along with the other Opportunity 08 papers, are now available on both the Opportunity 08 and ABC News websites. The Brookings Institution will be conducting a series of forums in Washington and in early primary states to foster discussion on the pressing problems confronting the Presidential candidates.

(The following is a list of papers that were discussed at today's launch: Back to Balancing in the Middle East, Martin Indyk and Tamara Wittes; Contending with the Rise of China, Jeffrey Bader and Richard Bush; Increasing Chances for Stability, Carlos Pascual and Kenneth Pollack; Navigating China's Rise, Lael Brainard; and Attacking Poverty and Inequality, Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins.)