Front Range

Debate Prep

We recently caught up with Christopher Hill, dean of the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies and a former U.S. ambassador, to chat about the presidential debates.

October 2012

The DU debate will focus on domestic policy. Later this month, the candidates shift to foreign policy. What role do you expect international policy to play in this battle?

It’s hard to tell. International policy is seldom a big issue in our races. I think it’s almost a proxy issue for who’s a tougher person. So, probably, you’ll see a little of that coming out. But when you look at the U.S. economic problems, they have roots in other parts of the world. We’re looking at a huge problem in Europe that has a direct effect on the U.S. economy. To understand the stock market, you better understand some of the critical issues facing
the euro. 

5280.com Exclusive: More from Joseph Korbel

Why do you think the election committee chose Colorado for the first debate?

Colorado is one of about eight states that are really up for grabs and will determine the presidential race. If you see the two candidates operating in one of the other 42 states, you will know that someone is either way behind or way ahead. The swing states are very important. It seems to me that every time I turn on the television I see political ads, day and night. I think there’s a strong feeling that Colorado could help determine the next president.

How do you think international leaders perceive this presidential race?

The first problem for countries around the world is to try and figure out what it all means. Is there going to be a different foreign-policy approach? Will the Romney administration be different from Obama’s? People are sort of reading the tea leaves, so to speak. They’re already looking at who the advisers are: Were those advisers of George W. Bush? Were they advisers of some other administration? I would say there’s a tremendous interest in presidential races, and the U.S. presidential race, around the world. This debate at the University of Denver, being the first opportunity to see President Obama and former Governor Romney on the same stage, I think there will be tremendous interest.

How did you end up at DU?

I was finishing up as ambassador in Iraq, and I had an offer to go to another school because I didn’t want to go to another foreign-service post. I wanted to retire. And then Madeline Albright sent word and asked if I would be interested in applying for this position named for her father. I had never really been to Denver before. I had attended a few seminars in Aspen. So I came out to Denver and looked around and called my wife and said this is a pretty nice place.