4:45 p.m. Outside. With buses and limos lining H Street, traffic near H and 21st streets is heavy. About 150 people are waiting near the stage entrance as the secretaries begin to exit Lisner. Albright, Powell and Kissinger are signing autographs. And that concludes our live blog. (Jump to start of live blog.)
4:39 p.m. The handshakes. More than 90 minutes after they sat down, the crowd gives the secretaries a standing ovation. The secretaries, still on stage, shake hands.
4:35 p.m. The election. “We ought to be talking about our problems,” says Powell, referencing the economy, education and energy as examples. “They’re all linked.”
Christopher says “we’ve come to perhaps a bit of a silly period (in the campaign),” but we’re coming to a serious point.
Kissinger says we’re in a 24-hour news cycle. Candidates and the public are distracted by focus groups: “Don’t blame the candidates.”
4:25 p.m. Darfur. “You look at something like Darfur, it breaks your heart,” Powell says. “We have spent a lot of money on the people and Darfur.” Is Darfur genocide? “If you’re the United States, you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t,” Albright says.
The U.S. should not commit troops to something not supported by the American people, Baker says. They are “the final arbiters.”
“Once it is declared genocide, we must do something,” Albright says. “I didn’t call it genocide,” Baker replies.
Powell says we asked the United Nations to make an assessment, and they said it wasn’t genocide. “We don’t have the resources or capability to put our troops” in Darfur. Peace can only be achieved by “political reconciliation.”
4:21 p.m. Powerful messages. Harris Davidson of Conn. says that electing an African American president would send a powerful message abroad: would McCain do the same? Baker, who says he endorsed McCain: yes, abroad and at home. Albright: it would send a huge message. She added to applause, “I’m of course supporting Sen. Obama.”
“We have to make a judgment here. I have not decided who I will vote for,” Powell says. “We have to get off this lipstick on a pig stuff.”
Sesno asks about Powell’s personal interest in an Obama presidency as the first African American secretary of state: “I’m an American, first and foremost,” he says to loud applause.
4:17 p.m. Africa. Powell says Bush has done a good job in Africa, but that Africa and health must “be a priority for the next president.”
4:13 p.m. Christopher on U.S. power. “The United States as an enormous power has declined, at least in an economic sense,” he says. The question is whether the United States and China can look at themselves “not as adversaries.”
4:05 p.m. Climate change. When Amanpour asks the secretaries whether climate change was caused by mankind, Albright joked, “except in Alaska,” alluding to Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee. Baker says climate change is a “global problem” and we need leadership: “It’s one of the major responsibilities of the new president of the United States, but … in a way that’s not detrimental to the U.S., like (Kyoto).”
4:00 p.m. Iraq. With the conversation shifting to Iraq, Christopher says, and Powell agrees, the next president needs to put pressure on Iraq to make political progress. Albright: we need a diplomatic solution to Iraq, and Syria needs to be involved. Powell says the Iraq government is giving us a timetable; Kissinger says to consider the intentions of Iraqi President Maliki’s proposed timetable: “the right outcome is to continue what we we’re doing.”
3:53 p.m. Baker on power. “We need to beef up elements of soft power,” says Baker, adding, “it’s not just the military.” Baker says “the new president can re-establish the consensus for foreign assistance” and use the presidency as a bully pulpit to re-establish free trade.
On Syria: “we could flip Syria,” and the new administration should re-establish relations. “There is a Syrian deal to be had,” he says, and adds it is easier to get a Syrian deal than a Palestinian deal.
3:50 p.m. Powell on Afghanistan. After a commercial break, Powell says the next president will need more troops in Afghanistan, and the Afghan government will need to “create a relationship with Pakistan” to control tribal areas. Kissinger added it will take much more time to finish the job in Afghanistan.
3:40 p.m. Iran. Albright says it is important to engage Iran, and Powell agrees. Christopher added that military options in Iran are poor.
Kissinger is in favor of negotiating with Iran “without conditions,” but that we first need to have a clear understanding of what it is we are trying to prevent. The issue of nuclear proliferation is “one of the fundamental problems the new administration will face,” Kissinger says.
3:33 p.m. Kissinger on Russia, Albright on Iran. Asked for recommendations to give to the next president, Kissinger says cooperation should not be decided by what is happening in the conflict with Georgia. Cooperation with Russia is imperative for energy issues, Albright says.
3:28 p.m. Wall Street. Discussion has turned to the economy in the wake of the financial crises on Wall Street which came to a head over the weekend. Baker, a former secretary of the treasury in the Reagan administration, says the economic crisis is very serious and could have global effects, but that the U.S. should not bail out additional corporations.
3:25 p.m. Amanpour and Sesno are pressing the secretaries how to improve America’s role in the world which they says is severely diminished. Baker says one of the best things to happen would be to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Albright says the U.S. should take a more active role in fighting global warming and AIDS. Powell says that America’s culture and economic systems are still some of the strongest in the world despite reputation damage.
3:13 p.m. We’ll be live-blogging today’s roundtable of five secretaries of state. The event, “The Next President: A World of Challenges,” is in Lisner Auditorium and will air on CNN next week. The panel — Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Warren Christopher — is moderated by GW professor Frank Sesno and CNN special correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
The Hatchet’s Alexa Millinger and Tim Gowa are reporting from Lisner, with Andrew Nacin compiling and writing the live blog.