The Cable

Brookings tops 2011 think tank rankings

The Brookings Institution was selected today as the "top think tank in the world" by an academic program that evaluated over 5,000 think tanks from across the globe.

That's the second year in a row that Brookings has topped the "Global Go To Think Tanks Rankings," compiled by the Think Tank and Civil Societies program at the University of Pennsylvania and published by the Diplomatic Courier. The project considered the views of 793 experts, 150 journalists and scholars, 55 current and former directors of think tank programs, 40 public and private donors, hundreds of think tanks, 25-30 intergovernmental organizations, and 120 academic institutions.

Other U.S.-based think tanks also fared well. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held its spot from last year, staying put at #3 on the list, while the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) dropped two slots from last year, coming in at #4. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) jumped up two spots to #5, the RAND Corporation held its place at #6, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics kept its #10 position.

Non-U.S. think tanks that made the top 10 were Chatham House (#2), Amnesty International (#7) ,  Transparency International (#8), and the International Crisis Group (#9).

Conservative and libertarian think tanks took a hit in 2011: The Heritage Foundation dropped five places since last year, coming in this year at #13. CATO dropped from #12 last year to #14 this year, and the American Enterprise Institute dropped in the rankings from #13 to #17. Meanwhile, the liberal Center for American Progress made its first appearance on the top 25, coming in at #19. Human Rights Watch was ranked #22 in the world, down six spots compared to last year.

Some U.S.-based think thanks were singled out as the best in specific regions or functions. CSIS was ranked #1 in international affairs and security research. The Carnegie Moscow Center and the Carnegie Middle East Center were ranked as the top think tanks in their region. Brookings was ranked #1 in international development research, and the Carnegie Endowment was named as the think tank with the most innovative policy ideas.

Google Ideas, the "think-do tank" led by former State Department official Jared Cohen, was named the best new think tank established in the last 18 months. CFR was named as the best think tank in the world in the use of digital and social media.

5,329 think tanks were nominated and then ranked overall and in 30 different regional and functional sub-categories. This year, the process was changed to  include "expert panels" that evaluated the data, incorporate categories for smaller think tanks, and expand the participation of organizations in developing countries, especially in the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).

The United States by far has the most think tanks in the world (1,815!), followed by China (425), India (292), Britain (286), and Germany (194). Washington alone has 393 think tanks. Other leading states include Massachusetts, with 176, and California with 170.

The think tanks were rated by their access to resources, how much content they put out, and their impact on policy and politics.

"There are a number of major political, economic, social, and technological trends that are converging at this moment in history and that have a profound impact on governments and the institutions that serve them," reads the beginning of the report. "It is essential that think tanks understand these trends and be ahead of them so that we are all not buried by them."

The Cable

McCain campaign in ‘08: Romney vulnerable on foreign policy

John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign prepared an extensive opposition research file on Mitt Romney that spelled out several of Romney's flip flops on foreign policy and painted him as naïve and inexperienced on international affairs and national security.

"Romney has no foreign policy experience," reads the first bullet point in the foreign-policy section of the 200-page McCain opposition research file, posted Tuesday night by Buzzfeed. A former senior McCain campaign staffer confirmed its authenticity to The Cable. Twenty pages of the document are devoted to foreign-policy-related quotes and anecdotes the McCain campaign thought could be damaging to Romney during their 2008 primary battle.

The McCain campaign concluded that Romney was vulnerable because of statements he made seeming to endorse a "secret" timetable for Iraq withdrawal and for saying that the death of Osama bin Laden would result in a "very insignificant increase in safety" for America and that such effort was "not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars" to catch one person.

The oppo file notes that Romney's former company Bain Capital received a $2.3 million contract from the National Iranian Oil Company in 2004, after Romney left the firm, and owned a chemicals company called SigmaKalon that still operated an office in Tehran as of the time of the McCain campaign document's writing.

In 2005, Romney endorsed a plan by Citgo, which is controlled by the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez, to give low priced heating oil to Massachusetts residents, the McCain document noted.

Overall, the McCain's campaign's broad conclusion was that "Romney's foreign affairs resume is extremely thin, leading to credibility problems."

Neither Romney nor President Obama served in the military, so Romney's lack of service may not become a 2012 general election issue. But the staff of Navy veteran and former prisoner-of-war McCain documented that Romney received a two-and-a-half year deferment from the Vietnam draft so that he could go on his Mormon mission to France.

Upon returning to the United States, Romney received a three-year student deferment and then drew a lottery number that allowed him to wait out the end of the draft, the document noted. There was never any evidence that Romney's powerful father intervened in any way.

"I didn't go on a mission to avoid the draft ... There was nothing wrong with [the deferments]. I followed the process like any other kid ... I never asked my dad in any way to be involved with the draft board," Romney said at the time.

The McCain research also shows that Romney's ambivalence toward George W. Bush's war in Iraq, which has come up again in recent weeks, actually dates back years. In 2007, Romney rejected the Bush administration's comparison of the U.S. presence in Iraq with the U.S. presence in South Korea and criticized an enduring troop presence there.

"We have communicated to the people in the region and the country that we're not looking to have a permanent presence in Iraq and I don't think we want to communicate that we were just kidding about that," Romney said at the time.

Some of the research Team McCain collected on Romney had little political value, but was funny nonetheless.

In a 2007 speech to Cuban-American activists in Miami, Romney tried out his Spanish and said, "Patria O Muerte, Venceremos," which he didn't realize was a favorite phrase of former Cuban President Fidel Castro that means, "Fatherland or death, we shall overcome."

In the same speech, Romney was also accused of stealing a line from the movie Scarface and mispronouncing the name of then Florida State House Speaker (now senator and rumored vice presidential contender) Marco Rubio. Romney called him "Mario."

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