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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 6/24/2008

Too much 'senior-itis'

SEN. Barack Obama's announcement of his Senior Working Group on National Security gave significant pause to those hoping for new ideas in foreign affairs from the presumptive Democratic nominee.

The group of 13 included several retreads from the Clinton administration - former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake. Another member was a throw-back to the Carter administration, Warren Christopher, who was deputy secretary of state in the 1970s.

When Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992 at age 46, there was thought that he might bring youth and vigor to his administration through his cabinet choices. Instead, he chose Mr. Christopher to lead the State Department. He had not been effective as deputy secretary in the Carter years and, under Mr. Clinton, his performance was mediocre in the top foreign affairs slot. In late 2000, Mr. Christopher added to his undistinguished record by representing Vice President Al Gore unsuccessfully in the legal dogfight in Florida for the presidency, recently dramatized in the HBO film Recount.

So here is Mr. Christopher again, at 82, on Mr. Obama's foreign policy advisory group. Whatever for?

It is understandable that Mr. Obama, first, might value the advice of experienced people as he devises his foreign policy. It is also comprehensible that he might need to scratch the ears of some of the Democratic Party's old dogs as he patches up divisions within the party in the wake of the long, sometimes bitter, caucus and primary campaign.

Yet one part of the executive branch that is badly in need of a new approach is foreign policy. Just look at the sad state of U.S. relations with the countries of the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Well-worn tires such as the majority of those in the Senior Working Group are not going to put forward the fresh, crisp policies that this nation will need.

There are some bright sparks on Mr. Obama's list, however. Some speculate that if he does not choose New Mexico governor and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson as his vice presidential running mate, Mr. Richardson will be asked to serve as Secretary of State.

So there is some hope. But little of it is to be found among this group of tired foreign affairs "seniors."



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