Lieber­man may lead for­eign pol­icy re­form

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

ST. PAUL, Minn. | The McCain cam­paign on Sept. 3 promised a “shakeup” of U.S. for­eign pol­icy that would bol­ster agen­cies such as the State Depart­ment and USAID, say­ing that the Repub­li­can can­di­date will “re­form” and “re­build” Amer­i­can diplo­macy.

But in a sur­prise move that hinted at a large for­eign pol­icy role in a McCain ad­min­is­tra­tion, the mes­sage was de­liv­ered by the man who was the Demo­cratic Party’s vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in 2000, Sen. Joe Lieber­man.

Mr. Lieber­man ap­peared on a mid­day panel in the place of John McCain’s chief for­eign pol­icy ad­viser, Randy Sche­une­mann, and spoke au­thor­i­ta­tively on what a McCain pres­i­dency would look like.

“John’s a re­former,” said Mr. Lieber­man, Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent. “One of the things I don’t think peo­ple think of John as a re­former on, but it will hap­pen, he’s go­ing to take a very fresh look at our for­eign and de­fense in­sti­tu­tions. I think you can ex­pect a shake-up here.”

“The net re­sult of it is that the State Depart­ment and USAID and the pub­lic diplo­macy part of our gov­ern­ment will get a lot more cen­tral­ity and a lot more sup­port in a McCain ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Though he did not crit­i­cize Pres­i­dent Bush by name, the com­ments were a clear re­pu­di­a­tion of the pres­i­dent’s con­duct in for­eign af­fairs over the past eight years.

One of the McCain cam­paign’s pri­or­i­ties is to sep­a­rate it­self from Mr. Bush. He is one of the more un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dents in mod­ern his- tory in part be­cause he is per­ceived as iso­lat­ing Amer­ica with a uni­lat­eral ap­proach in his first term.

The White House de­clined to com­ment.

Mr. Lieber­man stu­diously avoided any men­tion of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain’s run­ning mate, and her lack of for­eign pol­icy cre­den­tials, on the day that those at the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion could not think of any­one else.

The con­ver­sa­tion about Mrs. Palin’s grip on global af­fairs took place at a press con­fer­ence held by se­nior fe­male Repub­li­can leaders, who an­grily de­nounced Democrats and the press for what they per­ceived as a sex­ist bias against Mrs. Palin.

Se­nior McCain ad­viser Carly Fio­r­ina said she found ques­tions about Mrs. Palin’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions “stun­ning,” and de­fended the idea, ex­pressed by other McCain sur­ro­gates, that Mrs. Palin would learn from Mr. McCain and rely in the mean­time on his ad­vis­ers.

Mrs. Fio­r­ina, the for­mer CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said that Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Sen. Barack Obama is “clearly [. . .] a per­son who has re­lied heav­ily on his cam­paign staff to ad­vise him on for­eign pol­icy mat­ters,” ridi­cul­ing the idea that “some­how it’s all so dif­fer­ent for Sarah Palin.”

For­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Jane Swift said that Mrs. Palin’s “tough­ness” as gov­er­nor in chal­leng­ing spe­cial in­ter­ests and oil com­pa­nies would trans­fer into her diplo­matic ap­proach.

Mr. Lieber­man spoke hours af­ter de­liv­er­ing a speech on Sept. 2 in sup­port of Mr. McCain that an­gered sev­eral Demo­cratic leaders be­cause of its at­tacks on Mr. Obama, who he said “has not reached across party lines to ac­com­plish any­thing sig­nif­i­cant.”

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs called Mr. Lieber­man’s speech “pa- thetic,” ac­cused him of telling “lies,” and said the se­na­tor “ought to be ashamed of him­self.”

Mr. Lieber­man, for his part, ex­plained why he left the Demo­cratic Party af­ter be­ing nom­i­nated to the top of its ticket, say­ing he was dis­sat­is­fied pri­mar­ily with its po­si­tions on trade and ter­ror­ism.

“On some crit­i­cal is­sues [. . . ] the Demo­cratic Party has changed. It’s only eight years ago that the Clin­tonGore ad­min­is­tra­tion was deeply com­mit­ted to free trade,” Mr. Lieber­man said.

Mr. Obama has op­posed free­trade agree­ments with South Korea and Colom­bia.

Mr. Lieber­man also said that the main dif­fer­ence be­tween Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama is that Mr. McCain un­der­stands “there is good and evil in the world and there are some peo­ple in the world who just hate us for var­i­ous rea­sons,” and that such threats must be dealt with force­fully.

But Mr. Lieber­man sought to bal­ance that strong pos­ture with his em­pha­sis on diplo­macy.

“We need a lot bet­ter pub­lic diplo­macy to get our case out in the Is­lamic world,” he said. “We’ve tried, but we still haven’t fig­ured out how to do it.”

At the same time, Mr. Lieber­man also tried to soften his crit­i­cism of Mr. Bush by say­ing that the U.S. “im­age in the world is a lot bet­ter than we think it is.”

He said specif­i­cally that un­der Mr. Bush, Amer­ica’s stature in Asia has been en­hanced.

“It’s al­ways danger­ous to say some­thing in pub­lic that’s pos­i­tive about the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, but I’ve been hang­ing around Se­na­tor McCain so much I be­lieve in straight talk.”

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