|I've spilled a lot of words in this space about the degree of overlap between Presidents Obama and Bush on national security and foreign policy, and others have started to notice the same thing. But there's a fine line between doing the same thing as one's predecessor and acting in a nonpartisan spirit.
The notion to appoint former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican, as special envoy to Sudan would appear to be the latter. It's only a proposal so far, from Rep. Frank Wolf, an influential member of Congress on human rights. Wolf, though, says the administration likes the idea. Some Democrats may have leftover hard feelings about Frist, but on Darfur, Frist was ahead of the curve.
Any real skepticism about Frist's appointment has more to do with institutional questions: "An effective special envoy generally requires two important features: 1) diplomatic experience 2) access to the president. It strikes me that former Senator Frist possesses neither."
But it might be offset by the signal Frist's appointment would send: America is united on Darfur, left and right.
|I understand GinnyD's points here but both defenses are pretty thin. I don't think there's any question that the necessary skills of leading the Senate has significant overlap with those needed to be an effective diplomat, but the two jobs are not the same and I think it's only prudent to ask whether he has the specific skill set the job requires.
Access to the president is only earned if one presupposes a world where humans don't let emotions and politics interfere with merit. I'm not sure how such an argument can be made.
There are two other related topics here on experience and access. I would add to the two-point list here on envoy selection criteria "special knowledge within the region." I don't know Frist's background with Sudan but I would want my special envoy to know as well as one can the various ethnic, political, historical, and religious factors that might make him a more palatable conversationalist, would aid him in maintaining an air of honest brokerage, and that might help him form effective solutions-based alliances.
I would also add that although we might be able to see a Frist appointment as providing an image of a US government joined in their opposition to the genocide, but we might also very well interpret Obama's move here as one that indicates that he will not be prioritizing Darfur because Frist won't have the kind of access he would need.
|Jim | Homepage | E-Mail | 02.03.2009, 15:05|
|The two reasons given for skepticism about Frist are bogus. First of all, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate must be a master diplomat to lead a group of 99 other leaders. Secondly, access to the President is earned, not possessed. Frist would certainly have the ear of the President if the President is interested in Darfur.|
|GinnyD | Homepage | E-Mail | 28.02.2009, 17:20|