- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts yesterday said if elected president, he would consider sending former President Bill Clinton to the Middle East as a U.S. envoy, raising the possibility of Mr. Clinton returning to government in a Democratic administration.

Mr. Kerry, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, told the Council on Foreign Relations that the former president would be one of his three top choices for a presidential “ambassador to the peace process” to work with Israel, its neighbors and the Palestinians.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean made a similar suggestion in October, saying Mr. Clinton would be his envoy to the Middle East.

Republicans said turning to Mr. Clinton is a bad idea.

“Clinton had his crack at it, and frankly, his policies were a miserable failure,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and chief deputy majority whip in the House.

“If that were to happen — if Clinton were to get back into a position to affect policy in the Middle East — this country would be putting back onto play the policy of morale equivalence in the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Mr. Cantor said.

The nine Democrats running have vied to be seen in the mold of Mr. Clinton, especially on Middle East policy, where Mr. Dean and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, have sparred over whether Mr. Clinton’s policy was not to “take sides,” as Mr. Dean has said, or whether he recognized a special relationship between the United States and Israel, as Mr. Lieberman has said.

Mr. Clinton has remained closely engaged in politics for a retired president, at one point making news by suggesting that the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which limits presidents to two elected terms, should be repealed.

But it’s unclear whether he would serve in a future administration. A spokeswoman for Mr. Clinton said in an e-mail response yesterday that Mr. Kerry asked whether he could mention Mr. Clinton and the former president assented.

Mr. Cantor said he couldn’t believe Democrats would want to bring back Mr. Clinton.

“I just find it bizarre they would want to turn to him, given the failure of his administrations,” he said.

In his speech yesterday, Mr. Kerry praised Mr. Clinton’s vision and blasted President Bush’s foreign policy, calling it inept.

“I will replace the Bush years of isolation with a new era of alliances,” Mr. Kerry said.

He said Mr. Bush’s failure to work with other nations on issues such as global warming and the International Criminal Court have soured relations.

Mr. Kerry proposed a summit with world leaders to reach out to Islamic nations and said he would name a special U.S. envoy to the Islamic world, in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian envoy.

Mr. Kerry said in addition to Mr. Clinton, he would consider former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who served under President George Bush.

That last name drew a protest from another presidential hopeful, Wesley Clark, whose campaign spokesman said Mr. Baker’s involvement in heading the Republican team that handled the Florida recount in 2000 “helped to disenfranchise thousands of voters.”

Republicans said Mr. Kerry’s speech offered anger, but no real solutions.

“I think you’re witnessing a man who has seen his polling slide significantly because Howard Dean proved that he was angry at the president, and now John Kerry is trying to prove that he is angrier,” said Jim Dyke, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

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