Battle of the '80s-era presidents
by Seth Gitell
One of the big questions about George W. Bush -- does he follow the Ronald "you
can run, but you can't hide" Reagan school of foreign policy, or does he adhere
to his father's more moderate ways? -- may have been answered this past Monday
at the Kennedy School of Government.
The Kennedy School and the Overseas Development Council, a Washington-based
think tank, sponsored a conference called "America's National Interests in
Multilateral Engagement: A Bipartisan Dialogue." Organizers invited the
campaigns of Al Gore and George W. Bush to send speakers to talk about "Foreign
Policy Challenges for the Next President and Congress."
The Gore campaign sent Richard Gardner, a former American ambassador to Spain,
to speak to the group Sunday night at the Charles Hotel. The Bush campaign
planned to send Condoleeza Rice, a former national security adviser to
President Bush, until a family emergency prevented her from attending.
Princeton Lyman, a visiting fellow at the Overseas Development Council,
announced that Richard Haass, a member of President Bush's National Security
Council, would substitute for Rice -- at her recommendation.
Close observers of the Bush camp's behind-the-scenes battle over foreign policy
see this as a clear sign that W. intends to practice his father's diplomatic
ways -- rather than the assertive, Reagan-style approach that former
Reagan-administration officials Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle have been
pushing. Rice, a protégé of Brent Scowcroft, has been advocating
the more pragmatic approach favored by President Bush.
"In short, the real battle is between Reagan and Bush foreign policies," says
David Wurmser, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in
Washington. "Haass's visibility at this event suggests a tip toward the
Scowcroft-Bush Sr. camp."
During his talk, Haass indicated that Bush would be willing to work with
international bodies, such as the United Nations, on a "pragmatic" basis, and
argued against a "theological" advocacy of strategic missile defense, often
called "Star Wars."
Haass denied that having any official role in the Bush campaign, saying, "I'm
just speaking for me."