Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Richard Klass Headshot

Who is the Real Agent for Change?

Posted: Updated:

During the last Democratic Presidential Candidate debate in Des Moines the moderator asked Senator Barack Obama how he could be a change agent in foreign policy when so many of his advisors were part of the Bill Clinton administration. Senator Hillary Clinton opined that she would like to hear that answer. Senator Obama deftly allowed that he would also seek Senator Clinton's advice.

The Clinton campaign is trying to turn this into an issue although I cannot comprehend why. Senator Clinton and her spouse are now trying to present her as a change agent. But if a few former members of Bill Clinton's administration call into question Senator Obama's change bona fides , does not the bevy of advisors from that administration now working for Senator Clinton make her pretensions of being a change agent even more suspect?

And does not the direction of change matter? (George W. Bush changed American foreign policy dramatically.) What are the differences between the directions each candidate would go? Compare the teams. Those advising Senator Obama, such as Tony Lake, the first National Security Advisor to President Clinton, opposed the Iraq misadventure while Senator Clinton and her campaign's chief foreign policy advisor, Lee Feinstein , supported the war and continues to defend that support. Likewise former Secretary of State and Senator Clinton advisor, Madeleine Albright, was taken in by the Bush deception while Susan Rice, an assistant secretary under Albright was not. And the advisor in chief, Bill Clinton, also supported the Iraq invasion, his recent assertions notwithstanding.

A more interesting question may be why so many former members of the administration of President Clinton do not support Senator Clinton. I was not a member of the Clinton administration but I had something to do with the 1992 victory. In August 1992 I arranged a meeting between then Governor Clinton and four retired flag officers, one from each service. Among those was the late and must missed Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After that meeting and the intercession of several members of Congress and others, Admiral Crowe endorsed Governor Clinton. That and closely following endorsements by 20 other retired flag officers derailed the plans of then President Bush to attack Governor Clinton on his military service or lack thereof and stopped Bush's advances in the polls

So, with all I have invested in the first Clinton administration, why am I supporting Senator Obama? There are a number of reasons. Of secondary importance is my aversion to dynasties, Bush I was mediocre, Bush II is a disaster of cosmic proportions. Bill Clinton was a good president who, except for some personal flaws, could have been a great president. But Clinton II would be a roll of the dice, and probably a soap opera. And who would want to be vice president or secretary of state under that co-presidency?.

More important, as a retired military officer, I have to ask who would be the better Commander-in-Chief. The first quality I look for is the judgment of the candidate and his team. Senator Obama passed this test for Iraq as did his team. He also opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that could give Vice President Cheney the ammunition to convince President Bush to attack Iran. Senator Clinton failed both tests of judgment

In addition to judgment, the next president must be able to alleviate the primary problems the U.S. military face - personnel. This is especially true in the Army where enlistment quotas are being met by lowering standards and allowing felons, drug abusers and other serious criminals to enlist. It took us a generation to rebuild the military after Vietnam and the same will be true, at least for the Army and Marine Corps after Iraq.

So I ask myself, who can inspire America's youth to military service? Who has a plan to greatly expand national service outside the military? The face I want to see on the television challenging America's youth to sacrifice is Senator Obama's. He would not have told us that the response to 9/11 was to shop. He will not sell us the easy path by promising painless patriotism. He will challenge this generation as President Kennedy challenged mine. And they will respond. I cannot imagine any other candidate with the power to do that.

Register To Vote