08/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bill Clinton, Middle East Envoy?

The vice presidential guessing game has reached fever pitch, with many betting Barack Obama is going to make his pick known this week, before the Olympics start. But I'd like to suggest another appointment for Obama to announce, which he should do before he selects his running mate. Obama should announce that, if elected, he will offer the job of special envoy to the Middle East to former president Bill Clinton.

This could reap many rewards for Obama, and for the Clintons as well. First of all, it would be impossible to find someone better qualified and better suited to be America's face in the region. Bill Clinton would likely be acceptible to both the Palestinians and Israelis, which goes a long way toward moving the peace process along from the very start. Clinton could oversee the entire region, and try to put Bush's Humpty-Dumpty foreign policy mess back together again. Not being an ambassador to any one county, but rather having a portfolio of the whole Middle East, would give him a regional focus on one of the most important (if not the most important) regions of the world for the near future. Clinton could sit down with Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and all the other countries who have a stake in what happens in Iraq, and address their concerns in a fair-handed way. While achieving total peace in the Middle East may be an unrealistic goal in four years (or even eight), achieving stability in the region is indeed possible. It would take a master statesman to do it, but luckily we have one of those available -- Bill Clinton.

The second reason this makes a lot of sense is that Bill himself would probably throw himself into the job with enthusiasm. He really, really wanted a peace deal at the very end of his presidency, and he got pretty darn close to achieving it. What better way is there to cement his legacy in history than by getting a chance to go back and finish the job, under another Democratic president? And, if tales are true, Bill Clinton's legacy is something that both Clintons are acutely aware of, and would like to protect. And this wouldn't just protect his legacy, it would actually expand it and make it greater.

The third reason this would be a brilliant move for Obama is that it would pre-empt the likely fury out there waiting for him when he announces his running mate... and the name he speaks is not "Hillary Clinton." There are a lot of supporters of Hillary from the primaries who are still seriously annoyed at Obama, and some of them are currently on the fence -- "if he picks Hillary as his running mate, I'll support him, otherwise I'm staying home and not voting this year." While naming Bill Clinton to such a prestigious diplomatic post wouldn't completely blunt the reaction of diehard Hillaryites, it might at least lessen it to some extent.

Politically, this would give both the Clintons a personal stake in the race, and would go a long way towards healing the wounds inflicted in the primaries on both sides. It would show Barack Obama is just as serious about protecting Bill's legacy as both the Clintons are. It would show them respect, and would be an incentive for them to put their heart into campaigning for Obama where they are needed.

In fact, it's really hard to see anything wrong with choosing Bill as Chief Middle East Negotiator. As I said, there is just no one who is more qualified and who has a better chance of achieving some degree of success in the job. Bill Clinton would get a chance to shine, and Barack Obama could pick up some support from former Hillary supporters. And if Obama makes the announcement before he announces his running mate, then it will help heal the divide between the two camps instead of widening it.


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