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Obama Seeks out the Wise Old Men (and Women) of Foreign Policy

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Interviewed in April about his role advising Barack Obama on foreign policy, former national security adviser Anthony Lake said, "I'm one of the few bald heads."

"Most of the folks we brought in are in their 40s. They had some experience in the Clinton administration, but I think they are the next generation," said Lake, who helped put together a variety of working groups on different foreign affairs issues over the last year for the Illinois senator, who he endorsed early last year despite having served in a top post in the Clinton administration.

But the 69-year-old Lake is no longer standing out because of his lack of youth among Obama's advisers. Obama met today with a group of foreign policy advisers that his campaign announced would be part of a formal team through the November election, and he's added plenty of gray with former secretary of state Madeline Albright (71) former senator Sam Nunn (69) and former congressman Lee Hamilton (77).

Obama's campaign last week announced a bunch of economists who would be advising him, and -- just as on that list -- the foreign policy group seems selected to unite the various wings of the Democratic Party. There are Clinton backers (Albright, most prominently), longtime Obama backers (former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice, Lake, former Navy secretary Richard Danzig), and a number of officials who didn't get involved in the primary process, such as former secretary of defense William Perry.

Obama has started recalibrating some of his stances for the general election, and this new team could steer him further away from some of the bolder positions he took in the primaries.

Albright publicly praised Clinton's comments that she would not meet leaders of rogue nations without pre-conditions, after Obama said he would hold such meetings and criticized Clinton's stance. While not taking on Obama directly, Hamilton in a recent interview said "you cannot lock yourself into something in a fluid situation" when asked about setting a precise timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Obama has indicated some flexibility on both issues in recent weeks, saying he would meet with leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad only to advance U.S. interests, and he would consider revising his plan to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq in this first two years in office if the situation there suggested a different approach.

The list of Obama's advisers is also notable for who is not on it. Richard Holbrooke, a leading figure in the Clinton administration's foreign policy who had backed the former first lady during the primary process and has long been considered a potential secretary of state in the next Democratic administration, did not make the cut, nor did Samatha Power, who has long advised Obama on foreign policy issues but left his campaign after being quoted calling Clinton a "monster" earlier this year.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 18, 2008; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  Cast of Characters  
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