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No. 46 (November/December 2000)

To Heal America's Political Wounds
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

The one way President-elect Bush can most effectively heal the great divide, following in the path started by Thomas Jefferson in the bitterly divisive election of 1800, and serve effectively as leader of all Americans, is:

Appoint Bill Clinton as his personal ambassador to the Middle East.

Now that it's mentioned, the case hardly needs arguing, its advantages are so obvious. So we won't point out the most obvious ones here, but perhaps some of the less obvious ones. One of these is that such an action might even launch another uniquely American tradition, in which the retiring President, especially following partisan election transitions, was often or even usually recruited to serve the new administration in a highly important area where he had built special experience or influence, and in which both old and new Presidents had virtual identity of view.

The position need not and probably should not be Cabinet-level. The party just having won the White House might see too much influence from the old regime conserved to policies generally if the position were in the Cabinet. The new position, as in this proposed instance, would be insulated from other policy areas.

In this present instance, I propose that Clinton be a personal ambassador to the Near East for President Bush, not a formal ambassador in the usual sense. His appointment would not even have to clear a divided Senate (though funding of the new position, such as that might be, might eventually have to clear). The intention is to heal the partisan divide rather than to inflame it with an undoubtedly controversial nomination.

Even though the Near East policies of the two men are apparently identical, it would, of course, have to be made very clear that direction of that policy was coming from the new President and at the pleasure of the new President. But there could be no clearer signal to all the interests who are involved with the Near East than what I've proposed here to convey the consistency and strength of American resolve and influence there.

The Near East, moreover, is in its most pivotal and dangerous moments of the past twenty years. If matters there should get even more difficult than at present, what I've proposed here would forestall the kind of second-guessing that could further and more bitterly divide America when calm counsel and united voice are most needed.

Considering the sheer dedication which Mr. Clinton has shown in trying to bring peace to the Near East, to make him personal Ambassador to this critical area would afford an enormous satisfaction of healing between our two parties above and beyond the normal restoration of bi-partisanship which might be expected to result from the new President's appointing his predecessor to some special post.

Even his bitterest enemies respect Clinton's savvy. That savvy, as well as his experience and special dedication in this area, would make a personal ambassador Clinton a powerful asset to this country and to the new Bush administration — an asset where we need all the help we can get, up to and maybe including Divine intervention, if peace is to occur in the land of Armageddon.


Another bi-partisan move which the new President-of-all-Americans Bush could make, to both heal partisan bitterness and conserve considerable American influence and expertise in foreign affairs, would be to:

Appoint Madeleine Albright as his ambassador — personal or regular — to NATO.

She has well served other Republican presidents. As in our main proposal here, the move would accomplish a maximum of healing between the two parties without any cost of Republican control and influence over any of the many policy areas where the two parties might differ.


While it may be true generally that "they govern best who govern least," it hardly seems in the American interest to suffer an absolute paralysis of government in bitter partisan gridlock over the next four years, millennium or otherwise.

Can you think of a better way to heal the partisan divide than for Bush to make Clinton his personal ambassador to the Near East? If so, I'd very much like to hear it, so email your comments to me now.


The, um, unevenness of the electoral process in Florida is actually, I think most observers will agree, typical in most states throughout the country. Had the election revolved that closely upon the results in any other one state, a similar exhibition would surely have come to light.

There will be enormous pressure to "fix" the problem. In particular, there will be moves to unify procedural standards for Federal (and perhaps other levels as well) elections throughout the country — one set of rules, one clean set of working standards.

At first blush, the idea of a computerized voting booth working similar to AOL's exit pattern — "are you really, REALLY sure you want to cast these votes accordingly?" — before letting the poor voter out of the booth, in a uniform standard, avoiding butterflies, dimples, and pregnant chads, certainly has its attractions.

But we have seen how difficult it is to ensure any computer system's being immune to hacking and tampering. Becoming dependent upon any one system made uniform for the whole country would raise the stakes for such tampering and virtually ensure the corruption of future elections.

We NEED the diversity we have now, precinct by precinct. We might clean up around the edges a bit, but we must at all costs avoid a uniform system where one "fix" could swing a national election massively counter to the will of the people. It is indeed very seldom that that will is so narrowly balanced that such glitches as we have spell the difference in outcome.

It may be embarrassing to have such glitches to decide our fates, however rare an instance as this was. But that seems infinitely preferable to having a uniform system. The best "fix" here is simply that of more of us giving better attention to what's going on. If we can't do that, then maybe we deserve the government we might get.


Comments to:
Win Wenger

Winsights is a periodical column appearing in various sites throughout the Web, including at its current point of origin, Project Renaissance. You are welcome to copy this column freely, in whole, but not in part, including its copyright notice, and pass it along for discussion and critical review.
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