WASHINGTON (Nov. 12)
President-elect Bill Clinton has named Samuel (Sandy) Berger, his longtime friend and trusted campaign foreign policy adviser, to head the national security policy board of his transition team.
The appointment of Berger, who is Jewish, was one of several transition posts announced by the Clinton operation Thursday. Other Jews appointed to prominent posts include Eli Segal, as chief financial officer; Al From, as assistant director for domestic policy; and Rahm Emanuel, as coordinator of the inaugural.
At a news conference in Little Rock, Ark., Clinton said the appointment of policy chiefs puts the transition process into “high gear” and reflects “the most qualified and diverse people available.”
Clinton also said he will appoint a secretary of state who “understands the obligations of continuity and change” in foreign policy. He said the “pillars of our national security” must be an altered but strong defense, the promotion of democracy, and global and domestic economic growth.
The president-elect singled out the Middle East peace process, saying he is committed to keeping it “on track and doing whatever I can to make sure there is no break in continuity.”
Clinton delivered his briefing flanked by Vice President-elect Al Gore and stressed that their relationship throughout the transition has been and will be a “partnership” that is “perhaps unprecedented.”
That should please the pro-Israel community, which has found the Tennessee politician to be a supportive voice in the Senate.
Berger, 46, served as deputy director for policy planning at the State Department in the Carter administration. Now a partner in the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartsen, he has kept his hand in foreign policy in the interim by serving as an adviser to Democratic think tanks.
The naming of Berger, who is known as a centrist, an internationalist and a consensus-builder, was welcomed in several quarters.
“He’s a superb professional,” said Gail Pressberg, co-director of Americans for Peace Now, several of whose board members are close to Berger.
“He’ll be able to balance the Clinton-Gore team’s wish for change with continuity in the national security arena,” she said.
“It’s a very positive choice,” said Judith Kipper, Middle East scholar with the Brookings Institution, who has associated with Berger socially and professionally.
“He is very balanced, thoughtful and experienced, and very close to the president-elect,” she said.
Kipper said the appointment sends a signal that is important for the process of putting together a foreign policy team. She said he is “inclusive and open- minded,” thoughtful and “steady as the Rock of Gibraltar.”
Berger brought into the election campaign his former boss at the State Department, Anthony Lake, whose link to the Middle East policies of the Carter administration has caused some consternation in pro-Israel circles.
But Berger also brought in Michael Mandelbaum, a Sovietologist with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and neoconservative Richard Schifter, former assistant secretary for human rights. Both of these men are staunchly pro-Israel.
Berger is a member of the board of trustees of his Washington synagogue, Temple Sinai, where he served as vice president last year.
Rabbi Fred Reiner, the temple’s senior rabbi, called Berger “a real pillar of the congregation.”