Lawrence Korb, now working for Sen. Barack Obama, doesn’t like the way American foreign policy has been conducted by George W. Bush.
In an interview last fall, Rep. Peter King complained that “we have too many mosques in this country.” That caused a stir, especially since the New York Republican is among those advising presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani on foreign affairs.
King denied his remarks were Islamophobic. But they left some wondering what kind of advice he might give Giuliani on dealing with Iran and other Muslim countries.
“It’s a big concern for us,” says Corey Saylor, legislative director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, King is among an often overlooked group of players in presidential campaigns – the foreign policy advisers. This year’s bumper crop includes think-tank scholars, TV pundits, a Pulitzer Prize-winning expert on genocide advising Sen. Barack Obama and ex-secretaries of state (Madeleine Albright for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and Alexander Haig for Sen. John McCain).
“A lot of these people are going to give a lot of different advice and a lot of it will be ignored,” says Dennis Jett, dean of the University of Florida’s International Center.
Still, the advisers often say much about the way candidates would approach foreign affairs if elected. And in an era when Iraq, Iran and Pakistan will severely test a president’s mettle, advisers are getting more scrutiny than usual.
By far the most controversial team is that of Giuliani, New York City’s mayor at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. With a campaign heavily based on defeating Islamic terrorism, he has amassed a group of hawkish advisers who, as the New Yorker put it, “got Iraq spectacularly wrong (and) seem determined to make up for it by doing the same thing in Iran.”
Among those in Giuliani’s camp are historian Daniel Pipes, who predicted that war with Iraq would reduce terrorism, and writer Norman Podhoretz, who is urging the United States to attack Iran.
The latter’s writings have raised such concern that Giuliani’s chief foreign policy adviser, Yale professor Charles Hill, has tried to downplay them. “This is not the view of Mayor Giuliani,” Hill told National Public Radio.
Others remain skeptical. “He has people who are obviously famous for being pro-Israeli and anti-Islam, anti-Iran,” says Hooshang Amirahmadi, director of Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University.