A Letter to Mr. Clinton

Dear President Clinton,

As you head into the homestretch of your eight years in office, please stand up now and declare that your official decisions will not be influenced by your wife's plan to run for the US Senate in New York or Vice President Al Gore's bid to replace you.

In foreign-policy choices, especially, you may be tempted to please various ethnic groups in America and thus gain support for the two election campaigns. But for the sake of the nation's broader interests and your historical legacy, your decisions must be above suspicion.

With the economy doing well, it's likely that candidates will make foreign policy an issue during the 2000 campaign. Both you and the Republican candidates must not play politics with US diplomacy.

In the Middle East, for example, American pressure will be essential for breakthroughs in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and eventually between Israel and Syria. Please don't play for votes at home with the Israeli lobby while you seek a lasting peace in a region so critical to American interests. Moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, for example, would anger Arabs and endanger peace efforts. And please do not honor the request to your wife from a New York Jewish group asking that you free Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst serving life as an Israeli spy.

In one overseas matter, you have already raised suspicions among Republicans and others with an offer to commute the sentences of 16 imprisoned members of a militant Puerto Rican independence group, most of them serving long sentences. The group allegedly made 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the US between 1974 and 1983. Your offer was opposed by the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, and two key United States attorneys.

The unusual timing of this clemency offer before your wife's expected Senate campaign makes it appear to many that you want to hand her the Hispanic vote. Even the appearance of abusing the justice system for political gain must be avoided.

Many more decisions on US interests abroad - from Cyprus to Haiti - will come your way in the months ahead. Your record so far is that you have largely sought and achieved a bipartisan foreign policy.

Please add one more thing to that record: to be credited with steering clear of conflicts of interest.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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