FRED THOMPSON IS adding more big-name policy talent as his testing-the-waters committee continues to grow into a real presidential campaign. Among the new additions: Mark Esper, national security adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; Joel Shin, a top policy staffer on Bush-Cheney 2000; and Elizabeth Cheney, a former top official in the State Department's Near East and South Asia department.
Esper, who worked for Thompson when he was a Senator in the 1990s, currently serves as executive vice president of the Aerospace Industries of America and is a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Thompson previously served on the commission. Before joining AIA, Esper was Bill Frist's director of National Security Affairs. According to a biography on the U.S.-China commission website, Esper's "portfolio in that position included all defense, foreign policy, and intelligence matters for the United States Senate, where he also worked on trade and homeland security issues." He worked on executive-legislative national security matters--an important job given the Bush Administration's posture on a robust executive branch. Esper's current AIA obligations have limited his participation to that of an informal adviser.
Joel Shin was a top policy staffer on George W. Bush's presidential campaign in 2000. He coordinated the activities of senior outside policy advisers advising then-Governor Bush and worked on the Bush transition. Although many of his colleagues took jobs in the Bush administration, Shin did not. A former Rhodes Scholar, Shin is currently an associate with The Scowcroft Group in Washington, DC. Shin declined to comment on his role, directing all questions to Thompson's communications staff.
Liz Cheney, the older of Vice President Dick Cheney's two daughters, served most recently as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs and coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives. That title--no doubt one of the longest in the federal government--means that Cheney was on the leading edge of President Bush's effort to bring democratic and market-based reform to the region. A longtime democracy advocate, Cheney was a strong proponent of women's rights in the region. Her previous experience includes time at the World Bank, two prior stints at the State Department, and service as a US AID officer in Poland and Hungary.
Esper, Shin, and Cheney are well known and well respected in the Washington foreign policy community and generally regarded as hawkish in their views on national security. They will continue to give Thompson's foreign policy advice as the effort becomes a formal campaign. The informal group began meeting late last month and current plans are for weekly policy sessions. Like most campaign advisory groups, the foreign policy team will hash out current foreign policy issues and make recommendations to the candidate (or, in this case, the non-candidate). Its members will also seek to anticipate the kinds of foreign policy and national security crises that might require answers from Thompson.
Even as he spends much of his time putting together the infrastructure of his campaign, Thompson has been focused on developing the policy proposals that will form the backbone of his presidential run. He spent several hours yesterday at the Hoover Institution, affiliated with Stanford University, meeting with scholars from the conservative think tank.
He is set to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno later this evening.
Stephen F. Hayes, a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD, is the author of Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President, which will be published next month by HarperCollins.