News & Politics

71 People the President Should Listen To

The Cold War's Over, and the War Against Terrorism Has Begun. Who Are Washington's "Wise Men" Now?

In the Kennedy/Johnson years, a small circle of men outside government helped shape the nation's response to communism. These informal presidential advisers included Averell Harriman, Dean Acheson, Robert Lovett, and other Cold War architects from the 1940s and '50s. Dubbed "the wise men," they were mostly Establishment figures–bankers, lawyers, and diplomats who had attended East Coast prep schools and Ivy League colleges.

Over the years, each administration has called upon its own wise men. Recent presidents have relied on superlawyers like Clark Clifford, Lloyd Cutler, and Vernon Jordan.

Who are the wise men who can help President George W. Bush fight terrorism? We turned to foreign-policy experts, political insiders, journalists, and historians and asked: If you were president, who would you talk to?

Here are those nominated most often and with the most passion. The list includes many old-style wise men, but it also illustrates the evolution of "wisdom" in Washington. Unlike Harriman and his colleagues, who eschewed publicity, some on our list broadcast their views.

"Wise men today are as likely to talk to the president through the New York Times op-ed page as they are to call him," says Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.

Wise men traditionally have been generalists, but power here is now more diffuse. Our list includes technocrats, regional experts, and other specialists–people with knowledge needed to understand the terrorist threat–some of whom are women.

President Bush is not known for seeking lots of outside advice. But should he look beyond the White House and Capitol, the new wise men and women stand ready.


James Baker, lawyer, businessman, and veteran insider of the Ford, Reagan, and Bush I administrations, including stints as Secretary of State and the Treasury.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, scholar, national-security adviser to President Carter.

George Bush, 41st president and Gulf War commander in chief.

Frank Carlucci, corporate executive and former government power broker who began in the foreign service, worked at CIA, OMB, and the White House, and was Reagan's last Secretary of Defense.

Bill Cohen, 24-year veteran of Capitol Hill and former Secretary of Defense–the lone Republican in Bill Clinton's Cabinet.

Sol Linowitz, lawyer and former chairman of Xerox, conegotiator of the Panama Canal treaties, and Carter's ambassador at large for Middle East negotiations.

James Schlesinger, who led the CIA under Nixon, Defense under Nixon and Ford, andEnergy under Carter.

Brent Scowcroft, a deputy to Henry Kissinger in the Nixon and Ford administrations; national-security adviser to Ford and Bush I. The Economist described the Gulf War as "Mr. Scowcroft's finest hour."

George Shultz, seven-year Secretary of State under Reagan; also headed Treasury, OMB, and Labor under Nixon.

Robert Strauss, former Democratic Party chief, ambassador to Russia, and longtime Bush family friend.

William Webster, former federal judge who headed both the FBI (1978-87) and the CIA (1987-91) and is credited with restoring trust in the CIA after Iran-Contra.

James Woolsey, longtime Washington lawyer/insider; worked in Carter's Defense Department and Bush's State Department; CIA chief from 1993 to 1995.


Howard Baker, former Senate GOP leader and Reagan chief of staff; current ambassador to Japan.

Thomas Foley, former Speaker of the House and Clinton ambassador to Japan.

Lee Hamilton, prominent Democratic voice on foreign affairs; worked with eight presidents and chaired the House foreign-affairs and intelligence committees.

Sam Nunn, longtime Democratic chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee; finalist for Nobel Peace Prize for his nuclear-disarmament work.


Chester Crocker, a Kissinger National Security Council lieutenant, Reagan State Department official, key negotiator in 1988 accord removing Cuban troops from Angola.

Edward Djerejian, former ambassador to Israel and Syria. Before the US terrorist attacks, he was a candidate to be Bush's special envoy to the Middle East.

Lawrence Eagleburger, career diplomat; deputy secretary of State under Baker during Gulf War.

Richard Holbrooke, protégé of Averell Harriman's, former UN ambassador, and chief negotiator of 1995 Bosnian accords.

Arnold Kanter, international consultant; number-two official at State during Bush I.

Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for Nixon and Ford. His "shuttle diplomacy" jumpstarted Middle East peace process after 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Samuel Lewis, 30-year veteran diplomat who served Carter and Reagan as ambassador to Israel. A top negotiator on the Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt.

Robert Pelletreau, Clinton State Department official for Near East policy and veteran diplomat with postings in Egypt, Lebanon, and other Arab countries. First US official authorized to speak with the PLO.

Thomas Pickering, former ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, and Jordan.

Robert Oakley, former ambassador to Somalia, Zaire, and Pakistan; head of counterterrorism at State in Reagan administration.

Dennis Ross, top US negotiator in Middle East peace process under Bush and Clinton.

Edward "Ned" Walker, Middle East diplomat since 1967–ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

Frank Wisner, 35-year State Department veteran; former ambassador to India, the Philippines, Egypt, and Zambia.

Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia scholar, Bush State Department negotiator, NSC manager of Gulf War coalition.


Harold Brown, Carter Defense secretary, nuclear-weapons expert, and former arms-control negotiator.

William Crowe, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff under Reagan and Bush I; once commanded US forces in Middle East.

Fred Iklé, Reagan undersecretary of Defense for policy, author of influential book Every War Must End.

David Jeremiah, retired admiral, former Joint Chiefs vice chairman under Colin Powell and John Shalikashvili. Directed 1985 capture of Achille Lauro hijackers and led 1986 combat against Libya in Gulf of Sidra.

Melvin Laird, international-affairs adviser to Reader's Digest; former Republican House leader; Nixon Secretary of Defense.

Joseph Nye, dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, former Clinton assistant secretary of Defense for international security.

William Perry, Clinton Defense secretary who shifted military's post-Cold War focus from deterrence of threats to prevention.

John Shalikashvili, Joint Chiefs chairman under Clinton; commanded multinational effort to save 500,000 Iraqi Kurds after Gulf War.

Caspar Weinberger, Reagan Secretary of Defense; Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under Nixon and Ford; Forbes columnist.

Larry Welch, retired Air Force chief of staff under Reagan, president of Institute for Defense Analysis, missile-defense expert.


William Ford Jr., chairman, Ford Motor Company.

Robert Rubin, Wall Street veteran; Clinton economic adviser and Treasury secretary.

Frederick Smith, FedEx founder, ex-Marine Corps pilot, decorated Vietnam veteran, and Yale fraternity brother of the President's.

Paul Volcker, Federal Reserve Board chairman from 1979 to 1987.


David Abshire, decorated Korean War veteran, former Reagan ambassador to NATO, founder of Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Fouad Ajami, Middle East scholar at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, former New York Times columnist.

Rashid Khalidi, University of Chicago professor of Middle East history who has advised PLO officials during negotiations with Israel.

Bernard Lewis, Princeton professor, considered the foremost Western historian on Islam and the Arab world.

Martha Brill Olcott, Central Asia expert at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

William Quandt, former NSC staffer and negotiator on Camp David accord.

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


Brian Atwood, former Agency for International Development director; expert on US relations with developing world.

Jessica Einhorn, 20-year World Bank veteran who also worked at State and Treasury on economic and development issues.


Charles Boyd, retired Air Force general; led the Hart/Rudman commission, which predicted terrorist attacks on US soil.

Paul Bremer, Reagan ambassador at large for counterterrorism, chair of recent National Commission on Terrorism.

Stephen Flynn, Coast Guard lieutenant commander and Clinton NSC staffer; expert on drug smuggling and border security.

Donald Henderson and Tara O'Toole, biological warfare experts at Johns Hopkins. Henderson led campaign that wiped out smallpox; O'Toole was a Clinton Energy Department official.

Samuel Huntington, Harvard professor and author of The Clash of Civilizations, about international conflict stemming from religious, ethnic, and cultural values.

Brian Michael Jenkins, former Special Forces captain, now a Rand scholar on terrorism and international crime.

William Owens, former Joint Chiefs vice chairman under Clinton; known as "father of the military revolution" for reorganizing US military to fight small, high-tech conflicts.

Jessica Stern, former NSC aide on terrorism and nuclear threats; author of The Ultimate Terrorists.


Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and winner of two Pulitzers–one as the Times Beirut bureau chief and a second while posted in Jerusalem.

Fred Hiatt, Washington Post editorial-page editor; former military and foreign-affairs reporter, Moscow and Tokyo bureau chief.

Judith Miller, former New York Times Cairo bureau chief and Gulf War reporter, author of books on the Middle East, as well as Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War.

William Pfaff, Paris-based International Herald Tribune columnist attuned to how US policy plays in Europe.

William Safire, venerable New York Times columnist, former Nixon speechwriter.

Fareed Zakaria, India-born Newsweek foreign-affairs columnist.


Richard Kerr, CIA deputy director from 1989 to 1992; intelligence career spanned Cuban missile crisis and Gulf War.

Richard Stolz, 30-year CIA veteran, served in Moscow, Sofia, and Belgrade; deputy director for operations 1988 to 1990. *

Sam Nunn

Judith Miller

James Baker

George Bush