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November 20th, 2008
06:08 PM ET

Scowcroft and Obama's tea leaves

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/20/art.scowcroft.jpg caption="Brent Scowcroft, right, with former President George H.W. Bush, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and an interpreter in 1992."]
Ed Henry
CNN White House Correspondent

President-elect Barack Obama is getting foreign policy advice from an unlikely source - Republican Brent Scowcroft - former national security adviser in the first Bush administration.

Two sources familiar with the conversations confirm to CNN Obama has been reaching out to Scowcroft for phone chats even before he ran for president, and the back-and-forth has continued in recent days as the President-elect assembles his Cabinet.

What makes the conversations intriguing is that Scowcroft is very close to current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is rumored to be in running to stay in the Cabinet for at least an interim period at the start of the new Obama administration.

During a recent appearance on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Scowcroft said it would be a wise move for Obama to keep Gates in the Cabinet.

"I actually think it would send the kind of signal that I think the president-elect intends, or spoke about in his campaign, and that is that we need to work together. We need to work as Americans," said Scowcroft. "And I think giving Bob Gates some more time to do the kinds of things he's doing would be a very wise course of action, yes."

But a senior Obama aide told CNN not to see the conversations as a signal that Gates may keep his job. "Don't read anything into this - he was an admirer [of Scowcroft] long before running or even needing to select" a Secretary of Defense, said the Obama aide.

The Obama aide said the President-elect "respects and admires General Scowcroft's bipartisan, pragmatic approach to foreign policy," adding that the President-elect "looks forward to continuing the dialogue with General Scowcroft, as well as other key Republicans, Democrats, and Independents - to get the very best advice."

Scowcroft, who opposed the war in Iraq, is a fierce critic of the current Bush administration's approach. "I think we developed in the Republican Party a - well, you know, the buzzword for it is "neoconism,'" Scowcroft said on CNN earlier this month. "But I think what it is, it's an ideology - it's really an idealistic approach to things. But it's a combination of idealism and, if you will, brute force."


Filed under: Barack Obama • Ed Henry • Raw Politics
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