More than 200 foreign policy and national security professionals, including dozens of veterans of the Obama administration, on Monday are endorsing Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg for president.
The text of their joint letter targets President Donald Trump, but the subtext is aimed at former Vice President Joe Biden, who touts his foreign policy experience during the Obama administration as a major asset in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The endorsements are designed to burnish Buttigieg's credentials as a potential commander in chief and portray him as the leader of a new generation.
Among those from the Obama administration who signed the statement are former Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, former deputy CIA director David Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon, former Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sanchez, former State Department adviser Vali Nasr, former White House associate counsel Tess Bridgeman and former National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
The list of 218 names also includes Anthony Lake, national security adviser for President Clinton; Peter Galbraith, former deputy U.N. envoy to Afghanistan; Virginia Rep. Don Beyer; a dozen former U.S. ambassadors; and former officials from the State Department, Pentagon, CIA, NSC and elsewhere.
"Over the course of the past year, we have watched the emergence of a young leader who shares our belief in America's leadership role and values," the letter says, citing Buttigieg's "intelligence, steadiness, demeanor and understanding of the forces now shaping the world." It praises "his long-term approach to the generational consequences of near-term decisions."
Last month, the Biden campaign released its own list, announcing his endorsement by 133 former national security and foreign policy officials. They included some of President Barack Obama's top aides, among them former national security adviser Tom Donilon, former deputy CIA director Avril Haines, former Under Secretary of State Nick Burns, former Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco, and 65 former ambassadors.
Biden's list featured many officials who have served at the senior levels of government. Buttigieg's list is notably diverse in gender and race and includes more people working at think tanks, universities and non-governmental organizations. Veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and three college students who are working on the campaign are among those who signed.
"Many of the signatories are the next generation of foreign policy leaders whose careers are definitely still ahead of them," said Doug Wilson, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration who helps lead Buttigieg's foreign policy team. "We have involved people we think have a tremendous amount to contribute to that next generation, who have experience and expertise but are not at the end of their careers."
The endorsements of experts rarely do much to sway voters. In 2016, a series of public declarations signed by foreign policy veterans with impressive resumes backed Hillary Clinton and warned against Trump, who won the White House anyway.
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That said, Buttigieg's ability to command robust support among those who work on national security and foreign policy issues helps him make a key case: that at age 37 and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he can be entrusted with the presidency and all that involves. Buttigieg is also a former Navy intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan.
Biden, 77, has spotlighted his deep foreign policy experience during the campaign. As a U.S. senator from Delaware, he chaired the Foreign Relations Committee before serving two terms as vice president. A TV ad he aired this month showed NATO leaders who seemed to be mocking Trump. "We need a leader the world respects," the ad concluded.
"The common thread in supporting Pete is – somebody we feel can take us past Trump but not going back to the default of pre-Trump," Wilson said in an interview. "We have great respect for the Obama administration, but there is also a recognition that there are new issues and a new set of challenges, and we feel that Pete understands them."
Those who signed have "watched with alarm and disbelief at the loss of American credibility and leadership around the world over the last three years," the letter said. "The United States, which has brought other nations together in common defense and for common purpose, from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to fighting the challenges of climate change, is now led by a President who withdraws from treaties, berates our allies and praises authoritarian leaders."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Pete Buttigieg gets 218 foreign policy endorsements