Color me skeptical about Congressman Frank Wolf’s nomination of former Senate Majority Bill Frist for President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan. The letter from Congressman Wolf to President Obama (in full below the fold) just landed in my in-box.

I have written Secretary of State Clinton urging the appointment of a high-caliber special envoy to Sudan. Today I echo that call to you, with the specific request that the appointment be made in a high-profile event, which makes it clear to the world that the envoy has your ear and speaks with your authority. I ask that you appoint former Senate Majority leader Bill Frist as this special envoy.

Even when he served in the Senate, Dr. Bill Frist continued his surgical practice, travelling to Africa yearly on medical missions, including to Sudan. He boldly emerged as a leader in declaring what was happening in Sudan to be genocide, and co-authoring the bipartisan Sudan Peace Act. Senator Frist is truly passionate about the people and future of Sudan and in the tradition of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell he is respected across the aisle.

Don’t get me wrong, Bill Frist was a key leader in the Senate on Sudan issues. And Frank Wolf (a Republican) along with Donald Payne (a Democrat) were two of the earliest champions of Darfur in the House of Representatives. Still, I find this proposal a bit off. An effective special envoy generally requires two important features: 1) diplomatic experience 2) access to the president. It strikes me that former Senator Frist possesses neither.

Meanwhile, this bit of intrigue would suggest that the administration is close to settling on a Darfur strategy.

Dear Mr. President:

I commend you for your recent special envoy appointments of both Senator George Mitchell and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. These distinguished diplomats are well-suited to focus their full attention on foreign policy priorities. I have long favored the envoy approach as an effective way to tackle seemingly intractable challenges.

There is perhaps no more daunting challenge than the quest for peace and stability in Sudan—a nation which has long been ravaged by war, genocide and bloodshed.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which in 2005 brought about the end to a brutal 20-year war between the genocidal government in Khartoum and the South, was a monumental achievement and was in many respects the result of tireless diplomacy by former Senator John Danforth— then U.S. special envoy to Sudan. We can learn from this successful model.

I have written Secretary of State Clinton urging the appointment of a high-caliber special envoy to Sudan. Today I echo that call to you, with the specific request that the appointment be made in a high-profile event, which makes it clear to the world that the envoy has your ear and speaks with your authority. I ask that you appoint former Senate Majority leader Bill Frist as this special envoy.

Even when he served in the Senate, Dr. Bill Frist continued his surgical practice, travelling to Africa yearly on medical missions, including to Sudan. He boldly emerged as a leader in declaring what was happening in Sudan to be genocide, and co-authoring the bipartisan Sudan Peace Act. Senator Frist is truly passionate about the people and future of Sudan and in the tradition of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell he is respected across the aisle.

His efforts would undoubtedly be buoyed by the counsel of Theodore (Ted) Dagne, Roger Winter and John Pendregrast—all capable, committed individuals whose expertise and extensive time spent in the region would make them invaluable advisers to any special envoy.

I have traveled to Sudan five times since 1989 and led the first congressional delegation to Darfur with Senator Sam Brownback. I’ve witnessed the nightmare with my own eyes. Every day that passes, more men are killed, more women are raped, and more children die of malnutrition. This is simply unacceptable. The time to act is now.

Best wishes.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Wolf

Member of Congress

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