Security Appointee a Renowned Mediator : Transition: Shaped by Kennedy, Ex-Carter aide Anthony Lake prefers farming to foreign policy and brings a talent for 'getting people together'.


Anthony Lake was a 21-year-old Harvard senior when he found himself caught up in the election eve crowd that greeted Sen. John F. Kennedy as he returned to Boston at the end of the 1960 presidential campaign.

"His confident smile and the almost-hysterical adulation of the people (which I shared) produced an incredible sense of power--and the feeling that it could be harnessed to serve great purposes," Lake wrote 15 years later. "I desperately wanted to follow it."

In a sense, he did just that--as did President-elect Bill Clinton, who named him Tuesday as his assistant for national security affairs.

Lake and Clinton are of the political generation shaped by Kennedy--and by the promise of service and the undercurrent of power that became so much a part of the Kennedy legacy.

William Anthony Kirsopp Lake, 53, is moving into one of the most difficult jobs in Washington. Historically, it has placed its occupant at odds with some of the most powerful figures in any Administration, while also requiring that person to serve as a counterbalance to the often-warring political forces of the State Department and the Pentagon.

The job, Clinton said, calls for someone "who is not a rival but a partner with the foreign policy, defense and intelligence agencies."

Lake has seen the price of the conflict first hand: During the Democratic Administration of Jimmy Carter he was director of the State Department's Office of Policy Planning, a top-ranking position responsible for developing strategy and foreign policy options. In that role he had a front-row view of the internal disputes that can erupt in the world of diplomacy--specifically, the spats between Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's national security adviser, and Cyrus R. Vance, Carter's first secretary of state.

"In Anthony Lake I am choosing a creative thinker with the courage to stand by his convictions in a moment of crisis. He was the voice of reason and rationality amid the flurry of our presidential campaign, an individual whose advice I came to rely on and respect," Clinton said.

Lake, who studied at Cambridge University in England after his undergraduate days at Harvard and later received a doctorate from Princeton University, was a young foreign service officer in Vietnam. He eventually quit in protest over the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970. During those years, he rose from special assistant to U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge to become a well-placed aide to Henry A. Kissinger, when Kissinger held the same post under President Richard M. Nixon that Lake is about to assume.

"Tony came out of a tradition of what we call corridor image: It didn't matter how good you were, as long as you looked like a future ambassador. Tony's corridor image from the beginning was as a comer, but he was also very good," said Roger Morris, a Nixon biographer who served with Lake on Kissinger's staff.

"His family was an offshoot of the Eastern foreign policy Establishment. He went to Harvard. He played squash. He married a woman of means," Morris said.

"Tony was on the fast track from the very beginning. That draws a lot of resentment from other foreign service officers. But he was able to blunt a lot of the resentment because he was a very gentle and soft-spoken soul," Morris said.

If he brings but one talent in particular to the job, it is that of a moderator. That is a key requirement for the senior official responsible for bringing together often disparate views and presenting them to the President.

The most effective national security advisers have been those who, like successful White House chiefs of staff, do not come to the job with their own agendas. Those with whom Lake has worked say that he easily adapts to the policies of his superiors. "If you're the boss, he'll find a way to do what you want. He's a bureaucratic barracuda," said one former colleague from the Carter State Department.

On the other hand, said former Undersecretary of State David Newsom, another Carter aide who is now a professor at the University of Virginia, "Tony has a fantastic capacity for getting people together and getting agreement on a piece of paper. This may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but in government it is."

Until his service as a foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign, Lake had been doing little of that in recent years.

"He claims to be a real farmer," Clinton said. It was a lighthearted jest at Lake's assertion that farming is his occupation. But Lake's tortoise shell eyeglasses give him the look of a New England academic--he is a professor of international relations at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.--rather than the look of a working farmer.

"I'm better at foreign policy than farming, but I like farming better," he told an interviewer from the Hampshire Daily Gazette, a local newspaper, last month. The interviewer had found him in coveralls and boots cleaning the machinery he uses on his 140-acre cattle farm in Worthington, Mass.

Times staff writer Doyle McManus contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World