Dennis B. Ross, a veteran U.S. diplomat "who served as the director for policy planning in the U.S. Department of State under President George H. W. Bush and special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton," recently granted an interview with Haaretz.com correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya and discussed why he's campaigning in Florida and elsewhere for American Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama and why he agreed to serve as his senior Middle East policy adviser, among other things. Consider this:
Why and when did you decide to take on an active role in this campaign?
"I decided to take an active part in the campaign because I feel the stakes are so high. I looked at us, especially in the Middle East, and I think we've been on the sidelines everywhere except [in] Iraq. And when the U.S. is on the sidelines, U.S. interests suffer and I think Israel's interests suffer, too. I felt that I just didn't have the luxury of remaining on the sidelines and sitting this one out."
Some of America's image problems didn't start with the Bush administration. Is it possible to repair the damage?
"One of the problems of the last eight years is that too often we've staked out objectives that we could not achieve. The rest of the world watches and looks for several things. The first is whether we are effective in terms of what we do. Secondly they have to see that we don't just lecture, we also listen."
Ross also discussed his views in a September 11, 2008, appearance in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. He explains in this 27- minute video why he supports Mr. Obama and agreed to serve as his senior adviser on Middle East affairs.
Can you define what constitutes an American interest right now?
"I think our interest at this point around the world is [that] we do have to contend with the radicalists, they do constitute a serious threat to us. But I think we have to realize who our natural partners are and how we can work with both them and our allies so we, in a sense, build our collective leverage against those who constitute threats to us. It's very clear that we have to restore our economic well-being, because you can't be strong internationally if you're not strong at home, and if you're not strong financially."
Is it about the stakes, or Obama's personality and policies?
"It's a combination. First, the stakes were so high, and I think he's also a unique talent. I've sat in on probably 100 meetings with our presidents - those I've worked for and their counterparts. I know what it takes to be an effective, good leader. I saw Senator Obama at work in meetings with leaders. His manner of operation shows me unquestionably that he's someone who grasps issues in their detail, but also strategically, and he understands how to deal with leaders in an effective way, from the standpoint of promoting America's interests and needs. It's a combination of the stakes but also of seeing in Senator Obama a transformational figure at a time when I think the United States needs a transformational figure."
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell also views Mr. Obama as a transformational figure. In fact, that's one of the reasons he gave for not endorsing Republican Presidential Candidate John S. McCain.