Gary Hart with Donna Rice in 1987. The scandal over their affair changed the way the press covers politics. (National Enquirer via Getty Images)

(This post has been updated.)

Word at the State Department is that former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.), best known for having his 1988 presidential campaign blow up over an affair with the lovely Donna Rice on a boat called “Monkey Business,” is in line to be named to an envoy  or point man position for Northern Ireland.

Hart has been largely out of sight, practicing law in Denver, since the affair and ensuing nomination of former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, who was trounced by George H.W. Bush in the general election. He has, however, been involved in some bipartisan commissions, including a major one on national security.

But he’s been much in the news of late as the centerpiece of a book, “All the Truth is Out,” and magazine piece by former New York Times chief political correspondent Matt Bai. Bai concludes that the 1987 scandal changed the way the press covers politics, with the media now focusing far more on personal peccadilloes than serious policy. 

Hart’s assignment apparently would mirror  to some degree one held by foreign policy heavyweights such as former Senate majority leader George Mitchell and, after that, by former diplomat Richard Haass, who is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Most Americans probably think that everything’s reasonably okay in Northern Ireland after the Troubles — a period of violence from the late ’60s to the late ’90s between those favoring union with Ireland and those wishing to remain part of the United Kingdom. The violence claimed more than 3,500 lives.

But Haass, speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March, insisted that’s not the case.

“If you walk down parts of Belfast, you are still confronted by concrete barriers separating communities,” he said. “Some 90% of the young people still go to divided, single-tradition schools; neighborhoods are still divided.” Haass said that “kind of environment,” without further political progress, was troubling and that “violence, I fear, could very well reemerge as a characteristic of daily life.”

Hart and Secretary of State John Kerry, who considers Hart a mentor, have been pals for about 40 years. Kerry asked him to be the first chairman of a national security think tank he created in 2005.

The precise job title and contours are being ironed out, but Hart, now 77, will be working a difficult portfolio. (Of course, he could have taken on the much more vexing Cyprus envoy assignment, to reunite the Turkish and Greek sections of the island, separated since 1974.)