Sinking Ship at "State"
The abrupt transfer of John Negroponte from his perch as Director of National Intelligence to the number two spot at the State Department last week certainly had tongues wagging all over Washington. The completely unexpected move strongly hinted at a seriously escalating problem at the State Department - one sufficiently serious that the White House felt desperate enough to take so publiclly visible a step, even if it reflected badly on Secretary of State Condolezza Rice. According to Robert Novak, the hint was correct.
Republicans in Congress, who do not want to be quoted, tell me the State Department under Secretary Condoleezza Rice is a mess. That comes at a time when the U.S. global position is precarious. While attention focuses on Iraq, American diplomacy is being tested worldwide -- in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Korea and Sudan. The judgment by thoughtful Republicans is that Rice has failed to manage that endeavor.Novak's column will come as little surprise to anyone who has watched Ms. Rice's increasingly ridiculous conversations with the press, or noted how she seems to return empty-handed from each trip abroad. It lends credibility to the notion that Ms. Rice attained her position at State by a) telling the president exactly what he wanted to hear; and b) being a black woman who told the president exactly he wanted to hear, which Karl Rove must have counted as a Triple Crown. But much as the president has ruined American foreign policy and severely damaged the military by listening only to his AEI-affiliated "yes men," he has apparently thrown the state department into disarray by leaving an obviously-out-of-her-depth Ms. Rice in charge. The results, it seems, are so bad that emergency action needed to be taken. Fast. Unfortunately, at least two of the reasons that compelled the president to make Ms. Rice Secretary of State in the first place will now constrain him from easing her out the door as quickly as she needs to go. But that is what happens when servile window-dressing is chosen instead of competence. Much the same can be said for many of Mr. Bush's other appointments.
Rice's previous government duties had been as an analyst and staffer rather than as manager. That made it important for her to name a strong deputy secretary to run the building. John Bolton, an under secretary in the first term and an experienced bureaucratic manager, volunteered. Rice instead picked him as ambassador to the United Nations. The conservative Bolton ran afoul of a liberal Senate vendetta, blocking his confirmation for any post.