November 20, 2004


Fried Rice: The Bushie who could spoil Condi's dream job. (Fred Kaplan, Nov. 19, 2004, , Slate)

Condoleezza Rice will soon face a crucial test. The outcome will signal whether she might serve her term as secretary of state with at least a modicum of independence and dignity—or whether she'll suffer the frustrations of endless subservience.

The test: Who gets to be her deputy? Colin Powell brought along his own No. 2, Richard Armitage. They'd known each other for years, shared a similar background, thought along the same lines. Anything Armitage did or said, everyone knew it might as well have come from Powell.

The man who wants to be deputy secretary of state in President Bush's second term is John Bolton. His neocon friends are lobbying fiercely on his behalf. During George W. Bush's first term, Bolton was—and still is—the undersecretary of state for arms control. More to the point, he was Vice President Dick Cheney's agent at Foggy Bottom. His function was to monitor, oppose, and, if possible, thwart the moderating tendencies of Powell and Armitage. [...]

Rice may agree with this agenda. She certainly has supported and defended the policy. She came into the White House with leanings more toward Realpolitik picked up from her graduate studies and from her work as assistant to Brent Scowcroft, the Kissinger-influenced national security adviser during Bush 41's presidency. But Rice has said that, over the past four years, she's come to adopt Bush 43's—and thus the neocons'—emphasis on "spreading global freedom."

In short, she may have fewer problems than Powell did with Bolton's views. But no self-respecting secretary of state could abide a deputy with Bolton's methods—especially his flagrant disregard for the chain of command. The problem is that, at least when Powell was in office, this disregard was mandated from on high. Bolton's whole purpose at State was to serve higher authorities—and old associates—in the White House and the Pentagon.

If Rice is to be an active top diplomat, as opposed to an errand girl, she will want her own deputy, someone she knows and trusts, someone who's clearly working for her. With Bolton, she'd have to assume he was always talking, operating, maybe even sniping behind her back.

Mr. Kaplan's test would be brilliantly devious were it not so painfully obvious--Mr. Bolton was the White House's man at State, now that the White House, in the person of Dr. Rice, is taking over State directly the crucial test is whether she keeps Mr. Bolton in a top role or not? Why would she need to fire her own flunkie to show she's her own woman?

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2004 6:11 PM

What they miss about Condi is the same thing they miss about Bush and Blair. They all are theocons--a wonderful term I am indebted to you for, Orrin.

Posted by: Timothy at November 20, 2004 6:20 PM

The State Dept is supposed to be the errand boy for the President. So is the CIA.

Posted by: ray at November 20, 2004 6:48 PM

State, CIA, errand boys, yes-men...

Posted by: at November 20, 2004 7:08 PM

Reporters at Slate should go back to what they do best, licking doorknobs.

Rice and Bush are apparently of one mind. Since anyone appointed to be a deputy at State is appointed by either the President or the Secretary, that deputy will have to be in agreement with Rice and Bush. No back channels are necessary between people of identical ideology who trust each other implicitly as Bush and Rice do.

Fat bastard Armitage is out and that alone is a good thing.

Posted by: Bart at November 20, 2004 7:12 PM

Back when Clinton was appointing like-minded people to his cabinet, I don't remember commentators wondering about "independence and dignity" versus "endless subservience." This just seems a variation of the Republicans-must-be-bipartisan mantra.

Posted by: PapayaSF at November 20, 2004 7:34 PM

PapayaSF --

For example: Every attorney at Justice at a level higher than cofee boy had to submit their resignation to that sleazebag Hubbell. Nobady said Noting.

Posted by: Moe from NC at November 20, 2004 8:52 PM