Wednesday, November 24, 2004
PART III: FIRST OFFICER
Throughout the campaign year of 2004, President George W. Bush always believed that his turnout operation and the basic themes of his campaign (prosperity at home and victory abroad) would carry him to victory. It did; Bush won the greatest number of votes cast for any President in history, over 61 million (for his part, Senator John F. Kerry didn't do bad either; he outpaced Al Gore's 2000 totals by several million votes in a losing effort). So the President could not be blamed if he took charge and started taking firm control of the Government-something that had eluded him in his first term.
Bush's first move occured before his election victory. The Central Intelligence Agency had been leaking to journalists all year, each leak was designed to undermine President Bush and help to elect his opponent, Senator Kerry. However, what occured was a strange paradox. The 9/11 Commission Report and the Senate Intelligence Committee's reporting left no doubt that the CIA was primarily responsible for failing to anticipate the 2001 attacks and for providing horribly innacurate information to the President in the runup to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. While the Mainstream Media attempted to spin these stories as Bush disasters, in point of fact, it was George Tenet who resigned. Bush almost immediately nominated Porter Goss to replace Tenet. Goss began to purge the Agency of leakers after the Election, but his appointment alone was an indication that Bush was going to govern with a firm hand if he was reelected.
Condoleezza Rice's appointment to State is a similar move. The Department has been in opposition to the President's policies ever since the election in 2000. State was another outfit that leaked like a sieve. Powell was a good administrator, and much-loved within the Department, but if the President was going to insure that everyone was moving in the same direction, he had to gain more control over State. Rice was his choice to do that.
Here's the great thing for Rice: this happens at the point at which State becomes a more important Department than the Pentagon. Post-campaign Iraq is becoming more and more a State Department operation as the President is compelled to amass foreign support for the Allawi Government in Baghdad and the January 30th elections. The present military campaign serves the political end, and not the other way around. The gains made in the Middle East on the ground need political consolidation, and it will be Condoleezza Rice's brief to do so. Had she gone to the Pentagon as she originally wanted, her role would have been on the downside within the Administration. As it stands, her department will be taking the lead in implementing and developing policy. The Pentagon's responsibility is for the execution of policy by armed force, and is organically incapable of, say, brokering a solution to the Palestinian quandary. She is well on her way to becoming this Administration's First Officer, as martial impulses will be ruthlessly subordinated to political aims.
I would also argue that two other events are leading to an increase in Rice's influence and in the relative strength of State relative to the Pentagon. The influence of Donald Rumsfeld is declining, as it is understood that he will be leaving next year, once the Iraqi elections have taken place. I would argue, similarly, that the power of Dick Cheney will also begin to decline, as the need for the President to protect his base has declined with the latter's reelection. As she begins to take control of the Department, and develop policy solutions for the President, Rice's relative influence will increase. As she will be the only cabinet officer with immediate access to the President, she will remain as the President's most influential advisor. This can only help the Department and the morale of the Foreign Service.
In our final post on Condi Rice, we'll deal with her prospective approaches to the great questions of the day: Europe, the Palestinian Question, the Grand War on Terror, Russia's new Authoritarianism, and the rise of Chinese power.