Putsch Aimed at Powell?
Posted by Mary
Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Colin Powell would not serve as Secretary of State for Bush's second term. The story was a bit strange since it was reported that Richard Armitage had told Condi Rice about this decision somewhat casually. Included in the story was a lot of speculation about who would replace Powell in that role, with Rice being the person considered the most likely to be that replacement. A few hours later, Powell denied the story and said he was definitely not planning to leave.
“It’s nonsense,” Powell said. “I don’t know what they are talking about.
“I serve at the pleasure of the president. The president and I have not discussed anything other than my continuing to do my job for him, and this is just one of those stories that emerge in Washington that reflects nothing more than gossip, and the gossip leads to a rash of speculation about who might fill a vacancy that does not exist,” he said.
So who started the rumor and why? Was it really someone in the media that was already bored even though August has just started as it had been implied? Or was it someone else who expects to gain something more than just amusement from this "joke"?
After reading the WaPo story and the denial, my suspicion was that it sounded like something Newt Gingrich would orchestrate.
Today, it appears that my suspicion was more valid than I might have thought. In tomorrow's NY Times, Maureen Dowd reports that this was some neocon mischief. Well, I still think that Newt Gingrich is the specific neocon that dreamed up this mischief.
Let's review Newt Gingrich's war on the State Department.
In April, Newt Gingrich delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute where he challenged the Bush administration to transform the State Department. Gingrich said that the reason the United States had not gotten allies to help in the war was due to the failures of the diplomats and that if they weren't stopped, they would continue to allow other countries to have too much influence on the US policy.
From President Bush's clear choice between two worlds, the State Department had descended into a murky game in which the players were deceptive and the rules were stacked against the United States.
The State Department communications program failed during these five months to such a degree that 95 percent of the Turkish people opposed the American position. This fit in with a pattern of State Department communications failures as a result of which the South Korean people regarded the United States as more dangerous than North Korea and a vast majority of French and German citizens favored policies that opposed the United States.
... snip ...
Without bold dramatic change at the State Department, the United States will soon find itself on the defensive everywhere except militarily. In the long run that is a very dangerous position for the world's leading democracy to be in. Indeed in the long run that is an unsustainable position.
Then in June, Gingrich wrote an article for the Foreign Policy magazine stating that the policies coming out of the State Department were not sufficiently aligned with Bush's goals and beliefs.
The State Department needs to experience culture shock, a top-to-bottom transformation that will make it a more effective communicator of U.S. values around the world, place it more directly under the control of the president of the United States, and enable it to promote freedom and combat tyranny. Anything less is a disservice to this nation.
... snip ...
Some critics, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Republican Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, have taken me to task for my remarks at the American Enterprise Institute on April 22, 2003, where I argued that the State Department was engaging in a “deliberate and systematic effort” to undermine Bush’s foreign policy. Yet that charge has proved true historically, and additional examples have emerged even since the speech.
It is not too hard to believe that Gingrich's goal is to take over the State Department and to clean house of all those career diplomats that are not sufficiently toeing the line. In order to do that, Colin Powell has to go. Spreading a rumor that Powell is planning to quit would be a good start to achieving that goal. And Armitage gets paid back for his earlier condemnation of Gingrich's speech.
If anyone was wondering what a second term for Bush would look like, I assert that it would be worse than ever because people like Newt Gingrich would have even more power. During the lead up to the war, there were several prominent diplomats that resigned in protest. But I suspect that there are still a large number of people working in the State Department that would be forced out under a Gingrich rule and a true totalitarian style of diplomacy would be the legacy.
BTW: I think that reporting that Condi Rice was the obvious choice was also a calculated move to remove her from those who would be considered for that post. She is already under a lot of scrutiny and this would be just the type of thing to make her totally unacceptable for that role.
It seems appropriate to point out that the National Review felt Gingrich was badly maligned after that April speech because the "media" reported it like it was an attack on Colin Powell rather than an important observation that should be considered seriously. Now why would anyone think Gingrich was throwing a bomb into the mix?
Addendum: This Gallop Poll shows that the loss of Colin Powell would hurt the Bush administration.