Fred Hiatt: Condi's Servant
The Washington Post’s Op-Ed page editor Fred Hiatt, who was a war cheerleader and has been a Bush bootlicker since Day One, is one of the few remaining people who are bamboozled by Condi Rice. And frankly, given her lack of accomplishment and flawed view of the Middle East, it is downright embarrassing:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice obviously thinks that former secretary of state James Baker just doesn't get how the Mideast has changed since he last plied the peacemaking shuttle 15 years ago.
That's one thing that becomes clear when you listen to her talk for any length of time, as she did during a visit to The Post last week. Of course she makes it clear in characteristic Rice fashion: polite, correct, not personal -- but also forceful and eloquent and unmistakable.
Obviously poor Fred has been sniffing Condi’s boots on her shoe shopping trips. But at least he is now questioning her and Bush’s continuing rejection of the Baker/Hamilton recommendations.
Rice is determined to see "real advantages for the United States" in the mess of today's Mideast -- a "new and much more favorable strategic context in the Middle East," she said at one point. But is she seeing something that Baker and Hamilton missed -- or something that isn't there?
The administration's credibility for such visions is near zero, and justifiably so, given its record of wishful thinking. Rice noted that administration insiders had debated before the war whether it would be "good enough to overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with a strongman," and had decided emphatically no, and had understood even then that the democracy-building alternative would be difficult.
But then why did they not share that with the public? And why did they fail so abjectly and repeatedly to prepare for the difficulties? Why, even now, does the president seem to be re-creating the conditions for the infighting that plagued his first term, hiring a defense secretary who seems much closer to Baker than to Rice in his view of the world?
So poor Fred now feels misled?
You can't help but be impressed as you listen to Rice discourse on how the region has changed and why the old approaches won't work. You feel less certain, when she's finished, that she or her boss have come up with any alternatives that will.
It’s too bad that Hiatt continues to be impressed by Rice, and is so willing to swallow style over substance or accomplishment. But then, he’s a Post editor; what do you expect?