November 17, 2004

Condi vs. Rummy

Some saw the departure of Mr. Powell as the moment for conservatives under the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney to assume an even larger role and seize key sub-cabinet posts.

But Ms. Rice is considered less ideological than many in the administration and more attuned to the president's own thinking.

The question is whether she will arrive at the State Department with an agenda known chiefly to her and the president. According to officials who have heard accounts of the case Mr. Bush made to Ms. Rice, he argued that their strong personal ties would convince allies and hostile nations like Iran and North Korea that she was speaking directly for the president and could make deals in his name.

"This is what Powell could never do," said a former official who is close to Ms. Rice and sat in on many of the White House situation room meetings where policy conflicts arose. "The world may have liked dealing with Colin - we all did - but it was never clear that he was speaking for the president. He knew it and they knew it."

Ms. Rice's brief acceptance speech gave few hints of what course she planned to set if confirmed, as expected. But several officials said that in recent days she has spoken of leaping at the opportunity created by the death of Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and of deciding whether North Korea and Iran could be induced to end their suspected nuclear weapons programs....

But that leaves in place Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, a strong-willed hawk who often clashed with Ms. Rice. Most notably, she took over control of the occupation of Iraq, creating an Iraq Stabilization Group. Her aides had made no secret of her opinion that Mr. Rumsfeld had failed to devote enough planning, attention or resources to making a success of the occupation.

Their relationship worsened after the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, the American run prison west of Baghdad, became publicly known. Ms. Rice, her associates say, had warned Mr. Rumsfeld to pay attention to detention issues, but the defense secretary often sent subordinates to meetings on the subject.

So there is no end of speculation about whether Mr. Rumsfeld will have the kind of relationship with Ms. Rice that he had with Mr. Powell: one of constant bickering. Mr. Rumsfeld tried to tamp that speculation down on Tuesday, telling reporters traveling with him in Quito, Ecuador, "I have known Condi for a good number of years," and adding that "long before this administration, we were friends."

"She is an enormous talent," he said. "She is experienced, very bright, and as we all know, has a terrific relationship with the president, which is a very valuable thing."

But he acknowledged that tensions would inevitably occur, and, he said, "It is the task, the responsibility, the duty of people who are participating in that national security process to make sure that the issues are raised and discussed," a process that he said "has worked very well in this administration."

Ms. Rice's associates said they expected that there would be fewer and less heated arguments in the future, partly because Mr. Rumsfeld would be more wary of Ms. Rice and her relationship with the president.

The task of defusing tensions between the departments will now fall to Mr. Hadley, a skilled lawyer who seeks the middle ground but in the past has been deferential to Mr. Cheney, one of his mentors, and to Mr. Rumsfeld. His loyalties, though, are clearly to Ms. Rice, who installed him as her deputy and entrusted him with a series of the toughest problems facing the administration: North Korea, managing the relationship with Pakistan, and coordinating the plan for Iraq after Saddam Hussein, to name several.

-- Sanger and Weisman writing in the Times.

Bush, perhaps wisely, didn't want to change horses over at the Pentagon in the midst of the Iraq war. But, regardless, Rummy's honeymoon is long over; and Condi's is just starting. She's got Hadley backstopping for her at the NSC--and Bush solidly in her corner. Yeah, bureaucratic blackbelts Cheney and Rummy will still be major players, of course. But don't expect Rummy free-lancing as SecState in Bush II. He will be sticking more to his side of the Potomac River...

P.S. Laura is wrong that there will be no breathing-room as between a Secretary of State Rice and Rummy/Cheney.

Posted by Gregory at November 17, 2004 03:33 AM
Comments

Why is she wrong about that?

Posted by: just me at November 17, 2004 04:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's a simplistic view. Laura's column assumes that Rice has no mind of her own; that Rice is merely a toady for Bush. Basically, it's a partisan screed without the "Kerry/Edwards: Stronger At Home. Respected Abroad" buttons that are a bit anachronistic right about now.

People in Washington have sold Rice short for some time because they assumed that she was supposed to be an advocate like Scowcroft was. That's not what Bush wanted her to be; now that she's at State, and she has immediate access to the President, everyone will know that when they are speaking with Rice, they are speaking with the President.

Hadley's promotion to NSC is a major coup for Rice, btw. Her guy speaks to Bush when she isn't there. Very smart.

This is a woman who doesn't leak, keeps her own counsel, and never forgot that whatever Washington thought, she had a constituency of one. For some reason, such virtues are not well thought of these days.

Posted by: section9 at November 17, 2004 05:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All this talk about bickering and differences between the various cabinet positions is quite overblown.

As a President, I don't want a Secretary of Defense that is trying to think like a Secretary of State, and vice-versa.

In fact, the fact that Rumsfeld is a hawk is rather a refreshing. Imagine that, a Secretary of Defense focused on the disposition of the U.S. military in the world.

Unlike the New York Times' characterization of Dr. Rice as just another plantation negro in the Bush Administration, she is quite capable of holding her own and driving policy.

Posted by: Carl Fenley at November 17, 2004 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Every Account of Powell and Rumsfeld's clashes invariably mentions that Rumsfeld, and to a lesser extent Cheney, are masters of bureacratic infighting. What exactly does this entail? Is this a process of shaping documents that emerge from meetings?

Posted by: dave at November 17, 2004 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a pretty unimportant point--but the constant sneering use of "Rummy" smacks of MoDo. It really does not become the Dispatch.

Posted by: Sage at November 17, 2004 04:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am willing to grant Rice the benefit of the doubt. The eventual manifestations of proof, one way or another, are not too far off. That being said, if I had to bet on the nature of her tenure at State, I would side with Laura's take. It is not a partisan screed to report on what was the well documented legacy of Rice's role at NSC.

Did Rice ever disagree with Cheney/Rumsfeld before? If so, what success can she point to for her advocacy and independence?

Maybe, as section9 suggests, that is what Bush wanted, and now she will feel freer to put her imprint on policy, regardless, and in the face of, the objections of Cheney/Rumsfeld. But there is also the possibility that Rice pays too much attention to what Bush wants to hear, and is too quick to acquiesce to the seniority of Cheney/Rumsfeld. And maybe that does not establish the right process for the generation of the wisest policy.

Again, that is not a partisan screed. It is actually partisan blinders that would lead one to dismiss all concerns about Rice a priori. Some skepticism is warranted.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 17, 2004 05:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One more thought:

Pointing out that world leaders will know that Rice speaks for the president does not undermine what Laura Rozen or any other critic has said, at least in terms of Rice's ability to advocate for policy.

Everyone agrees that Rice will be speaking for Bush. The question is, will she be able to convince Bush about certain policy choices if and when Cheney and Rumsfeld oppose her? Some say she is not up to the task, and others say she is more comfortable parroting the party line rather than forming it.

The opposing positiob is that she is going to be a strong advocate for an alternate view to Cheney/Rumsfeld, at least on some issues, and that as such she will be able to sway Bush in ways Powell could not. Again, I am in the familiar position of hoping that this view (which Greg seems to espouse) is the correct one, but fearing that it is not. I look forward to being proven wrong.

But no one doubts that when Bush decides, she will be speaking for him, and that world leaders will know this.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 17, 2004 05:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The question is, will she be able to convince Bush about certain policy choices if and when Cheney and Rumsfeld oppose her? Some say she is not up to the task, and others say she is more comfortable parroting the party line rather than forming it.

Condoleeza Rice sounds like she is towing the line of the Bush Doctrine because she wrote the damned thing! It is only called the "Bush Doctrine" because he happens to be the President, but make no mistake about it, the majority of the National Security Strategy of the United States of America was written by Dr. Condoleeza Rice.

It is completely ignorant to think the President huddled with Cheney and Rumsfled, then dictated the NSS to the National Security Advisor. It was the other way around. Dr. Rice came up with an NSS that President Bush approved, then she proceeded to impose it on Rumsfeld and Powell.

She runs the National Security Council, which drives a lot of the foreign policy decisions for the Whitehouse.

Mark my words, she is neither a wilting flower nor a mouthpiece for Bush policies. The opposite is probably closer to the truth.

Posted by: Carl Fenley at November 17, 2004 05:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Am I the only one who finds the Sanger article incoherent?

Notably the conflict between these two sentences:

"Most notably, she took over control of the occupation of Iraq, creating an Iraq Stabilization Group ... Ms. Rice, her associates say, had warned Mr. Rumsfeld to pay attention to detention issues, but the defense secretary often sent subordinates to meetings on the subject."

So who was in charge, eh?

Posted by: praktike at November 17, 2004 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One plus for having Condi at State is that it will theoretically make diplomatic solutions more favored, given State's institutional role and Condi's closeness to the prez. The downside is that she's incompetent.

Posted by: praktike at November 17, 2004 05:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It is completely ignorant to think the President huddled with Cheney and Rumsfled, then dictated the NSS to the National Security Advisor. It was the other way around. Dr. Rice came up with an NSS that President Bush approved, then she proceeded to impose it on Rumsfeld and Powell."

Carl, that is one take. That is not the only possibility however. There is much evidence, such as that which praktike pointed to, which suggests that Rice was not the driving force behind Bush administration policy. To suggest that she authored it on her own, then presented it to Bush for a rubber stamp, then proceeded to force it on Rumsfeld and Cheney is at the very least debatable - if not over-reaching in its scope. I am not sure from where you derive such certainty, but I think there is cause for some degree of skepticism.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 17, 2004 06:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One more thought:

By your standard, it would be logical to conclude that Condi won every showdown with Rummy/Cheney since she was the author of the policy, and the president's closest advisor, and she "imposed" her plan on the others. Is that what you are suggesting?

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 17, 2004 06:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

By your standard, it would be logical to conclude that Condi won every showdown with Rummy/Cheney since she was the author of the policy, and the president's closest advisor, and she "imposed" her plan on the others. Is that what you are suggesting?

Of course not. For example, Dr. Rice lost the battle over George Tenet; I don't believe she would've fired him, but Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had been wanting him out from the first day of the administration.

However, unlike the Clinton Administration's NSS, which was entirely ambiguous fluff, Condoleeza Rice's NSS is a powerful document. It was her desire to reshape the Cold War foreign policy into the progressive policy of the Millenium Challenge Account, and Powell has been executing that change at the state level in places like Eritrea, Angola, and South America.

Cheney clearly has the most influence when it comes to Homeland Security and likewise Rumsfeld when specifically dealing with military disposition in foreign policy, but Rice certainly has a larger impact on general direction and approach to foreign policy than either of the two.

I think the big misconception here is that she is some kind of dove being drowned out by the screeching of the hawks. Nothing could be further from the truth. She is not known as the Warrior Princess for nothing.

Posted by: Carl Fenley at November 17, 2004 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Carl,

Point taken, but I never assumed that Condi was a dove. Far from it. I still am not as certain as you that she has more say on the general direction and approach to foreign policy than Rummy or Cheney. From what I have seen, that is not the dynamic I would describe - regardless of the NSS or her hawkish tendencies.

In either instance, we will soon see.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 17, 2004 08:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My only question is what leads people to believe Rummy and Cheney are steering foreign policy, rather than Rice? I just don't see ANY evidence of that at all.

In any event, you're correct; we're going to find out soon enough. Personally, I believe Dr. Rice is more qualified to be Secretary of State than Colin Powell was when he began the first term.

Posted by: Carl Fenley at November 17, 2004 10:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow.

That has simply got to be the most unconvincing argument I've heard in a long time. " PS. Laura is wrong..."

I half expected to see "Well, because I say so". Greg is losing it.

Posted by: Mark Lupida at November 18, 2004 06:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Incidentally, I think the argument about whether Rice will stand up to Rummy is extraordinarily besides the point. The first term went so badly wrong because all of them, with the exception of Powell and Armitage, fell for the now infamous "groupthink". There is great danger in not giving contrarian view points a fair hearing. With the only repository of sanity gone from this administration, I'd be more concerned about the sort of advice Rice gives the President, since she obviously wields such influence over him.

Whether she and Rummy squabble over whether to send 150,000 troops or 145,000 troops on the President's next adventure is not important to me. I hope there's someone there who'll question the need for the adventure in the first place. Heaven help us all through the next 4 years.

Posted by: Mark Lupida at November 18, 2004 06:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid. Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)

Posted by: consolidate loan student at November 21, 2004 11:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dr. Rice suffers from the Peter Principle. The signal tendency of her career is that her powers are over-estimated. She is a follower and it has served her well. But in the final analysis she will be seen as an ineffectual loyalist, a.k.a. a "yes man", and little more.

First, the Iraq Stabilization Group was a completely ineffectual PR move. The ISG was a failure by every measure demonstrating yet again that Dr. Rice is not a strong administartor. At the same time, insofar as the ISG was a PR ploy, her willingness to accept an empty portfolio speaks to her main strength--loyalty and humility.

Second, Dr. Rice did not conceive or draft the NSS a.k.a. the "Bush Doctrine". The core of the document was drafted in 1992 by Wolfowitz when he served under SecDef Cheney in Bush I. Yet another indication that the good doctor failed to counter the Cheney/Rumsfeld neocon push with her Powell doctrine/realist views.

She's a nice lady who plays the piano well (though my guess is her strength is technical and not expressive), dreams of being Mrs. Bush, and is NOT going to be an effective SecState. And she certainly won't be President though based on her track record she may one day be some fools running mate.

Here's hoping.

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