With revelations now out that Vice President Cheney was Scooter Libby’s source for some of the Valerie Plame information, his week — which was already going to be bad — just got a heck of a lot worse.
Former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson just intensified the pressure on Cheney today with his pull-no-punches Los Angeles Times op-ed, “The White House Cabal”
In President Bush’s first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security — including vital decisions about postwar Iraq — were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
When I first discussed this group in a speech last week at the New America Foundation in Washington, my comments caused a significant stir because I had been chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell between 2002 and 2005.
But it’s absolutely true. I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.
Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift Ã¢â‚¬â€ not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and “guardians of the turf.”
But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well.
Wilkerson also slips us nuances about the insider role that Colin Powell played — in graphic language. The importance of these views beyond their rationality and logic, particularly about the way the Bush administration has “flummoxed” the 1947 National Security Act, is that they are also the best bellweather of what Colin Powell and Richard Armitage thought about Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice and Bush.
It takes firm leadership to preside over the bureaucracy. But it also takes a willingness to listen to dissenting opinions. It requires leaders who can analyze, synthesize, ponder and decide.
The administration’s performance during its first four years would have been even worse without Powell’s damage control. At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president’s hand. He told him everything would be all right because he, the secretary of State, would fix it. And he did Ã¢â‚¬â€ everything from a serious crisis with China when a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was struck by a Chinese F-8 fighter jet in April 2001, to the secretary’s constant reassurances to European leaders following the bitter breach in relations over the Iraq war. It wasn’t enough, of course, but it helped.
Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).
It’s a disaster. Given the choice, I’d choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.
That’s right, Lawrence Wilkerson states that Colin Powell went over to the White House to clean up “dog poop” at the White House and to try and fix all those things Condoleezza Rice had gotten wrong.
— Steve Clemons