I am convinced that if Chris Nelson ever took his very-expensive-but-worth-every-penny Nelson Report on line as a blog, all of the rest of us — including the biggies — would be out of business.
I depend on his daily e-mail report, and I am about to potentially incur his friendly wrath by sharing his gaming on what is happening among those folks trying to sign up for spots in Bush’s royal court. (Chris — I owe you a sushi date.)
But let me give a quick Executive Summary of what Josh Marshall has called The Nelson Report‘s “uber-insider” reporting:
1. If Bolton becomes Deputy Secretary of State, it will be seen as a sign that Cheney still has lots of juice in driving foreign policy.
2. Bush likes Rich Armitage and doesn’t apparently blame him personally for working for a guy whom many Bushite feel was disloyal to the President. Nelson says Armitage might be appoint National Intelligence Director.
3. Chris throws out some gossip that there may be a coup underway in North Korea — maybe not, but portraits are missing.
4. Georgetown University’s Victor Cha will get the National Security Council Korea desk job.
5. Michael Green, who has been doing Asia policy at the NSC and whom Georgetown really wants to come on staff, has his promotion as Senior Director for Asia on the NSC and is in a holding pattern to potentially succeed Jim Kelly as Asst. Secretary of State for Asia (Condi likes Michael — I do too for that matter)
6. Democratic Representative Cal Dooley will not take Bob Zoellick‘s job at USTR. Gary Edson and Grant Aldonas are both in contention there.
My views — leadership change is looking more Soviet-like all the time. All of this White House watching reminds me of what grad students would do when watching Brezhnev get succeeded by Andropov and then Chernenko.
Secondly, Georgetown is screwed. They are losing the prolific Victor Cha, not getting the esteemed Michael Green, and have just lost the truly brilliant John Ikenberry to Princeton. Georgetown needs a good Asia person this next year. Luckily, they still have Charles Kupchan who is one of the few genuine foreign policy thinkers in town brave enough to buck the conventional.
Third, Mr. President, please, please, please. . .give the USTR job to Grant Aldonas. He’s smart and genuinely able to work across party lines. Maybe my post will kill his candidacy — but given the multiple personality disorder problem of the Bush administration, people like Aldonas are the type of leaders who can generate and implement this administration’s policy while not destroying the nation’s collective faith in democracy.
Edson is a pretty snarly guy. He’ll probably get the job.
Now here is how Chris Nelson laid it all out — far better than I recounted:
TODAY’S JOBS GOSSIP…Rice/Bolton, Armitage, etc.
SUMMARY: since all Beltway Insiders really think people ARE policy, here’s the latest gossip from sources joyfully playing the game.
In the foreign policy community, TOTAL focus is on whether Undersecretary of State John Bolton can force Secretary-designate Condi Rice to take him as the Deputy, replacing Rich Armitage. Bolton has been working Capitol Hill for support (not the kind of thing the Bush White House likes), and his former AEI colleagues are trying to create the image of a done deal. For example: rumors at State today have Bolton with his own list of new INR staffers, ready to clean house.
Reality check: Rice has made it clear she is aware of, and does not want to endure, the leaks and separate agenda behavior which characterized Bolton’s service to Powell. Outsiders are portraying this as a “test” of whether VP Cheney is the “real” foreign policy boss, or does Condi truly have the mandate from President Bush that Powell never secured.
Some “insiders” argue that to put it that way shows how little one understands the real play in the Bush Administration. For what it’s worth, Rice deputies are telling friends that she is not a neo-con, but a realist in the Scowcroft tradition, from whence she came originally.
And on Armitage, who submitted his resignation yesterday, Administration insiders say don’t be too quick to send in your resume for his new consulting company. Armitage and the President get along just fine, and there are reasons to think that Bush has Armitage in mind for the National Intelligence Director job mandated by the big reform bill now nearing Congressional passage.
The main sticking point on the Hill: will the new Director have budget authority over the intelligence functions of the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and DOD. In Washington, as in any capitol, follow the money; and if you control the budget, you control policy.
Whomever gets the NID job would have to repair the damage done by DOD’s rump intel operation, reconcile the needed CIA reforms with the bloodbath now taking place, stop Homeland Security from spending more per capita in Butte, Montana than Ground Zero in NYC and Washington, and nudge the FBI into something resembling a serious asset, rather than the impediment it is. To have any chance of success, the NID will be someone who can bench press 450 pounds….say, Rich Armitage? Anyhow…stay tuned.
A footnote: If Armitage does return to the private sector, it won’t be to Armitage Associates, his original company, which is still in business, and which will continue under a “no compete” agreement. Probably because of the complicated lobbying rules, there will be a new Armitage company, with a couple of high level associates coming over from State, and 5 or 6 staff types.
North Korea “coup” rumors…this is sort of a “Bush jobs” item…there has been a flurry of internet interest in reports of a possible “coup” against the Dear Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il. The “evidence”…that, with the exception of the Foreign Ministry, his portraits seem to have been removed from their honored place next those of the Great Leader, Poppa, Kim Il-sung. Hummm…European diplos apparently confirm the removals, but sources here point out that this has been going on since the early Fall, so is hardly evidence of something dramatic; they also note Kim’s recent appearance at a military base. Some experts predict that we will soon see an updated portrait of Dear Leader to cover all those open spots on the wall.
White House NSC…the “Korea slot” is to be given soon to Georgetown professor Victor Cha, who finally, after more than a year of security clearance delays, has been cleared. But as we have several times explained, it is not correct to say Cha will “replace” Mike Green. Green has been promoted to Senior Director for Asia, vice Chuck Jones, a detailee who is returning to either DOD or the intel community, depending whom you talk to. Cha will be Director for Asia, with the Korea and perhaps also the Japan portfolio previously handled by Green, hence the confusion. As to informed thinking that Condi Rice will want to bring Green along with her to State, perhaps as the replacement for Asst. Secretary for Asia Jim Kelly…stay tuned.
USTR…last week’s clever “dark horse” candidate, Rep. Cal Dooley (D-Ca.) today took himself rather forcefully out of play with a statement blasting current ag negotiations, and saying he had no interest in the job. Sources still say Bob Zoellick wants to stick around, but that if he doesn’t, look to Commerce Undersecretary Grant Aldonas as a popular, effective choice. The “other” name is Gary Edson, a senior White House economic official who served the Bush 1 USTR, but who, it is safe to say, did not win the love and esteem of the professionals at that time.

Too bad we aren’t talking about Tom DeLay being appointed to something. That would be sign of Congress returning to some sort of ethical balance after capsizing under the weight of his corrupt and thuggish management of the House.
— Steve Clemons