I have had an interesting exchange with some folks these last several days about the scramble of so many in town for new posts in G.W. Bush’s second term.
Danielle Pletka has not been formally nominated to be a Department of State Assistant Secretary — and a couple of well-informed observers, including Chris Nelson, are saying that it’s not in the cards.
I have checked around town as well and find that the rumor of her appointment is still as strong as before, with people at State and AEI telling me that this job is at least Pletka’s intention.
One friend who is a major news celebrity wrote to me that Pletka would be “an irritable, irritating and annoyingly ideological candidate for this position.” If my posting her likely appointment early helps undo her campaign, then all the better. AEI still needs her.
That brings me to John Bolton, UnderSecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Rumors are rampant — but I have from some very good sources who say that their sources are in fact very good, very well placed, very deep in the gossip circles at State and the White House personnel office — that Bolton is likely to be our next Deputy Secretary of State, taking Dick Armitage‘s spot.
I admit that my own sources for this are not direct ones — but let’s consider this for a moment.
Condi is getting Powell’s job. Laura and George consider Condi family, by their own accounts of her.
Armitage has been fighting for balance within the interagency process for some time — and for that is probably considered disloyal to the President. When I met Richard Perle in France for a debate in October 2002, Perle recounted to Edward Luttwak and me that he couldn’t stand Powell any longer.
He said that the French Ambassador to the U.S. Jean-David Levitte had had a dinner welcoming new French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin at his home — which Perle attended, as did Colin Powell. Perle reported that Powell gave an interminably long and unbelievably obsequious and sycophantic toast in honor of Villepin.
Perle continued by saying that Powell had served his President poorly by getting the President to take what Perle then saw as a disastrous course through the United Nations to get at Saddam Hussein. Perle told us that he believed we would find no weapons of mass destruction. When I asked what he meant — he said that Hussein had hidden the weapons so well or killed or scared those who knew to such an extent that we would never find the WMDs.
I admit to being haunted by Perle’s words these last couple of years. What did he know?
Perle said definitively that we would not find weapons of mass destruction in October 2002.
On stage, we had a principled argument over the now stale issue of whether there was a real connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda — and while walking off the stage, Perle told me that I needed to get off that line and go re-check things with my intelligence sources. He said “go back and check the intelligence.”
I recount this now because Perle’s comments are important — but also because John Bolton and Richard Perle are ideologically identical. I know Perle better than Bolton, but we need other benchmarks to understand Bolton well.
When recently flying back from New York and sitting next to and conversing with German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, I noticed Bolton sitting in the waiting lounge at Reagan National Airport outside the door we had both just exited. I suggested to Ischinger that he better say howdy to Bolton (maybe it will get me another trip to Germany. . .), and he did — all pleasantries.
But as self-effacing and modest as Bolton presented himself at the airport, scratch beneath the surface and you have a guy pretty much ready to go to war with a lot of the world’s thugs — all at the same time. I’ve talked with guys in Bolton’s office and suggested that he reminds me of Curtis LeMay and the “nuke them now and get it over with crowd” in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They didn’t dissuade me from my take on Bolton.
I have one reasonably good acquaintance working for Bolton who happens to be an out, gay man — a sometimes libertarian, but cheerful and smart guy. I won’t mention his name out of respect for him because he apparently got furious when outed by one of the major gay magazines. The funny thing is that this chap has been “out” for years — but perhaps it cost him political capital at the White House.
It does tell me that Bolton worries about national security issues more than he does religious right morality. That’s a good thing. But I think that we need to be very careful moving Bolton up the ladder if he’s going to be Condi’s right hand person.
When it comes to loyalty oaths and tests, what Porter Goss is doing to the CIA will be nothing if Bolton gets the chance to rip apart the senior echelon at State.
He’s been the neocon mole at the State Department for the last several years.
And as a close journalist friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:
Bolton will be dep sec of state. At least its clear now, no doubt and no denying it, that the neocons are in control.
— Steve Clemons