' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Jewish World Review April 29, 2003 / 27 Nisan, 5763

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Shooting the messenger

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Official Washington is notorious for its tendency to respond to unwelcome performance assessments by "shooting the messenger." The reaction to Newt Gingrich's recent, scathing critique of the State Department's conduct of diplomacy in recent months, however, seems closer to the gruesome punishment of "drawing and quartering" -- in which the victim's arms and legs were chained to, and then pulled apart by, four horses.

After the former House Speaker charged last week that the State Department has been responsible for "six months of diplomatic failure" and is engaging in "a deliberate and systematic effort to undermine the President's policies," the most decorous of public repudiations came from the White House and departmental press spokesmen, who insisted that the folks in Foggy Bottom are faithfully following the President's direction.

Two of Mr. Gingrich's former colleagues, former Representatives Jack Kemp and Vin Webber, also roled in, with Mr. Kemp charging that "Although he aimed at the State Department and Powell's trip to Syria, [Gingrich] did enormous collateral damage to President George W. Bush both diplomatically and politically. Ugh!" Presidential political advisor Karl Rove is said to have privately chewed Newt out and the Speaker has, regrettably, declined further public comment ever since.

The most outrageous responses, though, have come from officials appointed by President Bush to top positions in the Department of State. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage declared that the erstwhile Speaker of the House of Representatives was "off his meds and out of therapy." Not to be outdone, Amb. Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs told a Portuguese newspaper that what Gingrich said is "garbage....What Gingrich says does not interest me. He is an idiot and you can publish that."

Clearly, Mr. Gingrich has struck a nerve. The vitriol being heaped on him suggests more is in play than mere concern his critique reflects badly on Secretary of State Colin Powell and even President Bush -- not just career diplomats like Ms. Jones and her colleagues in the notoriously Arabist Near East and South Asian Affairs bureau.

The truly offensive ad hominem attacks being mounted on the record by Bush appointees in the State Department calls to mind the combat aviators' expression that "If you are not taking anti-aircraft fire, you are not over the target."

In fact, Newt Gingrich is right on target. It is the worst kept secret in this town -- or, for that matter, around the world -- that Colin Powell's State Department profoundly disagrees with President Bush and the rest of his national security team on most important policy matters. For many, both in foreign capitals, among the media elite and in Bush-hostile political circles, this is widely regarded as a very good thing.

The depth of this anti-Bush sentiment was captured in a letter to the editor published in Monday's Washington Post: "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is one of the few voices of reason in this administration, one of the nation's most respected civil servants, a man of impeccable morals and judgment, someone who brings legitimacy to the White House, who has saved that same White House from political disaster on numerous occasions and without whom this administration would be in even more trouble diplomatically than it already is. Thank God the State Department does not agree with the White House and its controversial foreign policy....Thank G-d for the checks and balances built into our democratic system."

The idea that a President's policies would be stymied not by opponents in the legislative branch or by due process in an independent judiciary but by career bureaucrats nominally working for him in the executive branch was surely not what the Framers had in mind. Yet this notion animates many in the Foreign Service whose almost caste-like view of their profession encourages their contempt for political masters with whom they disagree and, not infrequently, their rank insubordination.

An example where such behavior can have potentially serious repercussions was reported last Friday by the Reuters news service: On March 31st, two unnamed State Department officials were told by North Korean counterparts in a meeting at the UN that Pyongyang had begun to reprocess spent fuel rods, a step that would provide materials for a number of nuclear weapons. Reuters' revelation was news to others involved in highly contentious Bush Administration decision-making about U.S. policy toward the North. According to Sunday's Washington Post, "Some elements of the State Department purposely did not report the claim to senior officials in the Defense Department and the National Security Council in order to avoid rupturing the Beijing talks before they began."

Now, the folks in Foggy Bottom know that President Bush deeply, and properly, distrusts the North Korean regime. He has, as a result, been leery of State Department-promoted efforts to engage in yet-another fraudulent "peace process" that would legitimate the despotic Kim Jong-Il and likely allow him to become still more dangerous.

As with other misconduct noted by Speaker Gingrich, Mr. Bush may be embarrassed to discover that what is nominally his Department of State has been playing fast and loose with the facts so as to embroil him in precisely the sort of diplomacy that has not worked in the past vis--vis the North Koreans -- and that Newt has correctly pointed out is being no better managed by State on the East River or in the Middle East. The President and those truly loyal to him must recognize, however, that the political costs of recognizing the validity of the messenger's message today are sure to be far less than those that will come of ignoring it.

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/15/03: Who's next?
04/08/03: Winning the peace
03/05/03: A friend in need
02/25/03: The plot thickens
02/18/03: Who's 'with' President Bush?
02/11/03: Islamists' White House gatekeeper
02/04/03: The Powell report
01/28/03: Bush's finest hour
01/14/03: North Korean scorecard
01/07/03: Nuclear meltdown
12/17/02: Serious about defending America
12/03/02: Defining 'regime change'
11/26/02: With friends like the Saudis...
11/19/02: The Jayna Davis files
11/12/02: Could Israel die of thirst?
11/04/02: Against us
10/22/02: Too clever by half?
10/17/02: 'Drain the swamps'
10/08/02: The temptations of George Bush
10/01/02: Return of the San Francisco Dems
09/24/02: The next crusader?
09/17/02: It is no accident that advocates of coercive inspections have opposed prez's goal of regime change
09/10/02: A model for Iraq
08/27/02: Beware 'consensus leadership'
08/20/02: To Iraq or not to Iraq?
08/13/02: Trading with the 'enemy'
07/30/02: Who's trashing Ashcroft?
07/23/02: Wall Street's 'poisoned apples'
07/16/02: Back on the China front
07/09/02: See no evil?
07/02/02: Rethinking peacekeeping
06/25/02: Political moment of truth on defense
06/19/02: Inviting losses on two fronts
06/12/02: Make missile defense happen
06/04/02: The next 'Day of Infamy'?
05/29/02: Bush's Russian gamble
05/21/02: The 'next war'
05/15/02: Ex-presidential misconduct
05/07/02: When 'what if' is no game
05/02/02: Careful what we wish for
04/24/02: The real 'root cause' of terror
04/02/02: First principles in the Mideast
03/26/02: 'Renounce this map'
03/20/02: The inconvenient ally
03/12/02: Adults address the 'unthinkable'
03/05/02: The Saudi scam
02/26/02: Rumsfeld's 'now hear this'
02/19/02: Where's the outrage?
02/12/02: Post-mortem on 'Pearl Harbor II'
02/05/02: Spinning on the 'Evil Axis'
01/29/02: A challenge for the history books
01/22/02: Who pulled the plug on the Chinese 'bugs'?
01/15/02: No 'need to know'
01/08/02: Sentenced to de-nuclearize?
12/18/01: Missile defense mismanagement?
12/11/01: Is the Cold War 'over'?
12/04/01: A moment for truth
11/29/01: Send in the marines -- with the planes they need
11/27/01: 'Now Hear This': Does the President Mean What He Says?
11/20/01: Mideast 'vision thing'
11/13/01: The leitmotif of the next three days
11/06/01: Bush's Reykjavik Moment
10/30/01: Say it ain't true, 'W.
10/23/01: Getting history, and the future, right
10/16/01: Farewell to arms control
10/05/01: A time to choose
09/25/01: Don't drink the 'lemonade'
09/11/01: Sudan envoy an exercise in futility?
09/05/01: Strategy of a thousand cuts
08/28/01: Rummy's back
08/21/01: Prepare for 'two wars'
08/14/01: Why does the Bush Administration make a moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israel's restrained defensive responses?
08/07/01: A New bipartisanship in security policy?
07/31/01: Don't go there
07/17/01: The 'end of the beginning'
07/10/01: Testing President Bush
07/03/01: Market transparency works
06/27/01: Which Bush will it be on missile defense?
06/19/01: Don't politicize military matters
06/05/01: It's called leadership
06/05/01: With friends like these ...
05/31/01: Which way on missile defense?
05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
05/15/01: A tale of two Horatios
05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.