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April 18, 2006

Using Long Knives on Rice?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

She's had a long honeymoon.  She has websites begging her to run for President.  She has Democrats praying for her health and the New York Times fawning over her chamber playing.  And let's not forget the NFL.

But the hard right has had about enough of Secretary Rice and her diplomacy.

What's my evidence?  Last week, Robert Novak of Valerie Plame fame published a column entitled "Who Runs Our State Department?"

Nominally, the piece is an attack on Under Secretary Nicholas Burns for displaying insufficient hostility to the new UN Human Rights Council.  But it's really much more.  Novak notes that Nick, a well-regarded career foreign service officer, also had senior posts under President Clinton (when both Derek and I worked with him) and says that, if John Kerry were President, "Burns would have the job he has now and would be promoting the same policies."

OK, you think, just typical right-wing disdain for the folks who actually make government run.  But then comes this (emphasis mine):

News accounts did not even mention Burns. He flies below the radar in controlling State Department policy on many issues beyond human rights. Inside the Bush administration, Burns is seen as guiding the nation's course on Iran and Korea. His influence on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is so surprising that critics use the word Svengali.

On its face, this is just silly -- especially the same week that the American Prospect publishes Bob Dreyfuss' dissection of Dick Cheney's national security staff.  Either Dick Cheney controls everything or some career diplomat controls everything... what would you believe?  And does anybody seriously think that Secretary Rice, after four years running the Bush NSC, requires a Svengali?

No.  But somebody -- the same somebodies who talk to Bob Novak about subjects like Valerie Plame, or their unindicted co-conspirator friends -- thinks that things are looking too moderate at the State Department.  So this looks like a first effort at swiping at Rice second-hand -- particularly alarming if seen in the context of the debate over Iran.   


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Burns' hostility towards the UN Human Rights Council is yet again another example of the US Government ignoring said United Nations. The most disturbing (and rarely talked about) example? The White House's complete disregard for the Millennium Goals set by the UN. In 2002, President Bush pledged to raise $5 billion for such an endeavor by 2006. It's April of 2006, and only $3 billion has even been asked for. The Borgen Project ( is doing what it can to get these goals on the White House's radar once again.

For those keeping score at home, I suggest a simple rule of thumb. If State exercises any flexibility in N. Korea/Iran diplomacy -- to gain intl support for pressure or give the target governments a way out -- chalk one up for Rice. If the US negotiating posture is a simple "we're waiting for Pyongyang/Tehran to meet our demands," put it in VPOTUS' column.

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