Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Obviously, "Cheney" was a mixup. Sorry.

Well, as I and others had suspected, Powell is not going to be staying in the Bush administration if they get re-elected:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, have signaled to the White House that they intend to step down even if President Bush is reelected, setting the stage for a substantial reshaping of the administration's national security team that has remained unchanged through the September 2001 terrorist attacks, two wars and numerous other crises.

Armitage recently told national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that he and Powell will leave on Jan. 21, 2005, the day after the next presidential inauguration, sources familiar with the conversation said.
Honestly, it would have been more of a surprise if he had decided to stay. Powell had always been a centrist anomaly in this administration... even when he was toeing the line (as was the case during the runup to the Iraq war) he was considered an outsider; he rarely commanded the kind of presidential attention and respect that Rice, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and others. The (no doubt Wurlitzer-inspired) attack on State by Gingrich at AEI and in Foreign Policy made this crystal clear.

This didn't escape the post, either:

The current administration has been characterized by fierce policy disputes, often between Powell and more hawkish members, and a reshuffling likely would significantly change the tenor and character of the foreign policy team.

Although Bush appears to value the range of opinions he has received from his chief national security advisers, he may feel free if he wins a second term to realign his foreign policy more closely to the harder-edged, conservative view exemplified by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser.
Indeed, this will almost certainly be the case; there is little indication that the Bush administration values anything like moderation or plurality in its foreign policy, excepting that which improves their domestic political standing. The second Bush administration, however, will be completely unhampered by re-election considerations, and whatever coattails Bush has or doesn't have in 2006 will likely be due to domestic events that we can't easily predict, rather than his choice of foreign policy. Kos seems to think otherwise, arguing that "Powell is the administration's lone symbol of moderation...[his] perception of moderation is more important than ever." While this may be the case, I don't think moderation in foreign policy would win Bush any votes.

(Even among his supporters, who'd buy that argument?)

On the other hand, it may be, possibly, that Powell isn't leaving because he's being pushed out. Maybe he's seen the writing on the wall, and thinks that Bush is going to crash, hard, if he wins the election in 2004, and will bring down all those who are associated with him. If he majorly goofs foreign policy, or if the domestic situation remains bad (the quite-possible shift from the current economic malaise to heavy inflation or, worse, stagflation would turn Bush radioactive), the neo-cons and the extremist Movementarians would be in serious trouble; the Republicans would need to move moderate, and fast. Powell would then be in an excellent position to claim ground as the spokesman of the "moderate wing" of the Republican party. He could either make a bid for the presidency directly, or sign on as the vice-president on somebody else's ticket.

Indeed, even if the Movementarians manage to muddle through, he might be a useful addition for establishment candidates interested in a running mate with a reputation for moderation. Considering the possibility of some heavy duty Democratic contenders in 2008 (Hillary being the party's worst kept secret, but there are others), I wouldn't be overly surprised if he has this in mind.

In any case, State is likely to become something very different. That worries me, as it has a reputation of being a home for diplomatic understanding relatively free of ideology, and if Gingrich's twaddle about pushing morality is any indication, that's the first thing that's going to go. The sort of ideological filters that inform Administration policy will likely become de rigeur for the State department. While this isn't going to bother the administration or its supporters much, it will help to ensure that there's absolutely no check on Bush's policies, and if even one of those policies is ill-conceived or poorly executed, the results would be catastrophic.

Considering that the only means by which Bush has been able to claim success so far is by redefining terms, that seems almost inevitable.

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