March 15, 2005


From The Note:

....Now, per ABC News' Jon Karl:
Condoleezza Rice sure tried to close the door on running for President yesterday (Will somebody please ask her about vice president?), but today she'll announce a couple of high-powered hires that make it clear the State Department is becoming the kind of power center it hasn't been since the days of James Baker . . . or maybe even Henry K.

ABC News has learned that at about noon ET today, Rice will appear in the ornate Benjamin Franklin room with Karen Hughes. The President's most trusted advisor is running back to Washington not to rescue his Social Security plan, but to do something about America's image in the world (and maybe buff up Rice's image in the process).

Once confirmed, Ambassador Hughes' title will be Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. And she's got some high-powered help: White House personnel diva Dina Powell will be Hughes' deputy and the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Egyptian-born Powell is just 31, but she's the highest-ranking Middle Eastern woman in the Administration and she speaks Arabic. When she wasn't helping the President pick his cabinet secretaries, Powell often traveled to the Middle East as a White House emissary on reform and women's rights in the Arab world.

With Rice, Hughes, and Powell all at the State Department, the women who were closest to the President over the past four years (besides the First Lady, of course) will all be going to work at Foggy Bottom. Throw Liz Cheney into the mix (she started as an Assistant Secretary of State two weeks ago) and you have some real VP firepower over there as well.

Karl can keep the Social Security portfolio. Maybe, just maybe, the women are on to something. Could this President's best chance for a history-making second-term accomplishment be in the Middle East, not on Capitol Hill?

The Hughes announcement comes as a shock to almost everybody outside of Rice's inner circle. "They're really serious about this," says a senior State official who worked for Secretary Powell and now works for Rice. "The State Department will be a locus of power that it never was under Colin Powell."....

Liz Cheney too? Splendiferous! This may cause a few of those people who claim Bush is "not interested in diplomacy" to choke on their croutons. And for those who have complained that Bush is doing nothing to clean up the mess that is the State Department, well, it's happening. I rather think it's happening. And I will modestly refrain from saying "I told you so" just because I have several times told you that standing firm in Iraq was going to yield big diplomatic payoffs, and in fact was intended to do just that, and not to start a series of wars.

Rice's image needs no "buffing up" of course, but reporters have to say something snarky.

Posted by John Weidner at March 15, 2005 1:32 PM
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