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The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The Other Shoes Drop


January 5, 2007

Yesterday I wondered what was going on with the reports that Negroponte was leaving the DNI post to take over as Deputy SecState. Well, I awoke to NPR reporting that this is part of a much larger reshuffling of Bush’s Iraq team–and yes, you really do need a program to keep up with who is going where.

Negroponte out at DNI, in as Deputy SecState, to handle Iraq issues
Mike McConnell to be nominated to be DNI
Khalilzad out as Ambassador to Iraq, in as UN Ambassador
Ryan Crocker to be nominated as new Ambassador to Iraq
Gen. Casey out as commander of troops in Iraq
Gen. David Petraeus in as commander of us troops in Iraq
Gen. Abizaid out as CENTCOM, Adm. William Fallon (from PACOM) in as CENTCOM
Harriet Miers out as White House counsel
And, lets not forget Rumsfeld out and Gates in as SecDef.

With the President set to announce a new Iraq policy this week, the Post reports that:

President Bush is overhauling his top diplomatic and military team in Iraq, as the White House scrambles to complete its new war policy package in time for the president to unveil it in a speech to the nation next week, officials said….

The White House declined to comment yesterday on its personnel moves, but a senior administration official said the changes are a precursor to revamping policy. “It is appropriate to have the people in place as soon as possible to implement the new policy,” said the official, who declined to be identified because the president has not made his announcement.

Or, as the NYT reported it:

“The idea is to put the whole new team in at roughly the same time, and send some clear messages that we are trying a new approach,” a senior administration official said Thursday.

Beyond a “fresh start,” the Administration also seems to be gearing up for a more substantial fight with the new Democratic Congress on issues across the board. The WP quotes:

Republican advisers have been telling the White House to be ready for war, and many cited Miers as the wrong general. “The White House knew they needed to get a tough street fighter — that’s what this is about,” said one such adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve access to the White House.

As in the Congress will be issuing a lot of subpoenas and the Administration will need a better staff to deal with them.

Already, we’re hearing a much tougher Congressional response to the personnel changes:

Top Congressional officials responded angrily to the news of Mr. Negroponte’s departure.

“I think he walked off the job, and I don’t like it,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Now, I don’t see Senate Democrats blocking any of these moves (and all need confirmation, with the exception of the new WH Counsel), but I do see them asking a lot harder, deeper, more difficult questions and extracting a few promises in return for votes.

I also think that these moves signal the last act of the Bush Administration. Its rare, very rare, for senior officials to stay in any one job for a full 8 years. Usually the turn-over comes at the mid-point (and we saw it here, ie Powell out and Rice in), and in the final years, as the President becomes more of a lame-duck policy wise, turning to administrators and career folks to run things instead of the political policy drivers of the first years of the Administration.

When its all said and done, Bush will be remembered for two things– Sept 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq. This is his last chance to have any impact on how those two policies / narratives / events play out, and we’re seeing his big push to get both turned in a more positive direction with new people and maybe a slightly new policy direction.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.