Friday, April 07, 2006

The 5 Year War Between the White House and the State Department

I've written before about this war, and about how the State Dept. makes constant, ongoing effort to undermine White House goals in the WOT; and about how the White House must fight the State Dept. to get White House directives carried out - even though the State Dept. is part of the Executive Branch, and is subordinate to the White House.

There was an interesting subtext to Samuel Alito's Supreme Court hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, when Senate Democrats, again and again, referenced Alito's belief in a "unitary Executive." This was referenced a dozen times - each time in an ominous tone of voice - before I finally went to the Internet to figure out what the gosh they were talking about. A "unitary Executive" means the President manages and directs the Dept's - such as State and the CIA - which are part of the Executive Branch.

It turns out many have argued, in recent years, that Dept.'s which were created to be part of the Executive should have autonomous power, and should not be subject to Presidential management and direction. The argument is that there can be Congressional oversight; and Presidential appointment and firing of Department directors; but the Department Directors ought not be managed or directed by the President. The importance is that Dept. goals and direction would not be set by the President. Democratic Senators, whose party has lost 7 of 10 Presidential elections, seem keen on the idea that the President has not had power to manage and direct Executive Branch Departments in years - and a President would have to be a power hungry madman to try to manage Executive dept's. Alito's argument (and Bush's - presumably) is that Executive Branch Dept's were expressly created for the President to manage, and whatever customs may or may not have been followed in recent years, those alleged customs do not invalidate the President's proper Constitutional authority.

The State Dept., an especially bloated and ineffective bureaucracy, which is filled with virtually unfire-able government workers, is known to be an especially left-wing enclave. There was a funny flap last year, in which State Dept. high-ups leaked their outrage that Bush and Cheney were deciding upon Iraq policies without the input of the State Dept! The outrage was not that Bush and Cheney were ignoring relevant information, but rather that Bush and Cheney had too much power! Bush and Cheney were out of control! Bush and Cheney should be listening to their careerist betters in the State Dept., and thence should follow the advice of their careerist betters (or be subjected to anonymous leak warfare in WaPo and NYT). I exaggerate not, and I kid you not. Bush and Cheney cut out the opportunities for State to wage leak warfare by exorcising State hoity-toities from the decision process. Anonymous State leakers, and the NYT, threw hissy fits.

All of which is prelude to my recommendation of this post, which includes an email from a politically conservative State employee, about doings in Baghdad's Green Zone. Read it all - it's not long. I will excerpt this part:

The PRT effort, in short, is State's effort attempt to be as good as Col. McMaster's cavalry regiment in Tal Afar. DoD has 150,000 soldiers out mingling with Iraqis every day on every street corner in Iraq. The State department, on the other hand, has 2000 employees entombed behind the green zone walls, talking to each other inside one of Saddam's former palaces. When they do talk to Iraqis, it is only the governing elite. There isn't a problem with DoD "guarding" the PRTs. The PRTs would be fully integrated with military units (or vice versa). [...]The feeling among too many State career folks is that integrating the military into these PRTs, and working on civil-military matters together with DoD, is allowing "them" into too much of "our turf." It's a turf war, which the department is more adept at fighting than a real one. Nobody will say it, but too many around here see themselves sophisticates, who don't mingle with DoD troglodytes. It's shameful. Naturally, some in the department feel that it is "not their job to talk to the masses." I actually heard someone say that yesterday. Rather, they see their position as more of a 19th century man of leisure, dining with privileged elites. I actually saw a guy last week wearing a monocle. I know it has nothing to do with any of this, but it's a funny anecdote, and funny anecdotes are all that keep from from going insane sometimes. The Secretary [Condi] is fighting a lonely battle. President Bush's State Department staff is about 30 people in total by my count. All the rest are Hillary Clinton's transition team.

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