Good Thing We Didn’t Lose

Scott and Paul have been so prolific that you probably haven’t noticed how little I’ve been posting lately. I’m trying a case, far from home, and have had almost no time to keep up with the news. But I had a few spare moments tonight, and ran across this editorial in the New York Sun, via Power Line News. The editorial, titled “John Kerry’s State Department,” begins:

A story circulating in Washington, perhaps apocryphal, has it that late one evening during last year’s annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, after the day’s discussions were finished and a few drinks had been downed, Richard Holbrooke began a sentence by saying, “When John Kerry is president and I’m secretary of state and Nicholas Burns here is undersecretary of state for political affairs …”

The punch line, of course, is that even though George Bush, not John Kerry, won the election, and Richard Holbrooke remains in private life, the undersecretary of state for political affairs is…Nicholas Burns. The Sun editorializes:

President Bush won the 2004 election, a contest fought largely on foreign policy issues. Mr. Bush presented the platform for continuing America’s war on terror by tackling tyrannical regimes and democratizing the Middle East. Mr. Kerry ran on a platform of working “more with our European allies,” which the American people knew meant ignoring the British, Italians, and others who joined the war in Iraq, and instead making nice with the French and Germans. But the staffing hasn’t worked out the way the voters might have expected.

Instead, with a few exceptions, most notably John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations and Condoleezza Rice as secretary, we’ve gotten a State Department of Kerry-ites. Mr. Burns, moreover, is unusually influential as the third-ranking officer in the department because Ms. Rice has been relentlessly globetrotting and her immediate deputy, Robert Zoellick, has been preoccupied with Sudan and China.

Is it really fair to call Burns a Kerry-ite? I’ve never met the man and know nothing about him, but this is depressing:

Mr. Burns has impeccable credentials for a Kerry administration official. He studied in France, earning the Certificat Pratique de Langue Francaise from the Sorbonne, and speaks French, Arabic, and Greek. He did a stint as spokesman for President Clinton’s first-term secretary of state, Warren Christopher, where his service included criticizing Mayor Giuliani for kicking Yasser Arafat out of a concert at Lincoln Center, saying that Mr. Arafat deserved to be treated with “respect, dignity, and hospitality.”

We all know how serious the problem of entrenched liberal bureaucracies in the State Department and the CIA has become. No doubt there is a shortage, in those benighted agencies, of people who share the President’s foreign policy views. Still, when it comes time to appoint top State Department officials, it would seem that President Bush could find better candidates than those who likely would have been chosen by his opponent.

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