Republicans in Congress, who do not want to be quoted, tell me the State Department under Secretary Condoleezza Rice is a mess. That comes at a time when the U.S. global position is precarious. While attention focuses on Iraq, American diplomacy is being tested worldwide — in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Korea and Sudan. The judgment by thoughtful Republicans is that Rice has failed to manage that endeavor. ~Robert Novak

Novak’s column does a good job explaining the recent game of musical chairs with Negroponte moving from his post as DNI to be the nominee for Deputy Secretary of State (a demotion for most people, but for someone trained in the Foreign Service it is the big-time) and Ret. Adm. McConnell becoming nominee for DNI.  Interestingly, Bolton wanted the deputy job, but Rice kicked him over to the U.N.  As everyone knows, his nomination was dying a lingering death before he threw in the towel.  It would appear that Secretary Rice has been just as ineffective at running State as she was in running the NSC.  Perhaps appointing her to run State was actually a cunning, calculated attempt by Mr. Bush to finally sabotage wreck the hated Foggy Bottom from the inside.  More likely, it is another example of the triumph of Mr. Bush’s preference for cronies and yes-men (and women) in positions of authority over those who actually know what they’re doing.  All that’s missing from this picture is the quote, “Condi, you’re doing a heckuva job!” 

Now I would never have guessed that Secretary Rice might not be up to the job at State.  After all, she dresses so fashionably.  Yes, she may have been the worst National Security Advisor since the position was created, and she may have bungled her way through the war in Lebanon with no hints that she had a clue what was going on, and she may have helped foment the so-called ”Generals’ Rebellion” of last spring through some uniquely ill-chosen words about the military, but we all knew that she was a “student of history” and we knew that she was from Birmingham, and that had to mean something.  Goodness knows she talked about Birmingham enough in her first few years in office: if the neocons always think the state of foreign affairs is like it was in 1938 in Munich, Condi seemed to think every foreign crisis could be likened to 1963 in Birmingham.  Would it be mean-spirited to note the absurdity of Republican complaints about the cult of victimhood when everything their leaders and spokesmen say about foreign policy is one, long, drawn-out psychodrama of traumatised victims or their proxies constantly reliving past horrors and imagining that these events are recurring in the present?