Monday, December 8, 2008

Questions with State's Craft

Saturday was co-workers Christmas party time for my wife. She's in international development so any social gathering with her ultimately turns into a geography lesson. Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, the Central Asian Republics. By the end of the evening, you end up stuttering "Stan"s and feeling ignorant. And you can't really cover it up with humor because jokes like "I hear T.O. was elected president of Eatadickistan" generally fall on deaf, PC-ish ears.

But I'm a true nerd. I like being ignorant (ranging from unknowledgeable to downright trifling) and learning from other folks. I'm also a political junkie. So, Saturday was like a day in the candy shop for me. The caramel sundae with loads of maraschino cherries for me that night was getting to hang out with a bunch of State Department wonks.

Being a former anarchist, I could never work directly for the federal government, but I'm morbidly curious about its inner workings. So, I was champing at the bit to ask a bunch of questions. I finally found a willing subject. This bureaucrat demanded to remain nameless (which is easy since I can never remember names) so we'll call her NIA (for "Neo-Imperialist Aparatchik"--I guess I still have some anarchistic leanings), keeping in mind that I may just be lying about the woman's gender. So, I fired away asking about the recent Secretaries of State.

Colin Powell

Colin Powell did a lot of good things with State. Under Clinton, the department had suffered from a lot of neglect. We were fairly demoralized and severely underfunded. We were really excited when Powell came in. He brought in a lot of great people, real professionals. We were raring to go. Unfortunately, he was totally ignored by the Administration. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice rendered him utterly powerless. We ended up with very little to do. He should've, at least, quit way before he did.

Condoleeza Rice

Well, she's definitely been a lot more powerful than Powell. She actually has the President's ear. Administratively, she's pretty much ignored the Department, and there are some things we hope disappear with her. But the Department's a lot more powerful than it has been in awhile, and she's fixed a lot of problems within the Department itself. Unfortunately, a lot of those problems were created by her when she was NSA.

So, what is everybody saying about Hillary Clinton?

Well, I was expecting Bill Richardson.

Ooh, I've got something you should read. But are you excited about Hillary?

We're excited about Obama.

So, what do you think about her?

Well, she's definitely internationally known [and known to rock a microphone]. I mean, she is a superstar of sorts. So, she'll probably be able to get a lot of things done. She'll probably be listened to. But, as far as an administrator, who knows? There's absolutely nothing in her resume that tells us if she'll be any good or not. She's never been a diplomat. She's never run a huge bureaucracy. There's just absolutely no way of telling.

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