Condoleezza Rice Under Fire
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
SPENCER MICHELS: Last week, the White House announced that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice would play a more central role in managing the effort to rebuild postwar Iraq. She will head a new task force called the Iraq Stabilization Group. One of the new group’s objectives is to promote what the Bush administration considers its successes in Iraq. The president, vice president and a handful of Cabinet members were out last week touting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Rice contributed with a speech in Chicago.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The war on terror is greatly served by the removal of this source of instability in the world’s most unstable region. And the people of Iraq are free and working towards self- government. Step by step, normal life in Iraq is being reborn as basic services are restored; in some cases, for the first time in decades.
SPENCER MICHELS: But the establishment of Rice’s new group created some waves within the Bush administration. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld angrily told a group of foreign reporters last week that he did not know about Rice’s expanded duties, and had not seen a memo she had written detailing the new Iraq plan. More criticism of Rice came in a front page Washington Post story yesterday. “Dysfunctional” was how one unnamed senior State Department official described the workings of the National Security Council under Rice’s management. Meanwhile, senators took to the airwaves demanding that President Bush bring the foreign policy conflicts in his administration under control.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DEL.): I’d say, Mr. President, take charge. Take charge. Settle this dispute. Let your secretary of defense, state, and your vice president know this is my policy; any one of you that diverts from the policy is off the team. Take charge. This whole reorganization — Condi Rice, and she’s a wonderful person — these are all very bright, powerful people. But he has got to take charge.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IND.): I concur with my colleague. The president has to be the president. That means the president over the vice president, and over the secretaries. And Dr. Rice cannot carry that burden alone.
SPENCER MICHELS: In a local television interview today, President Bush said he was in charge.
JIM LEHRER: For more on this, here are: Ivo Daalder, who served on the National Security Council staff in the first Clinton term, and is now running a study of the NSC for the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland; and Richard Clarke, the top-ranking counter- terrorism official on the NSC staff until earlier this year.
Ivo Daalder, why is Dr. Rice suddenly getting this attention and this fire?
IVO DAALDER: I think the main reason is the policy towards Iraq is becoming under criticism and we’re trying to find who is to blame for this. People in the Defense Department and people in the State Department are leaking to the papers that really there is no coordination of policy. It’s not their fault. Really there is a process problem. The process is not working. It’s dysfunctional and ultimately Condoleezza Rice is the one who is supposed to run the process, but the problem is with the policy, it’s not with the process.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree? Do you think she deserves criticism? Is she running a good NSC?
RICHARD CLARKE: I think every president chooses an NSC adviser that fits his management style. I think this president has chosen an NSC adviser who plays it pretty close to the vest publicly. A lot of the criticism that Rice is getting is because she doesn’t run around telling everybody in the media what she thinks. She saves her advice for the president. That frustrates a lot of people in the media. It’s the same style that Tony Lake had under Bill Clinton; it’s the same style that Brent Scowcroft had under the first President Bush. It’s a style that clearly this president wants. A national security adviser reflects the president’s desires for management style and for overall governance of the system. And the president is getting what he wants.
JIM LEHRER: You’ve been studying national security advisers. It really is up to the … there is no such thing as a national security adviser list of duties that’s written down somewhere, is there?
IVO DAALDER: Well there’s certain functions that any national security adviser has to fulfill. But how that person does so is the president’s … is up to the president. There’s some people, there’s some presidents who really want a national security adviser to actually lead the foreign policy of his administration. That clearly was the case with Nixon.
JIM LEHRER: Under Kissinger.
IVO DAALDER: When Henry Kissinger was the national security adviser. To some extent it was the case under Jimmy Carter when Zbig Brzezinski was the national security adviser. Other presidents really want to have more of the departments having the responsibility for carrying out the foreign policy and they want their national security advisers to be the coordinator of the policy, the quieter people, the people that Dick mentioned like Tony Lake and Brent Scowcroft. Clearly Condoleezza Rice, who is closer to this president than I think any other foreign policy national security adviser has been to any other president is fulfilling a role that this president wants. He wants her to be the honest broker. He wants to have quiet advice to himself. He doesn’t want her out there being part of the fight between Rumsfeld and Powell. He also wants Rumsfeld and Powell to disagree with each other. As he said from the very beginning, I’m appointing giants to the foreign policy process, he said, because I want to see how they follow things out and I will make the decision and they will have to implement.
JIM LEHRER: To pick up on your analogy, to pick up on Ivo Daalder’s analogy, if you’re caught between two giants, you can get smashed. Is that what’s happening now to Condoleezza Rice?
RICHARD CLARKE: Not at all. As Ivo said, she has a tremendous close personal relationship and great trust from the president. So no one is going to squeeze her between two rocks. But it is true you have a very unusual situation here. You have a vice president who used to be a secretary of defense, used to be a White House chief of staff, who is playing a big role in foreign policy. You have a secretary of defense who used to be a White House chief of staff and used to be a secretary of defense. You have a secretary of state who used to be a national security adviser and used to be…
JIM LEHRER: We forget that, that Colin Powell was the national security adviser in the Reagan administration.
RICHARD CLARKE: And he also used to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs so Colin Powell has held three of the six positions around the table at an NSC principals’ meeting. So this president has chosen people who are very strong personalities. He wants them to debate and engage as Franklin Roosevelt did. Franklin Roosevelt used to get his advisers to go at it to see what that produced in terms of analysis and alternatives and options. This is very unlike the president’s father, the first President Bush, who didn’t like disagreement among the boys. And really you were given demerits if you were a little obstreperous in the first Bush administration. This administration is not like that at all. What people are complaining about is that there is contention and debate and analysis and confrontation. I think that’s better than trying to sweep everything under the rug.
JIM LEHRER: What do you make of the last 24 hours? We ran the clip just now of Senator Biden saying that time for the president to take charge and all of that. We ran the clip from the president saying I am-and he said that today – I am the one in charge. What’s going on? Is this all a response to all of this stuff that’s going on?
IVO DAALDER: I think what you’re seeing is the people who disagree with the policy are blaming it on the process. What you have in Mr. Biden, Senator Biden, and many of those people who anonymously talk to the Washington Post is they disagree with the president’s policy. They disagree in the way this policy in Iraq and some other instances, North Korea and others, is being pursued. They’re blaming the process. They’re saying you’re not taking charge, the president is allowing Rumsfeld and Powell to continuously debate. Yes, he’s allowing them to debate. But we all know where the president stands on Iraq. He’s not going to hand over control of the U.N. to the… to the U.N. on Iraq. He’s not going to engage in serious negotiations with North Korea. He’s been crystal clear about these kinds of things. But there is this hope somehow that if we could have a better process, we would have a better outcome that is closer to one that we would like to see. What we forget is the president listens to the advice he gets, then he makes a decision and he follows through on that decision.
JIM LEHRER: Back to Condoleezza Rice specifically, in the context that you all have laid out, the kind of national security adviser he wants and what he wants her to do, is she doing that job well?
IVO DAALDER: She’s done her job as far as we can tell pretty well. There’s one exception, I think, which is on Iraq. The president made a decision which he has now finally come to regret which is to say to the Pentagon, “you take over the planning and the control of the post war operation.” That was a major mistake. We don’t want just the Defense Department on the table making decisions. We want the State Department, we want the Treasury Department, we want the Agency for International Development, all the people whose expertise and capabilities we need to make sure that Iraq really works. That’s finally happening. It’s one of the things that frankly in the previous administration we learned to do earlier on. We brought the people together in the White House all of whom had equities and then had the White House run the show when it came to planning these kinds of operations. Now we’re going to do that.
JIM LEHRER: That’s what this new group is about, you think? You read it the same way.
RICHARD CLARKE: I do. I think the mistake was exactly that. When you do what’s called a complex operation like this, you can’t give it to one department. Now that wasn’t Dr. Rice’s fault. She didn’t give it to one department; the president did. And the president made a mistake in doing that. The way we’ve done these operations in the past, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, we’ve learned how to do it. We ought to have built on that institutional experience. The way you do it is by having someone in the White House with the stick that makes the interagency work. You can’t give it to one department because no one department has the capability to do it as this Defense Department has proven. It’s failed miserably in the management of post war Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: Now based on your knowledge of Dr. Rice, now that she has a stick, what can we expect?
RICHARD CLARKE: I think you can expect much more integration of Treasury, State Department, CIA, Justice Department, assets — not just DOD going it alone. I think you can expect a lot closer oversight, detailed, everyday oversight, milestones, goal posts, people being relieved if things don’t happen. Condi Rice is a very nice person, but she’s also a very tough manager.
JIM LEHRER: You think we will … she will be more public, more visible — and obviously more of a target as a result?
IVO DAALDER: No, not necessarily. This is a job you in fact want to do behind closed doors. You want to be able to set those benchmarks out there and tell Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell you have to meet these within the next three months or otherwise there is a price to pay. She doesn’t have to go outside to make that work. But she was to be able to crack the whip as somebody said in the Washington Post and make sure when Don Rumsfeld is told he has to do this in three months he does it.
JIM LEHRER: She can crack the whip you think?
RICHARD CLARKE: I’ve seen her do it –
JIM LEHRER: You’ve seen her do it.
RICHARD CLARKE: — and it’s best done in private.
JIM LEHRER: I got you. Ivo Daalder, Richard Clark, thank you both very much.