There was only one thing truly astonishing about the revelation last week that Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s deputy at the State Department during George W. Bush’s first term, was the source of Bob Novak’s first column about Iraq war critic Amb. Joe Wilson and his CIA agent wife, Valery Plame. That was the fact that Novak subsequently described the man who first “outed” Plame’s place of employment as “no partisan gunslinger.”
The truth is that Rich Armitage is the consummate partisan gunslinger. It’s just that his partisanship is not usually defined by his allegiance to the Republican Party and certainly not to its current standard-bearer, President Bush. Rather, more often than not, Armitage slings his gun – or, more accurately, wields his stiletto – in the other sense of a partisan: one who wages war from behind enemy lines.
During the first term, Colin Powell and Rich Armitage lost policy battle after battle to the President’s loyal subordinates. It fell to Armitage to try to overturn or undermine those policies Powell opposed, in the interagency process, through leaks to the press (whose appreciation has been reflected in generally kid-glove treatment of the revelation of his role in the Plame affair), via back-channels with foreign governments and, not least, through attacks on his bureaucratic rivals.
A prime example of such attacks was the Armitage-encouraged campaign against John Bolton, President Bush’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. During their four years together in the Powell State Department, the Deputy Secretary made no secret of his hostility towards then-Under Secretary Bolton. He encouraged insubordination, bureaucratic end-runs and personal attacks against Mr. Bolton by individuals assigned to State’s powerful regional bureaus and its intelligence organization.
Some of those responsible for such behavior – like Armitage cronies Carl Ford and Tom Fingar – subsequently sought publicly to sabotage the Bolton nomination, engendering a Senate filibuster that was only ended when Mr. Bush gave his choice for the UN a recess appointment. It is to be hoped that the Foreign Relations Committee will rectify this travesty by voting this week to confirm the re-nominated Amb. Bolton, whose past year of service at the United Nations has forcefully demonstrated the baseless nature of the partisans’ attacks on this outstanding public servant.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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