Thursday, April 24, 2003

Under Fire, Powell Receives Support From White House (New York Times, STEVEN R. WEISMAN)

Mr. Powell has been the object of conservative criticism in several past policy battles, but the barrage was renewed with particular bitterness in recent days. Aides to Mr. Powell said they regarded some of the recent attacks as both puzzling and misguided, noting that the secretary had been extremely careful not to undertake any initiatives without explicit approval from the president.

A senior White House official, asserted today that Mr. Gingrich's criticism "was seen at the White House as an attack on the president, not an attack on Powell." There was widespread anger at the White House, the official said, but he declined to characterize the reaction of Mr. Bush himself.

However, the president is said by Republican politicians to have little love for Mr. Gingrich, going back to Mr. Gingrich's savage attack against Mr. Bush's father for raising taxes, a step that ignited the wrath of conservatives generally.

The real issue here is between the mechanisms of the Defense Department and the State Department. The State department has a presence all over the world and is a natural place for compromise and consensus. The Defense Department is a place for action. Gingrich wasn't criticizing anyone as much as pointing out that the Defense Department gets the job done, while the State Department goes on goodwill missions.

That’s not a knock on Powell, but a reflection of how Gingrich likes to see the government work. You’ll remember that Newt didn’t care what anyone thought when he was speaker, either. That’s why he was so easy to oust.

Bush has a natural loyalty to his father, but even he would agree that the 1990 tax hike was a mistake and cost his father re-election. He may dislike Gingrich for reminding everyone, but he too trusts the Defense Department better than the State Department. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have readied for war during the U.N. inspections. This isn’t a knock on Powell either but a realization that other nations love to talk, but only the stick gets the job done.

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