Postmaster General John Potter drew a hail of criticism for his lax response to the anthrax contamination that swept post offices. If George W. Bush is inclined to replace him, he might consider National Journal publisher David Bradley. Bradley was so spooked by anthrax that he arranged for two physicians to hold open hours for National Journal staffers, convinced Dr. David Parenti, director of infectious disease at George Washington Hospital, to be on call, and set up an email address for worried staffers to send questions: drquestions@nationaljournal.com. Bradley is also hoping to team up with The Washington Post, NPR and NBC News to irradiate the magazine’s mail.

James Dobbins is sort of the Mr. Cleanup of American diplomacy. The career foreign service officer was tapped by the Clinton administration for such thankless jobs as extricating the U.S. from Somalia in 1994 and overseeing peace operations in Haiti and Kosovo. Two years ago, Capitol Hill conservatives, eager to upend Clinton’s Kosovo policy, accused Dobbins of lying to Congress regarding his knowledge of investigations into a politically motivated killing in Haiti. Former Clinton administration officials say the charge was bogus and that Dobbins is a first-rate diplomat. The Bush administration seems to agree. Dobbins is now the new U.S. envoy to the fractious Afghan opposition, responsible for pulling together a new government.

Speaking of thankless jobs, consider the new position that former Montana Governor Marc Racicot now has in the Bush administration: special envoy to Canada for soft lumber. This is the same Marc Racicot who is a longtime Bush buddy and was thought to be a shoe-in for attorney general last winter, until right-wingers decided he was too liberal and convinced Bush to choose John Ashroft. As it happens, the soft lumber job, while not prestigious, is actually pretty important. Canada is awash in oil and gas, which we need, as well as Islamic terrorist cells, whom we want Canada to lock up. But right now, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is furious with Washington for slapping a 12.6 percent duty on Canadian softwood lumber exports based on a largely-trumped-up dumping claims. If Racicot can mend fences, there’s probably a bigger administration job for him down the road.

The Bush administration showed the U.N. nothing but contempt prior to Sept. 11. So how did it manage three weeks later to convince the Security Council to pass a resolution that binds member states to adapt their anti-terror laws and pursue terrorists? A big part of the answer is the close relationship between Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, notes Gregory Maniatis in New York magazine. The two talk several times a week by phone. Annan also serves as Powell’s back channel to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a central player in any future Afghan settlement.

Ever since Sen. Phil Gramm announced plans to retire in 2003, the speculation has been that he would become president of Texas A&M University, where he once taught economics. But a long-time GOP friend of Gramm’s says the senator isn’t much interested in the job because, like all university presidencies, it mostly involves fundraising. Rather, Gramm hankers either to succeed Alan Greenspan when the Fed chairman’s term ends in 2004, or to replace Paul O’Neill as treasury secretary.

Top White House political adviser Karl Rove had his fingers in just about everything until Sept. 11, when he suddenly found himself shut out of the meetings where the national security boys (and Condoleezza Rice) were plotting war strategy. But Rove has managed to get somewhat back in the game by working with the team of four women who are coordinating the administration’s worldwide counter-propaganda effort. They include presidential counselor Karen Hughes, vice presidential adviser Mary Matalin, Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke, and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy Charlotte Beers.

The president has finally begun to find new ways to engage the American people in the war effort beyond asking them to go shopping. In a primetime speech last month, he called for 20,000 AmeriCorps members to serve in homeland security rolls and announced a new White House task force to dream up other ways for citizens to be involved. The brains behind this push for citizen service is White House deputy domestic policy director John Bridgeland.

Before joining the administration, Bridgeland was chief of staff to Rep. Rob Portman (R-OH), the low-key but influential House leadership chairman. Portman is the only GOP House member who worked in the administration of George H.W. Bush. That means a lot to an administration that values loyalty and service to the Bush dynasty. Portman has three other former staffers on the White House payroll: Joe Hagin, deputy chief of staff; Brian Besanceney, press secretary in the domestic policy shop; and Melissa Bennett, executive assistant to chief of staff Andrew Card.

To help battle bioterrorism, pharmacuetical executives have generously offered to send scores of scientists, now on industry payrolls, to work in government agencies. But the drug companies have also managed to stave off actions detrimental to their bottom lines, such as violating patents or forcing them to supply free drugs. The New York Times’ Leslie Wayne and Melody Peterson note that the industry has many friends in high places, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (former CEO of the drug maker G. D. Searle) and Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. (former Eli Lilly executive). Indeed, more than half the drug industry’s 625 registered lobbyists are either former members of Congress or former congressional staff members and government employees, according to a report from Public Citizen. They include such former lawmakers as Beryl F. Anthony Jr., Birch Bayh, Dennis DeConcini, Vic Fazio, Norman F. Lent, Robert L. Livingston, Bill Paxon, Robert S. Walker and Vin Weber.

The threat of bioterrorism and the revolution of biomedicine have combined to make the post of director of the National Institutes of Health one of the most vital in government. Amazingly, the Bush administration has yet to nominate anyone for job. But among those being considered is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the high-profile and highly-respected head of the NIH’s office of allergies and infectious diseases.

Bill Clinton prosecuted and won two difficult wars, in Bosnia and Kosovo, without the loss of a single American in combat. Yet national security experts have nothing but contempt for his military leadership, largely because he failed to follow their advice. Instead of committing U.S. ground troops, as the experts demanded, Clinton improvised a new strategy: precision air strikes, and other peoples’ ground troops (the Croats in Bosnia, the KLA in Kosovo). George W. Bush, who came to office similarly dismissive of Clinton’s war leadership, wound up employing Clinton’s strategy in Afghanistan, with the Northern Alliance serving as the proxy ground force. This fact has driven some arm-chair strategists over the bend. On November 8, The New Republic published a cover story, “The Case for Ground Troops,” which ridiculed Bush for following Clinton’s lead: “it appears the Taliban will rule Afghanistan through the winter, thereby handing the United States a humiliating and gratuitous defeat.” A few days after the article went to press, the Northern Alliance took control of 90 percent of Afghanistan.

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of The Washington Monthly.

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.