THE STATE DEPARTMENT….Been wondering what Newt Gingrich is up to these days? Wonder no more: he’s planning to lead an effort to completely overhaul the State Department, which he describes as “six months of diplomatic failure.” But even the conservative Tom Bevan at RealClear politics can’t help but laugh at this:
I’m a fairly creative guy, but my brain simply cannot imagine a Newt Gingrich-run State Department producing different ? or better ? results. I like and respect Gingrich but let’s face it, diplomacy isn’t really his forte.
Criticism of the striped-pants crowd is a commonplace among conservatives, who seem to think that simply speaking your mind on all subjects at all times ? preferably in the form of threats ? is the best way to get people to do what you want. Gingrich, of course, seems congenitally unable to refrain from saying whatever pops into his brain at any given moment, so his attitude toward diplomacy isn’t surprising.
I have reason to be disappointed with Colin Powell myself, and there’s certainly at least some evidence that State bungled the job with Turkey. Still, facts are facts: if Rumsfeld and Cheney had just shut up and stayed in their offices, Powell would have had a lot easier time of things. The best way to overhaul the State Department right now would probably be to actually let Colin Powell run it and tell Rumsfeld and Cheney to butt out.
As near as I can tell, Gingrich’s main complaint is that the State Department continues to insist on conducting diplomacy with actual other countries. Unfortunately, this dovetails rather too neatly with one of the worst aspects of the Bush administration: its aversion to actually dealing with foreigners in any way. Bush is uncomfortable with them, Cheney and Rumsfeld don’t have a clue about how much they piss off foreign leaders, and Powell tries to do everything over the phone instead of meeting face to face more often. It’s a toxic combination, like a guy holed up in a cabin convinced the whole world is out to get him. The problem is, if you keep up that attitude for too long, you turn out to be right.