The shake-up of Bush's national security team makes Cheney look isolated—but don't count him out yet. Plus the Republicans prepare for congressional warby Tumbler / February 25, 2007 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine
Cheney versus the realists
The big question over President Bush’s shake-up of the national security team is the impact on the hitherto all-powerful Dick Cheney. He has lost Donald Rumsfeld, his old friend and ally at the Pentagon, and the new defence secretary, Robert Gates, is a pragmatic career bureaucrat from the CIA. Gates is much closer to the realists around Bush senior like Jim Baker than to the zealots preferred by Bush junior; he was one of the first people Baker called to join his Iraq Study Group. The new director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, who used to run the vast electronic intelligence operation of the National Security Agency, was strongly backed for the post by Cheney’s old enemy, Colin Powell. So with former general Mike Hayden now running the CIA, the top intelligence and security jobs are all in the hands of career military or CIA veterans, loyal chain-of-command types with limited appreciation for the way Cheney’s national security aides have been sidestepping the usual channels. And Condoleezza Rice has been strengthened by the nomination of former intelligence czar John Negroponte (a career diplomat) to fill the long-gaping hole as her deputy. As a result, Cheney looks isolated. But don’t count him out yet. When Bush was going wobbly after the Republicans lost control of congress and Jim Baker’s report on Iraq was becoming the conventional wisdom, it was Cheney who persuaded Bush to go for the anti-Baker “surge” plan of sending three more army brigades and two marine battalions to Iraq.