Stephen J. Hadley, who President Bush yesterday named his new national security adviser, has had a prominent role in many of the Bush administration's bigger mistakes, such as the under-reaction to al Qaeda threats before Sept. 11, 2001; the spreading of faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to war in Iraq; and the flawed planning for post-war Iraq.
But since his appointment does not require Senate confirmation, Hadley won't necessarily ever be forced to address those issues publicly.
And in Bush's view, Hadley obviously has qualities that easily overcame any qualms about his record. He is very close to his predecessor Condoleezza Rice, now on her way to the State Department, and closer yet to the administration's top hawks, most notably Vice President Cheney. He has proven his loyalty to a fault.
And his appointment fits in perfectly with what appears to be a second-term plan to consolidate power among a handful of highly motivated, unstintingly devoted veterans of Bush's first-term White House.
Here's a photo of Hadley. Get to know him.
Glenn Kessler writes in The Washington Post: "The Sept. 11 commission report was critical of Hadley's handling of policy development in several areas. Hadley was also thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight when he accepted blame in 2003 for allowing faulty intelligence to appear in the president's State of the Union address. . . .
"The Sept. 11 commission, which relied on extensive interviews with administration officials, portrayed Hadley as not effective in resolving several policy issues, such as the question of whether to retaliate for al Qaeda's attack on the USS Cole in October 2000. . . .
"Hadley concluded that a policy toward al Qaeda should be framed within the context of regional policy, delaying final decisions from April 2001 until just before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the report said."
Kessler concludes that Hadley "appears to have won his coveted post in part through a combination of long hours, tight-lipped loyalty and a tendency to call little attention to himself."
Scott Shane writes in the New York Times: "Despite his low public profile, Mr. Hadley has been closely associated with the flawed intelligence before the war in Iraq and with what some have criticized as inadequate planning for the postwar period. Despite telephone calls and memos from the Central Intelligence Agency questioning the claim about Iraq's pursuit of uranium, he admitted in July 2003, he did not have the reference removed from the State of the Union speech.
"Mr. Hadley wrote an opinion piece for USA Today in June 2004 arguing that the administration had been right before the war to link Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq, a claim largely rejected by the commission studying the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Perhaps most significantly, he led the National Security Council's planning for postwar Iraq, which has turned out to be deadlier and far more difficult than anticipated. . . .
"Colleagues say Mr. Hadley's history has given him close ties not only to Ms. Rice, who is expected to be confirmed as secretary of state and who has described him as her alter ego, but also to the administration's top hawks, Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz."
Paul Richter writes in the Los Angeles Times that Hadley "has risen to influence as the most low-key member of the powerful, hawkish group that has shaped U.S. foreign policy over the last four years. . . .
"Because of Hadley's strong ties to Rice and to Vice President Dick Cheney, another former boss, his selection appeared to signal that Bush was looking to further consolidate foreign policy decisions in the hands of his inner circle. . . .
"Like others in Bush's inner circle, Hadley has demonstrated his loyalty. His most highly publicized appearance during Bush's first term came when he effectively took the blame for the president's mistaken claim in the 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium in Africa."
Digging into his background, Richter writes that Hadley "has argued for broadening the use of nuclear weapons to include deterrence against 'weapons of mass destruction.'"
James Harding in the Financial Times recalls Hadley's "well-publicised mea culpa that deflected criticism from both the president and his immediate boss, Condoleezza Rice.
"At the time, the incident was thought to have damaged Mr Hadley's prospects of advancement. But Mr Hadley's selfless sacrifice of his own reputation more likely burnished his credentials with a president known to prize loyalty. 'He was just the one who was put out there to take the fall to protect Condi,' says one former White House official. 'They wanted to protect her.'"
Here's the text of a telling speech Hadley made at the Council on Foreign Relations before the war.
"Securing this liberty, and sustaining it in a post-Saddam Iraq, will take extensive planning, and that planning has begun. President Bush has directed all relevant agencies of the government to focus their attention on Iraq post-war planning. There has been a tremendous interagency effort, led by the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget, to think through reconstruction needs and objectives," he said.
Among the "principles that are guiding our thinking," he said: "The United States and its coalition allies will provide security that should prevent chaos, score-settling, and bloodletting."
He concluded: "When future scholars look back on the history of the Middle East in the early part of the 21st century, I hope that they don't ask, 'what went wrong?' but instead ask, 'why did it go right?'"
Lower Profile Adam Entous
writes for Reuters: "Hadley, 57, whose appointment does not require Senate confirmation, is not expected to wield as much influence in the national security adviser's job as did Rice, who has been nominated to be secretary of state and has closer personal ties to the president.
"Even his appointment was understated, coming as part of a White House ceremony announcing Rice's nomination. Hadley watched from a front-row seat."
Bob Deans writes for Cox News Service describes Hadley as "a greying, bespectacled, behind-the-scenes Washington lawyer who takes the same issues apart piece by piece then painstakingly reassembles them in a precise analytical form."
Rice's New Role
Mike Allen writes in The Washington Post that Rice and Bush share an incredibly close relationship: "Aides said Bush and Rice know each other so well they have conversations based on body language, with maybe four words exchanged. . . .
"Aides said Bush, seeking more discipline and harmony in his war cabinet, had discussed the job with her for weeks and perhaps months and never seriously considered anyone else."
So what's in store now?
Allen writes: "White House officials predicted that the deployment of Rice will tighten Bush's control over his national security apparatus and end the public sparring among members of his war cabinet. Powell, who saw himself as pragmatic, clashed repeatedly with Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on such matters as how to reach out to Europe and when to go to war with Iraq. . . .
"Republican officials acknowledged that the public is likely to learn even less about the inner workings of the war cabinet. They said the selection of Rice will also mean that fewer competing views will be available to a White House that brooks little dissent."
Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times that "mysteries remain about Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser nominated to be secretary of state in a second term that some administration officials assert will be characterized more by diplomacy than confrontation.
"Is she as hawkish as those who urged Mr. Bush to invade Iraq? Or is she more moderate like the men who have been her mentors, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to Mr. Bush's father?
"More important, is she an ally of Vice President Dick Cheney? Or a counterpoint?"
David E. Sanger and Steven R. Weisman write in the New York Times: "Some saw the departure of Mr. Powell as the moment for conservatives under the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney to assume an even larger role.
"But some officials who know Ms. Rice well do not expect her to take a hard-line hawkish view when she goes to State. . . .
"According to officials who have heard accounts of the case Mr. Bush made to Ms. Rice, he argued that their strong personal ties would convince allies and hostile nations like Iran and North Korea that she was speaking directly for the president and could make deals in his name."
Thomas M. DeFrank writes in the New York Daily News: "President Bush anointed his foreign policy soul mate, Condoleezza Rice, as the 66th secretary of state yesterday, replacing Colin Powell with a hawkish superloyalist."
Maura Reynolds writes in the Los Angeles Times that "proximity to the president is the coin of Washington's realm, and few are wealthier in that regard than Rice."
And yet, Reynolds writes: "Outside of the Oval Office, Rice's record as national security advisor was generally seen as mixed.
"Although she earned the president's trust, critics said she did not have a strong enough hand when it came to another part of her job: coordinating policy between the various agencies and departments who together make foreign policy. . . .
"Rice was also criticized by the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks for failing to alert the president to the dangers of terrorism in the months before the attack, and by other critics for overstating the intelligence suggesting that Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons."
Here's the text and video of the announcements in the Roosevelt Room yesterday.
Here's an AP photo of Bush kissing Rice after the announcement.
And here, from that same washingtonpost.com photo gallery, is a great 2002 Washington Post photo of Rice, standing between Powell and Rumsfeld, with Hadley looking on.
Allen writes in The Post: "Bush aides said he will replace more than half of the 15 heads of executive departments. Today, he is to announce that his domestic policy adviser, Margaret Spellings, a veteran of his Texas governor's office, will succeed Roderick R. Paige as education secretary. . . .
"White House communications director Dan Bartlett is likely to shed some daily duties and assume an expanded portfolio, perhaps as Bush's counselor, a title that was retired when Karen Hughes left in 2002. If he changed roles, his likely successor would be Nicolle Devenish, communications director for the Bush-Cheney campaign. White House press secretary Scott McClellan will stay in his job."
Edwin Chen writes in the Los Angelest Times: "Spellings, who would succeed Rod Paige, has advised Bush on education matters since he was governor of Texas. In Washington, she worked closely with Democrats on the No Child Left Behind Act, Bush's signature domestic policy achievement in his first term."
Ben Feller writes for the Associated Press: "Karl Rove, the president's political strategist, was quoted this fall as saying Spellings is 'the most influential woman in Washington that you've never heard of.'"
Speaking of Rove, Ken Herman has this delicious tidbit in his story for the Cox News Service: "Margaret and Robert Spellings were married Aug. 10, 2001, in the Texas Governor's Mansion. He had proposed to her several months earlier at a Travis County Republican Party fund-raising dinner honoring [insert drumroll here, White House Briefing readers... ] Bush political adviser Karl Rove."
Matthew C. Quinn writes for Cox News Service on the likely installation of Bush's reelection campaign finance chief and fishing buddy, Mercer Reynolds III, as commerce secretary.
The Consolidation of Power Continues
Carla Anne Robbins and Greg Hitt write in the Wall Street Journal: "A famously controlling White House is looking for even more control, as President Bush dispatches some of his closest advisers to head key cabinet agencies. . . .
"Insiders say he could ask former White House health and economics adviser Mark McClellan to take over the Department of Health and Human Services if, as expected, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson leaves that post. Another White House aide, homeland security adviser Frances Townsend, is among the potential successors for Homeland Security Secretary Thomas Ridge if he steps down. . . .
"That is likely to give Mr. Bush greater control over important cabinet agencies as he seeks to press forward his second-term agenda. In the process, it may further augment White House power in the hands of Vice President Dick Cheney and political adviser Karl Rove. But the changes also run the risk of limiting the range of views Mr. Bush receives on foreign policy and other important issues."
Ron Hutcheson writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers: "White House spokesman Scott McClellan bristled at suggestions that Bush wants to close off internal debate.
"'That's a very uninformed view of how this White House operates,' he said. 'He's always been someone who has welcomed a wide diversity of views from members of his team, and that is what he will continue to receive.'
"Still, it's hard to imagine that there'll be much internal dissent from some of the new Cabinet secretaries or from other top officials, such as CIA Director Porter Goss. And even if they do speak out, they may not have the clout of their predecessors."
And So It Begins?
Anne E. Kornblut writes in the Boston Globe: "After years of finger-pointing and tension within his foreign policy agencies, President Bush is moving aggressively to tame the two most unwieldy agencies -- the CIA and the State Department -- by installing reliable allies at the helm with instructions to clamp down on dissenting career officials, advisers to the president said."
Douglas Jehl writes in the New York Times: "Porter J. Goss, the new intelligence chief, has told Central Intelligence Agency employees that their job is to 'support the administration and its policies in our work,' a copy of an internal memorandum shows. . . .
"In recent weeks, White House officials have complained that some C.I.A. officials have sought to undermine President Bush and his policies."
Questions for Rice
Lots of folks in the mainstream media and blogosphere alike are proposing questions that Rice should be asked in her confirmation hearings. Here's a small sampling.
The Boston Globe editorial board writes: "At her confirmation hearings, senators will be justified in asking why, in the summer of 2001, she was slow to respond to warnings from the CIA about Al Qaeda's intention to strike in the United States.
"It would also be fitting to ask Rice what she counseled the president about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. A great deal of well-informed and prescient advice about needed troop levels, the preservation of law and order, and postwar nation-building in Iraq was ignored -- even scorned -- by the administration."
George F. Will suggests several questions in his opinion column, including: "If, knowing what we now know about Iraq's weapons programs, you still think preemptive war was justified, what other nations might, by the same criteria, merit preemptive action?"
And Bob Somerby writes in his Daily Howler blog that Rice should be grilled on the assertion she made before the Sept. 11 commission that the Presidential Daily Briefing memo of August 6, 2001, did not warn of possible attacks in this country -- when it did.
The President travels to Little Rock tomorrow for the dedication of the Clinton Library.
On Friday, he flies to Santiago, Chile, for a two-day gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders, followed by an official visit with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.
On his way back, he has a quick stop in Cartagena, Colombia, on Monday to meet with President Alvaro Uribe.
But will he do a repeat of last year's Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad?
Here's an excerpt from yesterday's press briefing (available on video, but for some reason the transcripts of the last several briefings have not been Web-posted.)
"Q Scott, I have a question, if I may. Does the President plan to visit the troops over the holidays, perhaps on his way home from South America?
"MR. McCLELLAN: There's nothing to update on his schedule at this point, but the President visits often with our troops. We are all grateful for the great job that our men and women in the military are doing to make the world more secure. But nothing to update on his schedule at this point."
Colin McClelland writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush will make his first official visit to Canada on Nov. 30, meeting Prime Minister Paul Martin for talks ranging from security for the world's longest undefended border to commerce between these major trading partners, officials said Tuesday."
Brian Laghi and Alan Freeeman write in Toronto's Globe and Mail: "Sources said yesterday that Mr. Bush has been asked to address a joint parliamentary session when he arrives in the capital for a two-day visit starting on Nov. 30.
"Such a speech raises the spectre of protests. Polls show that many Canadians were against his re-election, oppose his invasion of Iraq and disapprove of his plan to create a missile defence system. Mr. Bush has not indicated whether he will accept the invitation to speak."
It was time for the annual turkey-pardoning at the White House this morning. From the transcript:
"I'm pleased to welcome Biscuits -- (laughter) -- the National Thanksgiving Turkey. Biscuits, welcome. (Laughter.)
"This is an election year, and Biscuits had to earn his spot at the White House. Over the past week, thousands of voters cast ballots on the White House website. It was a close race. You might say it was neck-and-neck. (Laughter.) When all the voters were in -- all the votes were in, Biscuits and his running mate, Gravy, prevailed over the ticket of Patience and Fortitude. (Laughter.) The Vice President and I are here to congratulate Biscuits for a race well run."
Here are the complete results.
"It came down to a few battleground states. (Laughter.) It was a tough contest, and it turned out some 527 organizations got involved -- (laughter) -- including Barnyard Animals for Truth. (Laughter.) There was a scurrilous film that came out, 'Fahrenheit 375 Degrees at 10 Minutes Per Pound.' (Laughter.) Now, it's a time for healing."
The two turkeys will spend the remainder of their natural lives at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Va.
After breakfast with congressional Leaders and the turkey-pardoning, Bush today present the 2004 National Medal of the Arts Awards and National Humanities Medals.
Peronet Despeignes writes in USA Today: "The Senate's top tax-writer expressed doubts Tuesday about prospects for a major overhaul of the tax code, dealing a blow to one of President Bush's top priorities two weeks after his re-election."
Who Will Swear Bush In?
Al Kamen wonders in his Washington Post column if Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, battling thyroid cancer and missing oral arguments at the high court, isn't able to swear in President Bush, who will?
I'm Live Online today at 1 p.m. ET. Send me your questions and comments.
Tomorrow's column will be my last until Monday, Nov. 29. Have a great Thanksgiving!