Diversity Now a Foreign Concept

By Al Kamen
Monday, January 23, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice caused a bit of a stir in Foggy Bottom last week when she unveiled plans to redeploy diplomats from Europe to world hot spots.

And no promotions, she said, without service in dangerous posts and fluency in two foreign languages, especially those spoken by people who may fancy grenade launchers and scream "Death to America."

She also talked about the need for a more diverse Foreign Service, something that might improve diplomats' feel for foreign cultures. After all, just because you speak the language doesn't mean you can figure out when someone is lying through his teeth. (There's a reason Afghan-born American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad gets generally rave reviews for his work in the Middle East.)

Diversity is one area where neither the State Department nor the National Security Council nor the Pentagon, despite decades of talking about it, have claimed much success. The NSC, for example, with about 230 employees, has a total -- by our quick count -- of perhaps nine Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and Middle Easterners in mid-level or top positions.

At the State Department, four of six undersecretaries working for Rice are women, but a check of the top 45 or so officials at the assistant secretary level and higher finds fewer than a half-dozen minorities.

And at the Pentagon, although the uniformed folks have made great strides over the years up and down the ladder, minorities in the mid-level or higher civilian policymaking positions are said to be quite scarce, despite oral and written admonitions and pounding on the table by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld , a sponsor of the Voting Rights Act when he was in Congress in the '60s.

"It cannot be that the last three secretaries of state -- the daughter of European immigrants, the son of Jamaican immigrants and a daughter of the American segregated South -- would be more diverse than the Foreign Service with which they work," Rice said.


A Chief Disagreement

There was something odd last week about the artwork on Amazon.com for Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes 's new book on President Bush, titled "Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush ." Amazon's blurb touts it as "How George W. Bush Is Redefining the Conservative Movement and Transforming America."

The book jacket has a lovely blue and white cover and a photograph of Bush, sleeves rolled up, looking off in a leaderly way.

But there's a second smaller image of a book that doesn't seem to have the same Barnes touch. There's a picture of an upset Bush being led off in handcuffs and titled: "Felon-in-Chief: How George W. Bush is Redefining Greed and Corruption and Destroying America."

Last week someone posted a picture of the latter "book" right below the real one. It's posted as a "Customer image from J. Wolf ." It was still up as of last night.

Party Politics

Don't forget! Wednesday is the big birthday bash for Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who's celebrating his 70th at powerhouse lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates. No need to bring a special gift -- no ties, shirts or such -- according to the invite.

Oh, but if you want to host the bash, that'll be $2,000 per political action committee and $1,000 per person. Simple attendance is $1,000 per PAC and only $500 per person.

Good to see venerable Washington-style birthday traditions continue even in these troubled times.

Young May Return to His Old Country

As expected, de facto ambassador to Taiwan Douglas Paal resigned last week after three years on the job. An inspector general's report last summer sharply criticized Paal for his management style and the office's low staff morale, the Asian press reported.

The buzz in Taipei is that career diplomat Stephen M. Young , former number two in Taiwan and more recently ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, is heading back to the island to run the U.S. diplomatic operation.

Moving On . . .

Susan Aheron Magill , longtime chief of staff to Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), is retiring after 28 years on the Hill, the past 24 working for Warner. Magill, who was executive director of the Joint Congressional Committee for President Bill Clinton's second inauguration, is going private sector, taking a senior executive position in government affairs with the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Nina Shokraii Rees , formerly special assistant for domestic policy in Vice President Cheney's office and more recently the Education Department's highly regarded assistant deputy secretary and head of the department's Office of Innovation and Improvement, has moved to the Knowledge Universe Learning Group.

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