Dennis Ross: Goodbye and Good riddance. After much fussing around, and consulting with a wide range of Washington types, I am now convinced that we can lift our glasses and toast Dennis Ross' departure from his desk outside the principal's office at the State Department. I am told, by several people, whose access to the corridors of power at Foggy Bottom are unasailable, that Ross was, to put it in straightforward lingo, dumped, fired, kicked the hell out. He did something that clearly crossed the line, and was working at cross-purposes to Secretary of State Clinton and special envoy Mitchell. Maybe he also crossed Richard Holbrooke. I hope to get more of the inside details soon, but for now, I am convinced by these sources, that Ross was dumped, and that it was the AIPAC/WINEP crowd that had to be somewhat appeased, by giving Ross a desk at the National Security Council, somewhat equivalent to a cell with a view at one of those old Soviet gulags.
I dismiss the spin tales coming out of Lobby and neocon quarters, that Ross was brought over to the White House to "teach them a thing or two" about how to deal with Iran, and that he is the darling of Tom Donalon, the number two under General Jones.
That is the good news portion of what I am hearing. Ross will not give up without a fight, and he will count on the AIPAC/WINEP crowd continuing to whimper that he must be given a prominent seat at the table. Look for him to try to muck around with the expected new NIE on Iran.
But that aside, I call all of your attention to the recent friction, developing between the White House and the Secretary of State. The most immediate manifestations of this rift are: 1. The White House insistence that Secretary Clinton drop her plans to bring her longtime advisor and friend, Sid Blumenthal into State, as a personal advisor to the Secretary. I am told that, while Denis McDonough was the purveyor of the message from the White House to Hillary, it was actually Rahm Emanuel who led the charge against Blumenthal, and, by extension, against Secretary Clinton. There is a sycophant problem at the White House. The fact that Hillary Clinton has been doing a very effective job, repairing some of the damage from eight years of Bush-Cheney "diplomacy-free foreign policy," is now rubbing some of the sycophants the wrong way--as if her success somewho undermines the credibility of the President.
I considered this a relatively secondary matter, reflecting the usual personality frictions, in an administration top-loaded with smart people. But when Clinton announced yesterday that she was not going to Moscow with the President for his face-to-face summit with Medvedev and Putin, I inquired further, and got a clear indication that there are ruffled egos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who reacted with some paranoia about the prospect of a Hillary partisan like Blumenthal taking a slot at State.
This is bad news all around. The President's economic team, led by Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Peter Orszag, and Rahm Emanuel himself, is so biased in favor of bailing out the banks, that they have squandered $8 trillion in taxpayers money, and have done nothing about the ever-shrinking real economy. Just look at the job losses since January--3 million net jobs lost from the U.S. economy, with other really serious repercussions.
In this context, the national security team, Gen. Jones, Sec. Def. Gates, Hillary, and the two special envoys--Mitchell and Holbrooke--have been operating effectively, with a degree of collegiality and genuine coordination of effort, that serves the President very well. You can disagree with some of their policy decisions, but I don't think there is any dispute that this is a team of experienced and well-intentioned people. Thus, if there is any real effort, for petty realpolitiking reasons, to disrupt or diminish this team, that is going to be a further disaster. And that worries me far more than the whereabouts of Dennis Ross. Harper