It appears that any thoughts that new Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would be open to a staff that looks more like a Bush Administration than a Gore Administration should be forgotten.
According to a senior Treasury Department official who has served there from the beginning of the first Bush term, longtime political appointees to the staff are being told their office spaces are required for new staff coming in, and that they should be open to new opportunities elsewhere in the Administration if not in the private sector.
According to knowledgeable sources in New York on Wall Street, Paulson has spoken on several occasions to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, seeking advice about the job, but more directly seeking recommendations on whom to hire for senior advisory positions on his staff. At least one of those posts is expected to be filled by a current aide to MoveOn.org and Bush hater par excellence, George Soros.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has privately told friends and Democrat fundraisers in New York that he is exceedingly pleased with Paulson and the people he is considering for senior positions, say a Wall Streeter, who has attended meetings with Schumer.
“That this is happening is just mindboggling,” says a former Treasury official, who left a post there about six months ago. “Along with State, Defense and Justice, Treasury is considered a very good posting. There are conservatives in this Administration who would kill for a position there, and they are qualified.”
Treasury in comparison to other Cabinet-level departments has been about as stable employment wise as the White House. Though lately, a number of positions have been opening. Some conservatives took hopeful measure of the news that longtime Bush communications adviser Jim Wilkinson was moving from State to Treasury to serve as Paulson’s chief of staff. But for all of Wilkinson’s ability to shape message, the hiring of staff more loyal to the Democrat Party and its goals apparently is out of his hands — and in those of Paulson himself.
“This is bad news that can only get worse,” says the former Treasury aide, “because it isn’t just happening in Treasury.”
That’s true. Rumblings continue apace about the ongoing transformation at the State Department with the exit of Wilkinson, as well as the resignation earlier this summer of Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick.
Republicans had hoped that Zoellick’s post would be filled by current Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt. But it does not appear that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is so inclined to hire him. She is expected to announce that former Clinton State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns will fill Zoellick’s post.
“For whatever reason, [Condi] is drawn to his experience and style more to some of the conservative or Republican alternatives,” says a former State Department political employee. “But those choices might require a fight in the Senate, and I don’t think this Administration wants to fight anymore. They’ve had it, and we’re going to pay for it.”
While senior aides to Rice say that Burns has been loyal both to her and the White House in his public conversations and in private meetings, Burns’s presence at Foggy Bottom and the people that surround him may be the bigger issue.
According to several State sources, careerists at State with ties to Burns are in regular communications with former Clinton foreign policy team members, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and national security adviser Sandy Berger, who feed them information and analysis that they can then use as unnamed sources for such media as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.
“There is no greater place for in-breeding than the State Department and the Foreign Service community in this town,” says a longtime State observer. “You look at the Council on Foreign Relations, which voices are heard loudest there and elsewhere, and you see the problem we have. Burns is really just the tip of the iceberg. There is a bigger problem with State, and Condi hasn’t done anything to fix it; if anything, she’s making it worse.”