As expected, President Bush’s seeming failure to anoint Gov. Tom Ridge as his Secretary of Homeland Security has opened the door to the floating of other names for the job, among them, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Richard Armitage of the State Department. Privately several congressmen have pushed the nomination of current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. None of these men is jockeying for the job, in part, White House insiders say, because it seems so clear that Ridge is the man.
“When the president traveled the country this week, it was Ridge who was out there with him, touting the program and the department,” says a White House political operative. “The president isn’t going to be rushed into a decision, but it’s pretty clear to a lot of people that Ridge is the man barring a major screwup on his part.”
Apparently, though, even Ridge isn’t so sure about his standing. Another White House staffer says there was grumbling out of Ridge’s office that Bush wasn’t more definitive in his address that Ridge was in fact going to be SecHomeSec. “You can’t make everyone happy, but there were basic logistics reasons, Washington reasons why Ridge couldn’t be nominated,” says a White House legislative liaison. “The president couldn’t nominate someone to a position that doesn’t exist, to a department that doesn’t exist. I’d expect that once the legislation creating the department is passed by Congress, you’ll see the nomination up there the next day and it will be Ridge.”
Beyond the territorial fighting over the Department of Homeland Security, another related fight may be brewing. In his current capacity, Tom Ridge has in some ways been serving a Domestic Security Adviser, a kind of opposite number to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. There are now expectations that if and when Ridge leaves that post, it will have to be filled. “I can’t envision that we wouldn’t have someone in the White House filling that role that Condi fills on the international scene. Someone has to filter all that information the new agency is creating for the president and the White House,” says a senior White House aide.
Though it would create a lot more work, Rice apparently wants that job placed inside her National Security Council universe, reporting to her. “Ridge didn’t report to her, but his was a different kind of job from what we’re talking about now,” says the source. “It makes sense that it would fall into Condi’s bailiwick. The president likes neat and tidy organizational charts, so it makes sense from an organization standpoint and because the president trusts her and her judgment.”
Remember all that talk from Democrats about how disastrous it would be for the U.S. to withdraw from the ABM treaty? How it would destroy our relations with Russia? How our European allies would throw a fit? Well, today U.S. withdrawal becomes official and the sky hasn’t fallen.
“It just shows how well this White House’s foreign policy team, how this president, has built up a level of trust with out allies,” says a Republican congressman. “President Bush and his people were really attacked viciously for wanting to do this, to take care of U.S. security issues. But here we are, and it’s seemingly seamless. The president and his team deserve credit for that.”
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