Friday, May 30, 2003

Snowflakes and Rummygrams

Oh I'm so thrilled the responsible
grownups are in charge again:

President Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other top officials are spending hours coping with frequent, unsolicited attempts by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to make foreign policy, according to senior administration officials who are directly involved.

The officials said Bush himself had to quash a Rumsfeld proposal last month to send Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to South Korea to announce that the United States was pulling American troops off the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

From his first days in office, Rumsfeld has inundated Washington with a blizzard of memos regarding foreign policy, not usually the responsibility of a defense secretary.

''There are literally thousands of them,'' said one frequent recipient of Rumsfeld's foreign policy ideas and advice. ''The theme is control. He wants everyone to have to play on his field.''

In an April 29 memo addressed to Bush, Cheney, and Powell, Rumsfeld suggested that the administration launch information operations to destabilize the communist regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. It was an idea that skeptics elsewhere in the administration dismissed as unlikely to make a dent in so rigid and secret a government.

April was a banner month for ''Snowflakes'' and ''Rummygrams,'' as the defense secretary's classified and unclassified memos are called.

Rumsfeld's frequent foreign-policy forays, with Vice President Dick Cheney supporting some of them behind the scenes, are driving Powell and his aides to distraction, the officials said. The secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior officials said, has kept his nose out of Defense Department business.