The PoliBlog

The Collective
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via WaPo: Diplomats Received Political Briefings

White House aides have conducted at least half a dozen political briefings for the Bush administration’s top diplomats, including a PowerPoint presentation for ambassadors with senior adviser Karl Rove that named Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008 and a “general political briefing” at the Peace Corps headquarters after the 2002 midterm elections.

The briefings, mostly run by Rove’s deputies at the White House political affairs office, began in early 2001 and included detailed analyses for senior officials of the political landscape surrounding critical congressional and gubernatorial races, according to documents obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Can anyone explain to me why persons in any of these foreign-policy related institutions would need briefings on domestic politics, let alone information on Democratic incumbents in congressional and gubernatorial races?

What am I missing? Even if we set aside the question of what Rove’s goals were here, this strikes me as a monumental waste of time. I can imagine the eye-rolling and frustration amongst State Department appointees when they had to sit through this:

In one instance, State Department aides attended a White House meeting at which political officials examined the 55 most critical House races for 2002 and the media markets most critical to battleground states for President Bush’s reelection fight in 2004, according to documents the department provided to the Senate committee.

Beyond the time-wasting element here, why in the world should persons who are charged with overseeing American diplomatic efforts be concerned with House races? While I understand that Rove and his office would be concerned with issues like re-election and the partisan composition of the Congress, it seems that this administration allowed those concerns to bleed over rather considerably into the real reason that we have elections: picking people to run the government for a set amount of time. Situations like this makes one think that there are too many members of this administration who think the reason that elections are won is to allow them to then work to win the next one, with the whole governing bit to be nothing more than a sideshow.

I must confess, I agree with Senator Biden (from his letter to SecState Rice on the matter):

“I do not understand why ambassadors, in Washington on official duty, would be briefed by White House officials on which Democratic House members are considered top targets by the Republican party for defeat in 2008. Nor do I understand why department employees would need to be briefed on ‘key media markets’ in states that are ‘competitive’ for the president,”


It simply isn’t the job of ambassadors, Peace Corps administrators or bureaucrats at USAID to even be concerned about such issues in their official capacities. Sure, they may be rooting for Republicans to win a given election, but if they want information on vulnerable districts, let them found out about them on their own time like other citizens. They were not put in those positions to work for the re-election of the President nor to aid their party in terms of congressional or gubernatorial races. The only input they should have is that if they go a good job, it may redound positively to the President/party who was in charge of the government when they worked in it.

Then of course, there is the whole Hatch Act issue:

The Hatch Act insulates virtually all federal workers from partisan politics and bars the use of federal resources — including office buildings, phones and computers — for partisan purposes.

This is on the heels of the campaign usage of various appointees, questions about politics and the Surgeon General’s office and the ongoing concerns about what in the world the White House was trying to do with the US Attorneys and the Justice Department in general.

Sphere: Related Content

Filed under: US Politics | |


  1. I’d be curious if there is some sort of link between the ambassadors briefed and the House races at issue. Do the ambassadors come from the districts? Was there a request to give speeches?

    Comment by Max Lybbert — Tuesday, July 24, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

  2. I find myself wondering if this is really anything new. Wrong, certainly, but is it new? Now you know that I would never defend Bush or Rove, but I have to wonder if previous administrations were behaving similarly, just not getting caught. Or maybe this administration has just taken it to new level. I don’t know, just wondering out loud, so to speak.

    Comment by Jan — Wednesday, July 25, 2007 @ 10:35 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

The trackback url for this post is:

NOTE: I will delete any TrackBacks that do not actually link and refer to this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Visitors Since 2/15/03




Powered by WordPress