There have been some excellent new appointments by President Bush in recent days, today`s announcement of Bob Zoellick as Condi Rice`s deputy at the State Department being the most spectacular. It was a great surprise to me, a big fan of Zoellick`s, because he had told me four years ago he did not want to be "deputy" Treasury Secretary to Paul O`Neill because he had been "deputy" to Jim Baker III at Treasury and again at State, when JBIII went to State back in the first Bush administration. He wanted to run something himself and accepted the post as US Trade Representative. By agreeing to be Rice`s deputy, Zoellick clearly sees the challenge and knows how much he can contribute to foreign policy at this very dicey time.
The most important aspect of the appointment is Zoellick's connection to JBIII and the likelihood that Zoellick will be up to his ears in Middle East diplomacy in the crucial months ahead. The Likudniks in Tel Aviv have never liked Jim Baker, who consistently pushed for more "even-handedness" with the Palestinians. They will expect Zoellick to be in that lineage and nudge Condi in that direction. When Condi was named National Security Advisor back in 2001, she made a number of thoughtless comments about the Palestinians and Yasir Arafat that soured them on her through the last four years. Also bear in mind that Zoellick understands supply-side international economics and was an advocate in 1987 for a restoration of the dollar/gold link. His views on money will not necessarily come into play at Foggy Bottom unless there is a dollar crisis, but it is nice to know he will be high up at State. If Condi had picked a bozo as deputy, she would have flopped, but I credit the White House with picking Zoellick for her, which could make her a success at State. Colin Powell, in my final report card, was a flop, where I first expected him to be the star.
The appointments of two ex-Senators to be co-chairs of the Tax Commission was equally inspired. Connie Mack, one of the earliest members of the old Kemp supply-side team in the House and then a two-term US Senator from Florida, will be joined by John Breaux, who has just given up his Louisiana Democratic seat in the U.S. Senate. Breaux was the one Senate Democrat in the Deep South who was always comfortable with the Reagan supply-side revolution. He probably could have been elected as a Democrat anywhere in the South, where Democrats have now become an endangered species as they have followed the party line on taxation. We should see other appointments to the Commission in the next few days, but if this is any indication of how things are going, it means there will be a good chance of getting genuine reform.
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