News reports are stating that Secretary of State Colin Powell would not retire from his position before the next Presidential inauguration.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has long told friends and associates he planned to serve in the Cabinet no longer than one term, but speculation about his future increased Monday after a Washington Post article said that Powell and his top deputy, Richard Armitage, have recently reaffirmed their intentions to step down even if the president is re-elected.
It’s not uncommon for White House staff to serve only one term, as the stress of working for the White House is enormous, and rates of turnover are always high. Still, the departure of Powell and Armitage would be a loss for the country.
Many conservatives have criticized Secretary Powell for seeming to act against Bush Administration policy. However, Powell has also been a valuable asset to the Administration, from his work in passing UN Resolution 1441 authorizing action in disarming Saddam Hussein to his presentation to the UN in February. Powell may often play diplomatic devil’s advocate to Bush Administration policy, but such contrary input is often helpful in ensuring that the correct policy decisions are made.
The next logical question concerns a replacement for Secretary Powell. Condoleezza Rice has been named as one possibility, along with Paul Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz is a valuable member of the Bush Administration, but internationally he has been throughly vilified by the European media, and while he would be an idea replacement for Rumsfeld, he would have a difficult time with the entrenched bureaucracy of the State Department.
Dr. Rice, on the other hand, is more suited to high-level diplomacy. She’s fluent in Russian, knowledgeable about a range of cultures, astute, and has the sort of qualities that would make her an idea ambassador of the United States worldwide. If there was anyone who could fill Secretary Powell’s shoes, Rice would be it.
UPDATE: The State Department had this to say about the original Washington Post story on this issue:
PRESS RELEASE FROM STATE: Regarding the story in today’s Washington Post about Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard L. Armitage, there was no conversation between the Deputy Secretary and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice concerning any plans for "stepping down." There is no basis for the story. As Secretary Powell has always said, he and Deputy Secretary Armitage serve at the pleasure of the President, and will continue to do so.