Corridors of Power: Bush, Blair, the Law of the Sea and More

Corridors of Power: Bush, Blair, the Law of the Sea and More

EARLY LAME DUCK -- The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Monday has reinforced the impression among foreign governments that with 15 months to go, the Bush administration is already in lame duck mode. Aside from Iraq, "nothing much is going on, not even for Afghanistan," privately admits a senior U.S. official. Meanwhile, a Western diplomat said Karl Rove's departure has triggered an exodus from the White House and the National Security Council. As a result, he said, "There are now more holes in the administration than in Swiss cheese."

Experienced foreign diplomats, accustomed to the lack of continuity from one American administration to the next, tend to see their dealings in Washington in four-year cycles. Unlike in Europe, where senior ministerial officials tend to remain in office, thus providing continuity even when there is a political shift, a new administration brings deep staff changes. But even the most seasoned foreign officials are surprised that Bush is a lame duck president so early in his second term. The reason, they say, is the unusually early start to the presidential race, which gives an illusion of imminence to the elections themselves.

So world leaders from London to Beijing are marking time -- at least waiting for the presidential race to produce front-runners. "It's the same every four years, but this time it's all happening earlier," the diplomat observed.

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