Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Former Spokesman P.J. Crowley, Low-Key Rogue With A Strategy

Who among us has not wanted to go "just a little bit rogue" now and then?

Politico has an interview with former State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley in which he explains his reasons for going on the record with remarks that he knew would infuriate the Pentagon and the White House. Basically, he believed it was his job to advance a 'strategic narrative' on U.S. policy, rather than merely to answer questions from the press.

When [Philippa Thomas, a BBC reporter on leave as a Nieman fellow at Harvard University] reported Crowley’s statement [characterizing Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning’s treatment by the Pentagon as “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid”], some of his friends thought he’d acted on the flack’s equivalent of a Freudian death wish, spontaneously combusting in the lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His critics in government, who’d long regarded him as too aggressive, even undisciplined, to speak from the State Department podium, viewed the statement as his latest gaffe.

[TSB note: From the Dictionary of Government Jargon: Definition of gaffe (\ˈgaf\), noun, the act of blurting out the truth.]

To Crowley, it was neither. It was just the latest step in his characteristically low-key decision to go just a little bit rogue, the latest step in a career spokesman’s realization that words can have real power.

“When I paused and then agreed to have the remark on the record, I knew there was a dart that I was sending to the Pentagon,” he said in a recent interview in the deserted bar of a Washington hotel.

-- snip --

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought Crowley, 59, to the State Department in part because he was viewed as someone who was virtually certain to make none of those mistakes. Crowley had always seemed the soul of discretion, a spokesman so wedded to the daily guidance during the Clinton White House years that reporters joked that he might go on background if asked what the next day’s weather forecast looked like.

But unbeknown to his new colleagues at State - and many of his old friends across Washington - Crowley arrived at State after an evolution of sorts. The career Air Force officer, who had entered a military establishment still scarred by the Vietnam War and still deeply hostile to the press, spent his years in civilian life at the Center for American Progress, thinking about strategy. There, some colleagues were surprised to find that his politics seemed to have been shaped more, as one put it, by his native Massachusetts than the Air Force. He settled on the idea of “strategic narrative,” a concept that has made its way into national security jargon from business theory, and one he included in a report he wrote for CAP.

At the State Department podium, Crowley seemed to find his voice and to also realize that his voice could shape policy.

-- snip --

Behind the scenes at the State Department, he’d often argued for blunter, less diplomatic talk. And he’d at times angered the White House and his colleagues by straying dramatically from his official guidance, and positioning himself not just as a staid briefer but as a combatant on the global stage.

-- snip --

To the Obama Administration’s careful national security team, these and other Crowley comments were sloppy and infuriating. To Crowley, it was deliberate strategy in a job that has, as he sees it, an institutional role beyond the demands of day-to-day politics.

I view myself as a strategic thinker and always tried to put what I was saying at the podium in a broader context and trying to always assess, will my words be credible?” he said.

Read the whole thing here.


Anonymous said...

TSB: Going back 70 years for just a moment, These CIA docs indicate 1st
UFO was recovered in 1941 and JFK was denied access to the info during the months leading to his assassination.
Do you think they could have whacked him because he wanted to leak the info? GWB

Anonymous said...

Great Post TSB! Following him I could see that his words' lack of credibility were really frustrating him and the reporters. GWB

TSB said...

On the UFO thing, I looked at the letters, and they asked for info related to preparations for US-USSR joint space exploration. Back then, we had suspicions that the Soviets might be manipulating those UFO sightings as a way to disguise ballistic missile attacks. They weren't exactly as advertised by the UK press.

Anyway, if the CIA was in contact with aliens back then, why would they need to send Gary Powers up in the U-2?

Anonymous said...

TSB: I've never been abducted so I have no knowledge of the aliens. This articles seems to suggest there might be 6 different groups of them. I just thought it was interesting they maybe recovered a UFO in 1941! And didn't the CIA pretty much hate Kennedy after Cuba?? GWB

TSB said...

In the 1940s there were many not-yet-understood aerial phenomema (such as ball lighting, and St. Elmo's fire), and those provoked many 'sightings' of strange stuff.

ETs? I don't think so.

JFK might not have cared much for the CIA by 1961, however, I think the CIA was still run by New Frontier types who voted for Kennedy. Anyway, their individual likes or dislikes wouldn't make any corporate difference.

Anonymous said...

Bradley Manning will be moved to new facility for inmates awaiting trial amid criticism over his treatment.
Why do you think I had to read this on AlJazeera TSB?? Thanks again for the story on PJ. gwb

Anonymous said...

Bush’s Pre-War Iraq Oil Deals Alarmed BP 4/20/11 Juancole.com

TSB: Lady Elizabeth Symens (Blair's
Trade Minister) leaked documents showing the "real planning" for the Iraq war involved BP,Total, Putin
and Cheney. France and Russia wouldn't take the bribe (oil rights)
to give the UN War Resolution and in the end BP came out pretty well. It was Ghadaffy's boys turning the tanks on the citizens of Tripoli that triggered her stomach. Whistle Blowers Cool! No?

Anonymous said...

TSB: PJ really started something. Now Obama's own donors are going after him... and Nancy.
Singing DNC Donors Disrupt Obama At Their Own Fundraiser, Relay Anger Over Bradley Manning (VIDEO)

First Posted: 04/21/11 02:56 PM ET Updated: 04/21/11 05:37 PM ET

TSB said...

I've never understood the purported oil motive for invading Iraq. We could have simply bought the oil from Saddam if that, rather than regime change, had been what we wanted. And we didn't get the contracts for post-regime change oil development, anyway. The Chinese and others did. If oil was the motive, we are deep in the red on that balance sheet.

Anonymous said...

TSB: I know better than to try to get you to buy into a conspiracy theory but can we really doubt the word and docs of "Lady Elizabeth"??
(Of whom I had never heard before.)

That's why I like Juan Cole. He's a good historian and these documents support what he said in his 2009 book: Engaging the Muslim World. Have a great holiday weekend! gwb

GWB said...

TSB: I never understood the oil motive either until I learned more about Cheney ... like his personally monitoring the 180 waterboards of KSM. You have to think like a guy who got a big payoff from the industry, a picked himself to be VP and then worked hard to earn his money. GWB