Daniel W. Drezner

Speak softly and crush your coffee cups

This is normally Laura Rozen or David Rothkopf‘s beat, but I found several interesting reveals in Helene Cooper’s New York Times story on how General James L. Jones is working out at national security advisor.  This included a sit-down between Cooper and Jones. First, there’s the dueling moosehead factor.  Rothkopf voices some disapproval of Jones:  ...

This is normally Laura Rozen or David Rothkopf‘s beat, but I found several interesting reveals in Helene Cooper’s New York Times story on how General James L. Jones is working out at national security advisor.  This included a sit-down between Cooper and Jones.

First, there’s the dueling moosehead factor.  Rothkopf voices some disapproval of Jones: 

"The national security adviser needs to be behind the president” both literally and figuratively, said David Rothkopf, author of “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.” General Jones, Mr. Rothkopf said, is not “seen as the guy in the room.”

On the other hand, Brent Scowcroft also gets quoted:  “I look at the result of our national security policy and I’m pretty pleased so far.”

Second, although Cooper doesn’t come out and say it bluntly, the NSC staff seems dissatisfied with Jones’ lack of workplace intensity, which leads to this priceless exchange:

General Jones described that behind-the-scenes “teeing up” process as an example of how he could be helpful to the president. He maintained his cool even when asked about sniping from staff members that he went biking at lunchtime and left work early, although he did, at one point, seem about to crush his coffee cup.

“I’m here by 7 o’ clock in the morning, and I go home at 7, 7:30 at night; that’s a fairly reasonable day if you’re properly organized,” he said. What about officials who pride themselves on being at the White House deep into the night?

“Congratulations,” he said. “To me that means you’re not organized.”  (emphasis added)

Despite the obnoxiousness of the last remark, I have to side with Jones here.  The perception — aided and abetted by The West Wing — is that unless you’re staying at your White House office until the early hours of the morning, you’re not really working that hard.  That is a massive deterrent for aspiring policymakers with concurrent aspirations of a home life from entering government service. 

Still, what’s truly interesting here is that Cooper is picking up this kind of backbiting from the NSC staff.

Developing…

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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