No Comment — January 22, 2009, 2:19 pm

Glinda Arrives at State

One thing seems clear regarding Condoleezza Rice’s stewardship of the State Department: she did not command the admiration of many of those who worked with her. The reaction of State Department employees as Hillary Clinton arrived this morning apparently bears comparison to the liberation of Paris at the end of World War II.

There are great hopes for Hillary at State. I met last week with a number of career State Department employees and was surprised when one said she was looking forward to the “Glinda Party” next week. I asked her: if Hillary was Glinda, the Good Witch of the South from the Wizard of Oz, did that make Condoleezza Rice the Wicked Witch of the West?

“You’re on to it,” she said. Another person pointed out to me that after Rice’s arrival in 2005 the tone of official State Department publications changed; they began to praise and glorify Rice. “No prior secretary,” said the twenty-year veteran, “did anything like this.”

Hillary’s message to her new team at State points to a major change at a department that under Rice issued doctrine and commanded complete personal loyalty. Here’s Eric Kleefeld’s report of her remarks:

This is going to be a challenging time, and it will require 21st-century tools and solutions to meet our problems and seize our opportunities. I’m gonna be asking a lot of you, I want you to think outside the proverbial box. I want you to give me the best advice you can, I want you to understand there is nothing that I welcome more than a good debate, and the kind of dialogue that will make us better.

President Barack Obama is slated to visit State later in the day.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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