Madeleine Albright's Jewish Dream Team

Once a WASP preserve, the State Department may soon be dominated by WJMs (white Jewish males).

Published February 13, 1997 8:00PM (EST)

WASHINGTON -- following the recent revelations about Madeleine Albright's Jewish roots, the new U.S. Secretary of State faces a new conundrum: All her top candidates for a slew of senior positions in the State Department are Jewish -- and male.

A number of foreign policy experts have been quick to note the exquisiteness of the irony. "It suggests that we've come a long way in this country from the days when the foreign service was reserved for a very WASPy elite," says former National Security Council Middle East advisor Richard Haass, who now directs foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

But it also poses problems for Albright. If all the Jewish candidates are appointed, Albright could draw fire from other minorities and women, not to mention pro-Arab critics of Washington's Mideast policy and anti-Semites of various stripes.

"I'm sure this will feed all the black helicopter kooks who think all this is a Jewish conspiracy," said one Jewish foreign policy analyst who asked not to be identified.

Albright already has promoted two Jewish appointees to senior positions: Special Middle East coordinator Dennis Ross is now Albright's senior counselor, a position that extends his trouble-shooting responsibilities well beyond the Middle East and gives him an office on the State Department's prestigious seventh floor. Meanwhile, the position of undersecretary of State for economic affairs has gone to Stuart Eizenstadt, previously ambassador to the European Community and the administration's point man on determining the extent of Jewish assets in Swiss banks.

And for the first time in the State Department's 208-year history, Jews lead the list of contenders for the six regional assistant secretary posts. According to well-informed sources, they are:

  • Mark Grossman, currently U.S. ambassador to Turkey, for assistant secretary for European affairs;
  • Princeton Lyman, currently the assistant secretary of State for international organizations, and former Rep. Howard Wolpe of Michigan, for assistant secretary for African affairs;
  • Stanley Roth, an aide to former Rep. Steven Solarz of New York and a former staffer on the National Security Council, for assistant secretary for Asian affairs;
  • Karl Indefurth, a former ABC News correspondent who served as Albright's deputy at the United Nations, for assistant secretary for South Asia;
  • Jeff Davidow, assistant secretary of State for Latin American affairs, who is expected to stay on at his post;
  • Martin Indyk, currently U.S. ambassador to Israel, for assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs.

Having chosen (non-Jewish) diplomatic veterans Strobe Talbott and Thomas Pickering as her No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, Albright may come under fire in diversity-conscious Washington for such a heavily Jewish and all-male lineup. Her biggest challenge, however, is likely to come with Indyk, who worked for AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, and then headed the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy before joining the administration.

"The Near East bureau always has prided itself in having career professionals at the helm," says Robert Kaplan, whose book, "The Arabists," examines the State Department's stewardship of Middle East policy. Indyk, appointed by President Clinton as his Middle East advisor in 1993 and then as ambassador to Israel, "is a political candidate," says Kaplan.

"In some circles," he adds, "there's a lot of resentment that people like Ross, (his Jewish deputy Aaron) Miller, and Indyk got so powerful in Near East affairs." Such resentment may ultimately scotch Indyk's chances at the post, which could go instead to Ned Walker, a former deputy to Albright at the United Nations and now U.S. ambassador to Egypt, or Chris Ross, U.S. ambassador to Syria. Both of them are Arabists.

If Middle Eastern politics end up getting in Indyk's way, gender politics could decide who gets the position as undersecretary of State for management. Two male candidates are vying for the job, but Albright is said to want to fill the slot with a woman. Her top candidate: an assistant Interior secretary for policy and management named Bonnie Cohen.

Albright's newly uncovered Jewish past and the prospect of so many Jews entering the State Department has already occasioned some mordant humor in foreign policy circles. For example:

Q: Why did Pamela Harriman have a stroke?
A: Someone leaned over at a party and told her Madeleine Albright was Jewish.

Responding to concerns that there may be too many Jews at the State Department, one foreign policy analyst said: "What's there to worry about? After all, they're all Reform anyway."


OK, the shoes, whatever. But thank God when they went through my closets they found shoes, not skeletons.

--Imelda Marcos, who says she will put up her own Web site to explain her version of the Marcos years. (From ", Anyone? Mrs Marcos Turns to the Web to Tell Her Story," in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.)

By Jonathan Broder

Jonathan Broder is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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