The Cable

Tauscher sworn in, "T" bureau takes shape

Just back from an 11-day trip to Africa and before meetings with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton swore in her close ally, former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, as undersecretary of State for arms control and international security Monday in the State Department's eighth floor Ben Franklin room. In attendance were National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones and his wife, long-time friends of Tauscher (whose new groom, Jim Cieslak, is, like Jones, a former Marine), along with Clinton's special advisor on arms control and international security Robert Einhorn, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns, and Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro.

Now that Tauscher's in, she is expected to work closely with Clinton. "The fact that Secretary Clinton personally swore in the new Undersecretary is a testament to the very close relationship between these two veteran female politicians, a connection that goes beyond any formal bureaucratic lines of authority," a nonproliferation hand in attendance said. It's also "a reflection of the personal importance Secretary Clinton places on the broad issues of arms control and nonproliferation. Indeed, for all the recent musings over where Hillary Clinton can make her mark in this administration, forging progress on strengthening the global nonproliferation regime and securing Senate ratification of such key agreements like the START follow-on treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty can lay the foundation for a very strong [Clinton] legacy."

And indeed, by many accounts, Tauscher, who represented California's tenth district for thirteen years, was Clinton's personal, hand-picked choice for the job. Fellow House Democrats, Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, stepped in with their old House colleague Rahm Emanuel to alleviate the White House chief of staff's initial concerns about having to defend Tauscher's seat for the Democrats, and Tauscher returned the favor.  Though she was confirmed June 25 after a conservative critic of the Obama administration's arms control philosophy Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) lifted his hold on her nomination, Tauscher held off immediately resigning her seat because her fellow House Democrats might have needed her vote on a controversial climate change bill.

So, on Friday, June 26, Tauscher spent ten hours presiding over the climate change debate and a mini-filibuster by Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), who spoke for nearly an hour before allowing the House to vote. With the landmark bill approved, Tauscher resigned, sent formal resignation letters to Speaker Pelosi and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and went off the next day to get married to Cieslak, a former F-18 Marine Corps aviator and retired Delta pilot who played football at Northwestern where he tackled O.J. Simpson.

With the Ben Franklin room's soaring views of the Potomac, the grandeur of the swearing-in ceremony's setting was a far cry from the state of neglect Tauscher's staff found when they went to check out her new seventh floor "T" bureau digs early last month while she was on her honeymoon. "When I walked over here July 3, I was flabbergasted," one aide said. "I [was] calling Ellen: it was disgusting, run down, dark and dingy, in total neglect." The office's condition "is symbolic of how arms control had been treated the past eight years," the aide said. Moldy maroon carpeting was replaced with crisp blue, and moods improved.

When Tauscher spoke at a "T" bureau town hall last week, more than 200 people showed up. The former congresswoman has brought over Simon Limage from her Hill office to serve as her chief of staff, and spokesman Jonathan Kaplan, a former reporter for The Hill and Washington correspondent for The Portland Press Herald. Her front office includes Jim Timbie, who has worked on arms control issues since 1971, Vann Van Diepen, serving as acting Assistant Secretary at International Security and Nonproliferation, Shapiro and Gottemoeller. Frank Rose from the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee is working for Gottemoeller. Three new advisors are expected to come on board next month. Among them: Wade Boese, who served as a senior analyst for the Arms Control Association and more recently was Lee Hamilton's right-hand man on the Strategic Posture Commission; and Jofi Joseph, a long-time Senate foreign policy hand most recently for Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA). Joseph is expected to serve as Tauscher's point person on CTBT ratification, a subject he addressed this year in Washington Quarterly.

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