The Cable

Exclusive: Is State Dept. #2 Steinberg On His Way Out?

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is being considered for the job of dean of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, multiple sources close to the process told The Cable.

Steinberg, the number-two official at the State Department, is widely regarded as a top-tier academic and most recently served as dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, but has faced some turbulence since landing in Foggy Bottom.

Reportedly disappointed after initially angling for a higher position, Steinberg has taken on a broad portfolio at State, both as Secretary Hillary Clinton's deputy and focusing on Asia as his personal policy domain. But some State Department bureaucrats privately gripe about what they see as Steinberg's sometimes intrusive style, and some of his policy proposals have been seen as poorly coordinated with the other parts of the policy community. "He's a brilliant guy, but just not a great fit for that job," said one administration source.

According to two sources familiar with the process, Steinberg has expressed an interest in applying for the job. The search committee has also met with individuals close to Steinberg, to hear their recommendations for him. Sources said the search committee is still narrowing the candidate list and conducting interviews, before making any recommendations to the university president.

When asked if he was a candidate for the job by The Cable, Steinberg said by email, "It would be news to me."

The leading contender, according to insiders, is the current acting Dean Carol Lancaster. A graduate of the School of Foreign Service herself, Lancaster was once deputy administrator of USAID and is a tenured professor there now. Other potential candidates, according to sources, include former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, Princeton University professor Tom Christensen, and former State Department official Marc Grossman. Grossman told The Cable he was contacted about the job, but he is not a candidate. The others did not respond to requests for comment.

"Carol has brilliantly checked boxes," said Robert Gallucci, the immediate past dean, who now heads the MacArthur Foundation after stepping down from the School of Foreign Service after 13 years.  Gallucci worked with Lancaster on the State Department's policy planning staff under Anthony Lake, another Georgetown professor.

Gallucci is not part of the search committee, but talked with The Cable about the process and what the school might be looking for.

"It's a wonderful, challenging job with great opportunity to impact young people who will be in positions of leadership in the international sphere," Gallucci said, adding, "Somebody who had success in the policy world, more likely in government service, could bring something special to the shaping of these minds and the atmosphere of this school."

UPDATE: Steinberg wrote to The Cable after this story posted, "I have not talked with or been contacted by anyone at GSFS or Georgetown Univeristy... I have not met with the search committee."

Kim Min-Hee-pool/Getty Images

The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Haiti, Iran, Syria, Omar al-Bashir

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. Here are the highlights of Wednesday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Wednesday with Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.
  • Two Uighur Guantanamo Bay prisoners are headed to Switzerland, prompting quick protests from the Chinese Communist Party government. Latvia is also taking a Guantanamo prisoner, but since he's not a Uighur, the Chinese seem OK with that one.
  • Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell is in Asia and met Wednesday with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon.
  • Crowley said he was not aware of any consular contacts between the U.S. and Haitian governments related to the 10 America missionaries arrested there for child trafficking. "First and foremost, is a judgment for the Haitian judge and whether he refers this case for further investigation. This is right now a matter in the Haitian judicial system," Crowley said, "As far as we know right now, we're satisfied with what's happening."
  • The State Department is still waiting for Iran to formally communicate to the IAEA their willingness to sign on to a nuclear fuel transfer agreement, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently announced. "We will look for actions as opposed to just words," said Crowley, "We're just seeking clarification through the IAEA as to whether Tehran has changed its current position."
  • "There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran regarding a prisoner swap," Crowley added, "I think we're not interested in a swap, per se." There will be some kind of P5+1 consultation in the next few days.
  • Crowley said the White House has passed on a name to the Syrian government for the next U.S. Ambassador to Damascus and is waiting for a response, but he wouldn't not confirm that name was Baghdad DCM Robert Ford.
  • On the news that the ICC could charge Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir with genocide related to Darfur, Crowley said, "The United States strongly supports international efforts to bring those responsible for genocide and war crimes in Darfur to justice and believes firmly that there cannot be a lasting peace in Darfur without accountability and justice." Not sure if that jives with Scott Gration's suggestion of cookies and gold stars for Khartoum, "But in the absence of significant action by Sudan itself to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide in Darfur, this is an acceptable and - under the ICC, this is the kind - just the kind of case and circumstance that it was formed for," Crowley said, "At some point, Bashir has to get a good lawyer."