Ambassador Under Fire
Lebanon, Iraq, the Falkland Islands: The State Department has had more than its share of wars to contend with lately. But one of the bitterest skirmishes it faces today is the one going on within its own ranks. For more than a year the friction between Secretary of State Alexander Haig and U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick has flared periodically into open battle, a special form of internecine warfare waged largely by anonymous "highly placed sources" in Haig's immediate circle. Early in the Falklands crisis, when Kirkpatrick met in New York with two highly placed Argentine officials, unidentified sources put out the story that Haig confronted her in a fury, accused her of undermining official policy, and pushed for her resignation. Three weeks ago, after vetoing a U.N. resolution for a Falklands cease-fire, Kirkpatrick was ordered to announce that the U.S. had intended to abstain. In fact, her instructions to do so had arrived late because Haig, instead of conveying them directly, sent them through his seconds. He justified that action with a dismissive reference to her inferior rank, and the impression was retailed by various "sources" that Kirkpatrick had made a humiliating blunder. "I don't care how Madame K. goes," one of Haig's nameless aides sniped last week, "as long as she goes."
Until now Kirkpatrick has met such attacks, if not with silence, then with the most guarded ripostes. No more. "This is crazy," she told PEOPLE last week. "This politics of leaks—I don't know how to handle it. As a member of the National Security Council and the Cabinet I express my views, and then a grossly distorted version is leaked to the press." Kirkpatrick admits arguing in private for neutrality in the Falklands crisis but says now she was specifically instructed to meet with the Argentine officials and reported on the meetings fully. "I hate being the object of this kind of public attack," she says. "I feel like I'm being set up."
As her feud with Haig reached the boiling point last week, the White House went to extraordinary lengths to reaffirm confidence in Kirkpatrick and put an end to the insistent tattoo of rumors from the State Department. "I have the highest regard for her integrity and loyalty to the Administration and the President," National Security Adviser William Clark said last week. Shortly afterward President Reagan weighed in with his own vote of confidence. "I chose her for the job out of my admiration for her knowledge and courage, and I have no reason to regret that decision," he told PEOPLE. "She's serving her country well, and I'm proud to have her on my team."
Kirkpatrick and Haig have clashed since the earliest days of the Administration. To some extent, that derives from the awkward nature of their professional relationship. The U.N. Ambassador is charged with executing State Department policy, taking instructions from the Secretary of State. But the post carries with it a seat in the Cabinet, which puts the Ambassador on a par, at least technically, with the Secretary. Richard Holbrooke, a former Assistant Secretary of State, says conflict is the natural result. "You offer people a Cabinet rank, and they take it seriously," he says. "You tell them they have an independent role in the making of foreign policy, and they come to believe their own press. And then they become fundamental embarrassments to the people who hired them."
In the case of Kirkpatrick and Haig, the problem is compounded by temperament. "Haig doesn't like any competition," says one departed Administration official. "He wants to be the vicar, to rule the roost." Kirkpatrick, however, has pointedly asserted her independence from him at meetings of the Cabinet and National Security Council, where she refuses to defer or to censor herself. "She comes on like gangbusters," as one White House source puts it, "often pounding on the table to make her points."
Kirkpatrick, 55, a former professor of political science who cites raising three sons as her best credential for serving at the fractious U.N., senses that her gender may be a major cause of her troubles. "A woman in high office is intrinsically controversial," she says. "Many people think a woman shouldn't be in high office. Kissinger is described as 'professorial.' I am described as 'schoolmarmish.' Brzezinski is called 'Doctor.' I am called 'Mrs.' I am depicted as a witch or a scold in editorial cartoons—and the speed with which these stereotypes have been used shows how close these feelings are to the surface. It is much worse than I ever dreamed it would be. My feelings are hurt."
In previous contests between U.N. Ambassadors and Secretaries of State, the victory has always gone to the Secretary. Henry Kissinger served out his term; Daniel Patrick Moynihan did not. Andrew Young departed before Cyrus Vance. But Kirkpatrick has a special hold on her office—a strong personal and ideological kinship with the President which began with an article she wrote in 1979 urging more tolerance for "moderately repressive regimes." Prominent conservatives in and out of government, dismayed by the departure from the Administration of such staunch Reaganites as domestic policy adviser Martin Anderson and political aide Lyn Nofziger, have vigorously taken up Kirkpatrick's cause against the more moderate Haig. "Haig is gifted in conducting war in the twilight zone of leaks and conference-table remarks," charges columnist George Will, who introduced Reagan to Kirkpatrick at a dinner party at his home in 1980. "Haig believes in Haigism. It is not Reaganism. Jeane Kirkpatrick and Reagan share the same principles." Sen. Jesse Helms, whose clout among conservatives the White House can ill afford to challenge, agrees: "I have never in all my limited experience met a person more intelligent or articulate than she is. Haig has leaked complaints that she buttered up the Argentines and undermined the Administration. They are totally without foundation. Haig is going to be Haig, unfortunately."
There are legitimate complaints against Kirkpatrick. Two key members of her staff have left in frustration over her management of the U.S. Mission. She has offended several U.N. envoys by what they consider a condescending, sometimes arrogant manner. Her frequent complaints about the U.N.'s organization have also alienated some fellow diplomats. "Compared to her predecessors, she's not very good," says one representative of a U.S. ally who has felt her wrath. "Her appointment shows us exactly what President Reagan and his people think of the U.N." Grouses a ranking U.N. official: "She's a disaster. I'd like to say something kind about her, but I really can't."
Kirkpatrick was and remains an academic; she left posts at Georgetown University and the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, to take the U.N. job, and she will probably return someday to teaching and research. Plainly, her tolerance for political infighting is not limitless. "I am not an activist by nature, temperament or preference," she said shortly after she took the job. "I had to give up many things I value: control over my daily schedule, freedom to say exactly what I mean as clearly as I can, and money—I made much more money teaching, consulting and lecturing." Today she can add another loss—her family life. "This is not an ideal way to live," says her husband, Evron, 70, also a political scientist, who has remained at their old home in Bethesda, Md. "She is continually on the move. I enjoy her success and I'm glad to have her do it. At the same time, what the hell, we used to live a peaceful life, and in the same house. I am happy to see her doing an effective job on behalf of what I believe in, but I don't expect it to go on forever. One day we both may say to each other, as we have about other things over the years, 'I think it's time...' "
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