One of Washington's worst-kept secrets is out of the bag. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy sometimes disagreed with President Bush's other advisers and sometimes went public with their views to try to influence him.
The deputy, Richard Armitage, who is close to Powell and will leave with him at the end of Mr. Bush's first term, described the process of using the "bully pulpit" in an interview with National Public Radio's Morning Edition on Thursday.
"Differences of opinion are something you as a citizen and I as a citizen should value in your government," Armitage said. "You really want it."
Powell and Armitage, whose friendship was forged decades ago, share foreign policy views that are distinctly more moderate than those of Mr. Bush and other key presidential advisers.
They also made far more use of media interviews and speeches to promote U.S. foreign policy than their predecessors.
What Armitage made clear in the NPR interview was that the public appearances had another design, as well — to try to reflect and register the views of the State Department as well as influence the shaping of policy.
"When Secretary Powell speaks or when Rich Armitage speaks, we're putting out our views. And we will do so respectfully, of course," Armitage said according to a text released Friday by the State Department. "This is what the president paid us for, to bring him our views."
"And, of course, he can agree with us or not, as he chooses," Armitage said.
In the interview, Armitage offered no examples of areas or issues of disagreement, although his response was to a question that suggested Powell and he had been at odds with other top U.S. officials on North Korea and the Middle East.
Powell is known to have pushed for negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons programs, a strategy the president adopted after months of review at the beginning of his first term. On the Middle East, Powell sometimes sought more flexibility from Israel in dealing with the Palestinians than the White House did.
"Differences of opinion are something you as a citizen, and I as a citizen, should value in your government," Armitage said.
"You don't want a government that sees everything the same way. That would be bad — it would lead to bad government, in my view," he said.
"We have our own views and we tried to infuse those views into the bureaucracy," Armitage said.
And, he said, Powell's designated successor, national security adviser Conodoleezza Rice, and her incoming deputy, Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, "are seen as having views that are quite similar to Armitage and Secretary Powell."
"She's an accomplished academic and policymaker who has a lot of years of experience under her belt," Armitage said. "She doesn't just sit here and mouth what comes up from the bureaucracy any more than Secretary Powell or I did," Armitage said.
"We have our own views and we tried to infuse those into the bureaucracy," he said. "I am sure Dr. Rice will do the same."