WASHINGTON — With the Administration's foreign policy under attack on Capitol Hill and a source of bemusement for some of the nation's traditional allies, Secretary of State Warren Christopher hopes to bolster his team by selecting a seasoned professional diplomat to become his deputy.
Christopher has decided that his second in command must be someone--unlike the departing Clifton R. Wharton--who will help make policy and be prepared to share in the secretary of state's full range of duties, department officials said.
"He has been focused on having as a deputy someone comparable to (former Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S.) Eagleburger, someone to carry out some of the duties Eagleburger carried out for Secretary (James A.) Baker," a senior State Department official said.
The No. 2 spot has been open since Monday, when Wharton announced his resignation. A businessman and educator, Wharton concentrated on administration and bureaucratic reorganization, generally playing only a limited role in repairing policy in such trouble spots as Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
No one blames Wharton for the Administration's inability to forge an agreement with European allies over Bosnia policy or for its failure, so far, to restore democracy to Haiti or for American casualties in Somalia. But top officials said Christopher needs someone with the political and diplomatic skill to help the Administration avoid problems like those in the future.
Foreign policy experts generally said the selection of a high-octane deputy will help the Administration's foreign policy operation. But most said it will not be enough.
"It won't hurt but it won't do it," said Brent Scowcroft, former President George Bush's national security adviser.
A senior State Department official in the Jimmy Carter Administration predicted that Christopher will pick "one of the most obvious names to deal with the immediate issue of competence, someone who can hit the ground running. It must be someone who can immediately deal with Capitol Hill as well as with other agencies."
But the former official, who declined to be identified, said: "There is no way I can conceive of Christopher wanting a flashing star. He is not amused by tap-dancers with fast footwork. He has some contempt for them."
On Capitol Hill, a source said Democratic foreign policy specialists agree that Christopher needs a tough professional in the deputy post. At the same time, the source said, lawmakers were shocked at what they considered shabby treatment of Wharton, who they believe is being made a scapegoat for the Administration's shortcomings.
Although State Department officials insisted that Christopher has not yet compiled a "short list" of possible candidates, the senior official reeled off a list of people who might fill the bill: Michael H. Armacost, former undersecretary of state and former ambassador to Japan; Ambassador to Russia Thomas R. Pickering; former U.N. Ambassador Donald F. McHenry; former Assistant Secretary of State Rozanne Ridgway; former State Department intelligence chief Morton Abramowitz; Strobe Talbott, ambassador at-large to the states of the former Soviet Union, and Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord.
All are career diplomats except Talbott, President Clinton's Oxford University roommate and a former journalist with wide experience in foreign policy. All but Talbott and McHenry, who left government at the end of the Carter Administration, reached prominence during the 12 years of Republican government under Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush.
However, the senior official said Christopher is not concerned because most of the possible candidates were closely identified with Reagan and Bush policy.
Nevertheless, most foreign policy experts said the Administration's problems are not ones that even the most effective deputy secretary of state can be expected to solve.
"They need somebody who can help conceptualize about problems," said Robert B. Zoellick, State Department counselor under Baker. "That is not (Christopher's) forte but it doesn't have to be. It wasn't Baker's forte either. But he had people around who could do that."
Zoellick, himself part of Baker's brain trust, said Administration policy seems to work best in areas where one individual has primary responsibility--the former Soviet Union, where Talbott is dominant, and the Middle East, which is overseen by Dennis Ross.
The former Carter Administration official said the Clinton foreign policy team has been an "old boy's network." He said Christopher, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, Deputy National Security Adviser Samuel (Sandy) Berger and many of the key assistant secretaries of state have known each other for decades. He said an outsider might have trouble fitting in.
A career diplomat who has served in several administrations agreed that Christopher's State Department is so collegial that discipline sometimes is lost.
"Nobody gets punished" for mistakes, the diplomat said. "Nobody is afraid of this guy."
It may be that Christopher wants a bureaucratic disciplinarian for the deputy post. Eagleburger, cited as the prototype, was widely known as the department's enforcer during his tenure as Baker's deputy and during earlier assignments to other senior jobs.
Most outside experts believe that Pickering probably has the inside track because of the reputation he established as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Persian Gulf War. However, these experts caution that Pickering has a prickly personality and clashed frequently with Baker.
Without singling out Pickering, Scowcroft said the Administration needs "a strong person and a good manager but without a personality which might clash with that of Warren Christopher. A very strong, assertive personality would create serious clashes with the way that Christopher likes to operate."