Wharton hands in bitter resignation Foreign policy team under fire

November 09, 1993|By Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- Deputy Secretary of State Clifton Wharton Jr. has resigned in a move widely seen as a first effort by President Clinton to shake up his foreign policy operation without sacrificing top officials.

In a letter tinged with bitterness that was released by the State Department last night, Mr. Wharton said he was the victim of "the classic Washington practice of sustained anonymous leaks to the media. Therefore, I decided to resign, rather than permit my effectiveness to be further eroded."

It was an embarrassing statement for an administration that prides itself on the collegiality of its senior policy-makers. In effect, Mr. Wharton was accusing his colleagues of having done him in. There have been stories circulating for weeks inside the beltway that Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher was unhappy with Mr. Wharton's performance and wanted to replace him with a stronger deputy.

Mr. Wharton's letter was released with a shorter one from Mr. Christopher, expressing Mr. Clinton's "deep regret" at accepting Wharton's resignation. Mr. Christopher praised Mr. Wharton as "a superb public servant."

In his letter, Mr. Wharton said he hesitated before accepting Mr. Clinton's invitation to serve in the administration one year ago.

"Observing the many frustrations of the political process made me believe that I could best make my personal contributions to my country in other fields," he wrote. "Moreover, I had been disturbed by instances of anonymous character attacks on individuals serving in government. Sadly, my instincts proved to be correct."

At the White House, spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers acknowledged there is "an ongoing review of foreign policy," under way. She said the president and his advisers want improvement and "are going to continue to work to make things work better."

But Ms. Myers insisted Mr. Clinton still has confidence in his senior policy advisers, including Mr. Christopher and Defense Secretary Les Aspin.

"It's clear that he stands 100 percent behind Secretary Aspin and Secretary Christopher," Ms. Myers said.

The administration's foreign policy team has been under fire from congressional critics and analysts after suffering setbacks in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti. Both the president and his senior advisers have been accused of dealing ineptly with the series of crises. Some members of Congress have called for either Mr. Christopher or Mr. Aspin to resign.

A source close to National Security Adviser W. Anthony Lake said Mr. Lake offered to resign "within the last couple of months," but Mr. Clinton rejected the offer.

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