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Zinni to Jones: Stick It

8:03 PM, Feb 4, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Just how badly did the Obama team treat Anthony Zinni? FP's Laura Rozen quotes Zinni saying that the president actually called to congratulate him on his appointment. Zinni then proceeds to "unload" on the administration's handling of the affair:

"To make a long story short, I kept getting blown off all week," Zinni said. "Meantime, I was rushing to put my personal things in order," to get ready to go.

"Finally, nobody was telling me anything," Zinni said. "I called Jones Monday several times. I finally got through late in evening. I asked Jones, ‘What's going on?' And Jones said, ‘We decided on Chris Hill.'"

"I said, 'Really,'" Zinni recalled. "That was news to me."

Jones asked him if he would like to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Zinni said. "I said, 'You can stick that with whatever other offers,'" Zinni recalled, saying he had used more colorful language with Jones. Asked Jones's response and if he was apologetic, Zinni said, "Jones was not too concerned. He laughed about it."

Zinni said particularly galling is that had he not managed to get through to Jones on Monday night after repeated calls, he would have found out about the Chris Hill appointment in the Washington Post the next day with everybody else.

"You know, I would have appreciated if someone called me and said, 'Minds were changed,'" Zinni said. "But not even to get a call. That's what's really embarrassing."

One former administration official writes in to note that it's ironic Zinni was even considered for the post given how strenuously he opposed the liberation of Iraq, but of course Obama was the antiwar candidate. Still, the amateur hour quality to all this -- to have the President of the United States call to congratulate you on your new appointment and then hear nothing for days only to learn that you've been passed over -- shows a striking level of incompetence. And now they have Zinni popping off to anyone who will listen about how he told Jones to stuff the Saudi ambassadorship where the sun don't shine. But relax, Obama ran a great campaign and a seamless transition, no doubt the government will run like a Swiss watch as soon as we get past these early hiccups.

Competence is back!