Continued from page 1

At the same time as Mrs. Harty is attempting to fulfill her pledge to senators that fixing the passport mess is her top priority, she is learning the ropes of a new job. On a semi-acting basis, Mrs. Harty is fulfilling the duties of undersecretary of management. The current office-holder, Henrietta Fore, is now the acting head of the U.S. Agency for International Development and also the acting Director of Foreign Assistance.

Because running USAID — especially in her highly regarded, hands-on management style — is an all-consuming job, it is little wonder that State spokesman Brenda Greenberg indicated that Mrs. Fore is leaning heavily on Mrs. Harty. “They’re working together as a team,” Mrs. Greenberg said.

Though a different State Department spokesman — after learning the reason for the inquiry — claimed that Mrs. Harty only serves as a “backup,” it’s clear that State plans to recommend Mrs. Harty for the promotion when Mrs. Fore is confirmed by the Senate to take over USAID.

Which means the ball is now in the White House’s court. Does President Bush want to reward the woman largely responsible for the ravaged plans of millions with a promotion?

Joel Mowbray occasionally writes for The Washington Times.