- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2005

Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman, stepped down from the briefing podium yesterday after speaking for six secretaries of state in both Republican and Democratic administrations over 13 years.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a rare appearance in the department’s briefing room to bid Mr. Boucher goodbye, although she promised to find him another government job.

Five years ago, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright appointed him State Department spokesman — Washington’s daily foreign-policy voice and face to the world. Her successor, Colin L. Powell, made the unusual decision to keep Mr. Boucher in place, even though he was a holdover from a Democratic administration.

It was the second time Mr. Boucher took the highly visible position. He first spoke for Secretary of State James A. Baker III and his successor at the tail end of first Bush administration, Lawrence Eagleburger. Mr. Boucher then worked briefly for Warren Christopher.

Mr. Boucher, a former ambassador to Cyprus and consul-general to Hong Kong, has been a Foreign Service officer for nearly three decades. He began his career as a consular officer in China.

“He is somebody on whom I’ve relied, not just for advice on communications and press matters, but on all kinds of matters of foreign policy,” Miss Rice said yesterday.

Because he has served different administrations, Mr. Boucher has had to publicly defend policies that are sometimes quite opposite. For example, he first advocated engagement with North Korea and then argued against engagement.

But in an interview last year, he said speaking for different administrations is “not so hard” because “there are certain common national interests we all pursue.”

“My fundamental belief is that the people who are elected get to decide our nation’s policies, and they need from us in the Foreign Service the best advice, tools and execution,” he said. “But they don’t need us to substitute for people who were elected.”

At his daily briefing on Wednesday, he told reporters: “We are all part of a bigger process that serves information, truth, democracy and tries to give people the information they need to support, evaluate, criticize U.S. foreign policy and that that process improves the policy.”

Mr. Boucher yesterday turned his duties over to Sean McCormack, who worked for Miss Rice at the White House when she was national security adviser.

Mr. McCormack has had one of the most improbable foreign-policy careers in Washington. He is also a Foreign Service officer, but he had only reached the service’s midlevel when he was offered a not-so-visible job at the White House at the end of the Clinton administration.

Miss Rice then promoted him to spokesman for the National Security Council and asked him to follow her to the State Department earlier this year.

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