This is really shocking:
In a pattern that would become familiar, however, a chill quickly followed the warming in relations. Barely a week after the Tokyo meeting, Iran was included with Iraq and North Korea in the “Axis of Evil.” Michael Gerson, now a NEWSWEEK contributor, headed the White House speechwriting shop at the time. He says Iran and North Korea were inserted into Bush’s controversial State of the Union address in order to avoid focusing solely on Iraq. At the time, Bush was already making plans to topple Saddam Hussein, but he wasn’t ready to say so. Gerson says it was Condoleezza Rice, then national-security adviser, who told him which two countries to include along with Iraq. But the phrase also appealed to a president who felt himself thrust into a grand struggle. Senior aides say it reminded him of Ronald Reagan’s ringing denunciations of the “evil empire.”
Once again, Iran’s reformists were knocked back on their heels. “Those who were in favor of a rapprochement with the United States were marginalized,” says Adeli. “The speech somehow exonerated those who had always doubted America’s intentions.”
In short, Michael Gerson and Condoleezza Rice, purely in order to make a speech that (a) sounded good, and (b) pretended not to be exclusively about Iraq, set the United States on a collision course with Iran. That’s really got to be a historic speechwriting blunder.
Naturally enough, Gerson’s paid a high price for his role in instigating this destructive conflict. After continuing to serve for years in the White House he’s been forced to accept a humiliating position as a Council on Foreign Relations fellow and a columnist for some obscure magazine called Newsweek.