Imagine our surprise Wednesday to read in the Israeli paper Haaretz
(online), that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abu Mazen, meeting
recently with militants to enlist their support for a truce with Israel, said
that, when they met in Aqaba, President Bush had told him this:
God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he
instructed me to strike at Saddam [ Hussein], which I did, and now
I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will
act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on
So who needs to find WMD or a link with al Qaeda when the orders come
from The Highest Authority?
_____In the Loop_____
Aiming to Lead the Second-Tier Pack (The Washington
Post, Apr 22, 2005)
Keeps His Head (The Washington Post, Apr 20, 2005)
Fan Knows His Way Around the Diamond (The Washington
Post, Apr 18, 2005)
of America by Way of Hong Kong (The Washington Post,
Apr 15, 2005)
Finds Missing Link (The Washington Post, Apr 13, 2005)
In the Loop
||Add In the Loop to your
Two calls to the White House for clarification went unreturned, but
colleague Glenn Kessler did some digging. The Haaretz reporter, Arnon
Regular, read what the paper said were minutes of the Palestinians’ meeting
to Kessler and another colleague, who is an Arabic speaker.
The Arabic-speaking colleague’s translation, was this:
"God inspired me
to hit al Qaeda, and so I hit it. And I had the inspiration to hit Saddam, and
so I hit him. Now I am determined to solve the Middle East problem if you help.
Otherwise the elections will come and I will be wrapped up with them."
Even then, there’s uncertainty. After all, this is Abu Mazen’s account
in Arabic of what Bush said in English, written down by a note-taker in Arabic,
then back into English.
But one thing seems consistent: The election season is going to be a
huge distraction from the Road Map, something the White House has always
insisted would not be the case.
Detour for an Envoy
Speaking of the Middle East and such, there are rumblings
that Robert Blackwill, last seen as our man in India, where he proved
most pro-India and got some seriously bad grades on employee morale, might not
be returning to Harvard after all.
The talk now is that Blackwill, mentor to national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice, could be stopping in Washington to take a senior post
involving that region. Unclear what the contours would be, but it might entail
some shuffling of portfolios amongst incumbents, including Zalmay
Khalilzad, who is, among other things, Special Envoy for Free Iraqis and
special envoy to Afghanistan. Khalilzad could end up as the L. Paul
Short List Gets
Shorter at EPA
Time to take Environmental Protection Agency
Deputy Administrator Linda Fisher off the list of potential candidates to
replace chief Christine Todd Whitman, who’s leaving today. Fisher
yesterday announced that she, too, was leaving, though she’ll stay on as acting
director until July 11.
No official word from the White House as to a nominee for the top slot.
Heavy odds are still favoring former senator and Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
(R), but it’s unclear if that’s a done deal, as they say. The enviros
reportedly are planning a major battle if Kempthorne’s the pick, but they would
be expected to oppose most anything the White House puts forward for the post.
Still also mentioned is EPA Chicago regional director Tom Skinner, former
head of the Illinois environmental agency and son of Samuel K. Skinner,
White House chief of staff during the Bush I administration.
Yesterday, Whitman said farewell to EPA employees during a sentimental
reception and photo session at the agency’s headquarters. Her immediate plans
include a trip to Cambodia to observe the elections, a family vacation to North
Carolina and some possible college speaking engagements later this year.
"I’ll just relax a little bit and see what the future holds," Whitman
said. "Right now I have no idea."
Last Off the Ship
Staying on even after the ship has sunk? EPA’s top two
officials will be gone by July 11, but agency spokesman and veteran Washington
PR hand Joe Martyak is hanging on until July 18 as associate
administrator for public affairs.
Martyak, who was deputy undersecretary of interior in the Reagan
administration and worked on the Hill and in corporate public affairs before
heading back into government, is moving back to private PR work as vice
president of communications and client relations at Van Scoyoc
Does Medicare Cover
Back in April, when last we checked in on
Thomas A. Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services, he was being sued by a Gallup Organization managing partner who
accused him of threatening and intimidating him.
Now Scully, known for his colorfully blunt approach, is in hot water
again, this time accused of saying that one of his employees, CMS Chief Actuary
Rick Foster, would "be fired so fast his head would spin" if Foster gave
some important Medicare data to Congress.
This didn’t sit well with Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (Calif.), the top
Democrat on the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health. Stark said it was
"outrageous" that Scully was "threatening a longtime public servant with being
fired for simply doing his job." The post has always been nonpartisan, Stark
said, but "apparently that no longer holds true."
CMS folks say Stark has it wrong, both with regard to Scully’s comments
and the data. Stark will get the stuff, maybe as early as Thursday evening,
after CMS brass has a chance to look at it.