Saturday, August 12, 2006

After Fidel -- Snap, Crackle and Pop
After Fidel -- Snap, Crackle and Pop
By Al Kamen

The Bush administration is preparing a large humanitarian aid effort should chaos occur in the transition to a post-Fidel Cuba, including the delivery of food, medicine, clothing, tents and such.

Folks at the Agency for International Development assumed they would take the lead on this because they, working with private relief organizations, traditionally do these things. But they weren't picked.

Turns out the Commerce Department, not heretofore known to have much expertise in disaster relief, will take the lead role. Buzz is that's because Commerce is headed by Cuban-born Carlos M. Gutierrez .

Supporters say he knows the island, though he left it 46 years ago, when he was 7. And, as former chairman and CEO of Kellogg Co., he knows how to manage things and to distribute food -- or at least breakfast food. He is also co-chairman of the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. The well-regarded Gutierrez knows everyone in the Cuban emigre community -- though it's unclear whether that will help or hurt.

The effort, "is going to involve multiple agencies," a Commerce Department spokesman said, including the departments of State and Homeland Security, and "Gutierrez is a team player." Also, the spokesman said, "at AID's invitation" he's visiting a warehouse today in Miami "to see their preparations for regional relief." He's also taping a TV Marti interview there.

Well, coulda been a whole lot worse. They could have picked FEMA, or brought back Michael "Brownie" Brown as a special consultant.
Take the Initiative, Please

The spectacular British thwarting of a terrorist airline plot naturally dominated yesterday's news, but some administration officials hoped it wouldn't drown out all the other important news. For example, we got this notice yesterday from the State Department:

"SPECIAL BRIEFING: 2:00 p.m. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Josette Sheeran Shiner ; Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Elizabeth G. Verville [and others from Justice and Treasury] will brief the media on The President's International Initiative to Combat Kleptocracy. This briefing is on-the-record, on-camera in the State Department Press Briefing Room, room 2209."

This initiative is coordinated with the Group of Eight major industrialized countries. It probably could have been rolled out at the recent G-8 meeting, but the meeting's host country, Russia, is one of the great kleptocracies of the world.
A Bridge Too Near

Speaking of the State Department, there was substantial buzz there a few days ago when Israel bombed a series of bridges in Lebanon. Apparently the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey D. Feltman , had traveled over one of the bridges just a few hours before it was hit.

Folks at the embassy were none too pleased.
Sturm Und Pang

A British Broadcasting Co. interviewer, chatting with major U.S. ally Jordan's King Abdullah , began: " Condoleezza Rice called it the birth pangs of a new Middle East, but it . . .''

"A new Middle East?" his highness interjected. "The way I'm looking at this new Middle East, I'm seeing what is happening in Somalia, I'm seeing what's happening in Gaza, I see what's happening in Lebanon, I'm seeing what's happening in Iraq. This is a new Middle East?"

Well, yes, it is.
A No. 3 for No. 2, but Who's No. 1?

William W. Mercer , formerly top aide to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty and more recently U.S. attorney for Montana, is said to be heading back to this area to become associate attorney general, the No. 3 job at the Justice Department.

Mercer would succeed Bush's Yale buddy and reported Skull and Bones member Robert D. McCallum Jr ., who's to arrive in Australia next week to fill the long-vacant ambassadorial post. The Australians, who with Britain are the staunchest members of the coalition of the willing, had been mighty annoyed at the 20-month vacancy, which occurred in part because the first couple of candidates couldn't clear the vetting process.
Rogan Redux

New job for another Loop Favorite. Former representative James E. Rogan (R-Calif.), a manager of the Clinton impeachment, is California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger 's pick to be a judge on the Orange County Superior Court.

Rogan, targeted and defeated by Democrats in 2000, was appointed by Bush to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from 2001 to 2004 and then went into private law practice here and then in California.
Writing Fashion Statements

Matthew Rees , a former speechwriter for President Bush and for former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William H. Donaldson and a senior adviser to former U.S. trade representative Robert B. Zoellick , is settling in at the Treasury Department as chief speechwriter and senior adviser to new Secretary Henry M. "Hank" Paulson Jr . Trust he'll be dressing to Treasury's now-documented high standards.