An Initiative by Any Other Name
By Al Kamen
Monday, June 7, 2004; Page A21
Words, titles and such are very important in the diplomatic world. Maybe that's why President Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative to promote democracy got a decidedly lukewarm reception when he introduced it earlier this year.
The GMEI -- known as "gimme" -- was all right in concept, but it seemed just too Washington-centric. The Pakistanis, though included, didn't like to be called part of the Middle East. Morocco and the other North African countries, a long way from the heart of the Middle East, were a bit befuddled, and some folks said the Germans thought it sounded a bit like Lebensraum -- a policy from days best not recalled.
So the diplos got to work again and voila!, as Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) would say, out popped the "Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative" -- "BMENAI."
Folks chewed on this a bit more. Apparently this was seen as an improvement but just wasn't quite right -- still too D.C.-oriented, for one thing. So more diplomatic wordsmithing ensued.
And the effort paid off handsomely. The final draft documents tell us the United States is now engaged in the "Partnership for Progress and a Common Future With the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa," or "PPCFRBMENA."
The memo must not have gotten to Bush, who during his Iraq news conference on Tuesday kept talking about the Greater Middle East Initiative.
Nominee Needs Training
Democrats have this quaint notion that presidents should nominate experienced people to sit on boards and commissions overseeing various matters. Despite ample and bipartisan precedent to the contrary, they believe this practice should continue even in June of an election year.
So there was Sen. Frank J. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) at a Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday, talking to retired oil industry executive Enrique Sosa from Florida, nominated to the Amtrak board of directors.
Lautenberg badgered Sosa, a major GOP contributor who has given a bit to Democrats, about some labor matters. Then he noted that Sosa, breaking custom for nominees, had not submitted an opening statement. And on documents he did submit, Sosa said he had no experience on land transportation matters.
Have you ever ridden on Amtrak or in the Northeast corridor? Lautenberg asked. Well, no, Sosa replied. But he pledged to do so if confirmed.
Fair enough. After all, are all lawmakers overseeing NASA experienced in space travel?
Hint: Uncle Ben's Wild ----
And now, it's time once more to play Name That Senior Administration Official! See if you can figure out who the unnamed source might be in this White House transcript.
The briefing was aboard Air Force One en route to Rome last week, so that narrows the field. And the issues relate to foreign policy.
Still don't know? Another clue. The "Senior Administration Official" says Bush is not meeting Pope John Paul II for any political purposes. It's for a host of matters. "So we have a lot that we want to talk to the Vatican about on the human condition."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company