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In the Loop

Iranians Might Find Bush Remark Puzzling

By Al Kamen
Friday, February 25, 2005; Page A19

P resident Bush, in Germany on Wednesday with his good buddy Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, was talking about a tougher line toward Iran than the Euros want.

The Germans want to sell Tehran a plane and offer other inducements to get the Iranians to drop their nuclear program.

President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met in Mainz, Germany. (Charles Dharapak -- AP)

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Bush has suggested that the best strategy might be to ask the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions.

"The reason we're having these discussions," Bush said, "is because they were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium. These discussions are occurring because they have breached a contract with the international community."

The Iranians might be a bit puzzled by this. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) they signed in 1968 says that countries are allowed to enrich uranium for use as nuclear fuel as long as they disclose their actions.

That is, many folks argue, precisely what is wrong with that treaty: It allows countries to have enrichment programs that bring them closer and closer to nuclear-weapon capability and then it's too-short a jump to actually having the weapons. North Korea signed, abused and then walked away from the NPT. And countries such as South Korea, Japan and Canada are all about five minutes away from nuclear weapons if they want them.

The Iranians, as is their wont, may well be lying through their teeth about their nuclear programs, not disclosing what they are doing in violation of the treaty. But they never promised not to enrich.

So Bush's comment . . . Oh, never mind. As they say, close enough for government work.

White House Gets a New Ethics Lawyer

In recent moves of note, the top ethics lawyer for the White House, Nanette Everson, left last Friday to spend more time with her family, which includes IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

Nanette Everson, who joined the counsel's office after that little dust-up about counselor Karl Rove's Enron holdings a few years back, gets high marks in the White House, especially given the lack of major first-term ethics scandals.

The one exception might have been the blowup of the Bernie Kerik nomination for intelligence czar, but she's not faulted for that, since she wasn't asked to do the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll part of the vetting.

Her successor is Richard Painter, a University of Illinois law professor. Painter is seen as a hard-liner on corporate fraud, we're told. His views were picked up by vice presidential candidate and then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), no less, who pushed through legislation to force the Securities and Exchange Commission to draft standards of conduct for securities lawyers.

On the other hand, he opined in favor of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the dispute over whether Scalia, after hopping on a flight on Air Force Two with Vice President Cheney to Louisiana for some duck hunting, should pull out of a high-court case involving Cheney's energy task force.

Painter told the Christian Science Monitor that Scalia's trip "might not have been the smartest thing to do." But, by itself, it did not require recusal. The rule is you can't talk about the case, he said, "but there is no flat prohibition on contacts between a litigant and a judge in a purely social setting."

Note to federal judges: Freebie trips to the Caribbean on government planes are okay. Just talk about snorkeling.

Going Private . . .

Chad Kolton, Office of Management and Budget spokesman for the past year and a half, is going private, opening Kolton Communications on Monday. Kolton, formerly public affairs chief at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a Hill aide before that, also did a stint in Moscow from 1998 to 2000 as program director for the International Republican Institute, which promotes democratic values in places such as former KGB thug Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Todd Webster, former communications director for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and then-Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), has opened his own communications consulting group, Webster Strategies.

Lee Rawls, FBI chief of staff and more recently chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), has signed on as a vice president of Van Scoyoc Associates.

Frist's just-departed deputy chief of staff and policy director, Allen Moore, a former top Commerce Department official and legislative director to then-Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), has been named a senior fellow with the Global Health Council.

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