Bolton's Spot May Sit Empty for Months

By Al Kamen
Monday, December 11, 2006

It's beginning to look like the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is once again going to be vacant for several months. John Bolton's recess appointment ended over the weekend -- he's said to be heading back to his perch at the American Enterprise Institute -- and there's still no white smoke from the White House on a successor.

Unless President Bush uses his recess appointment powers once again, a new ambassador probably won't make it through the Senate much before March, and that's if the eventual nominee isn't controversial.

The front-runners these days of course include our man in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, any number of losing GOP House and Senate candidates -- starting with outgoing Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine-- to veteran diplomat and Chicago lawyer Richard Williamson, who had been a top official at the mission a few years back.

For the moment, though, career diplomat Alejandro Wolf, now No. 2 in New York, looks to be acting ambassador for a bit.

Meanwhile, Rich Grinnell, who holds the record for longevity as top spokesman at the mission -- five years and two months -- is likely to be moving on. He was spokesman for ambassadors John D. Negroponte, John C. Danforth and Bolton. It is unclear what's going to happen to Bolton's unusually large six-member staff in his spacious office in Foggy Bottom.

Farewell, Weldon

Outgoing Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), a cherished Loop favorite, waxed eloquent at his last hearing of the House Armed Service Committee Thursday, going on for a good 20 minutes about how he and the committee can take credit for, among other things: a "normalized relationship" with Libya; two meetings with the North Koreans despite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice doing "everything she could to stop us"; ensuring the unmanned drone "Predator would be armed"; developing "missile defense"; and, negotiating "the framework to end the Kosovo War."

"I am the troublemaker," he said proudly, maybe losing his seat because of his "pushing the envelope." Or perhaps it was those FBI agents searching his offices? "And God willing, I'll be going back to North Korea in the next two months to continue that dialogue," he vowed.

So the six-party talks will be seven-party talks?

Gonna miss him a lot.

A Few Words on Terror

Everyone but Michigan football fans mark your calendars. On Dec. 13, author John Mueller is appearing at a Cato Institute forum to discuss his book "Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them." Mueller, our invite says, holds the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at Ohio State University.

Time to Move On

Ron Bonjean, the highly regarded communications director for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and before that public affairs director at the Commerce Department, is moving over to the Senate side to be executive director of the Senate Republican Conference. Bonjean earlier served as press secretary to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and communications director to then-Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), and before that worked for several other House members.

Republican aides are moving around, going private, in large part because Democrats have taken over. But Democratic staffers are also moving to the private sector. Lloyd Ritter, formerly Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists and more recently point man on renewable energy for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, is off to do green-energy consulting.

Is There an Ambassador in the House?

It's not often that famous guests pop in on House committee Christmas parties, but one celebrity came early and stayed late Thursday evening at the House Judiciary gathering. He was even recognized -- to a brief round of applause -- during remarks by incoming committee chairman Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.).

The honored guest? Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, he of the Iraqi yellowcake and the Valerie Plame controversies. Didn't somebody named Pelosi say impeachment was off the table?

Party Faux Pas, Averted

Finally, Pentagon folks note that all those Dec. 15 Christmas parties could have caused logistical and security nightmares if someone like President Bush or Vice President Cheney were to show up that day, outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's last, to pay their respects. So they really had to be moved to other days. It wasn't just that everyone would be seen partying the day he left.

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