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A Tree in AG Contender's Past Could Needle Democrats

Competence? A requirement? After all these years? Then how would all these jobs get filled?

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed; the committee put off a vote on Fore until the next business meeting.

Wet Blanket Sends His Regrets

Former ambassador to Russia James F. Collins, now at the Carnegie Endowment, invited folks to a Sept. 20 cocktail reception and discussion of "Getting Russia Right," a new book by Dmitri Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Trenin "sheds new light on our understanding of contemporary Russia," Collins said, and explains "how the United States and Europe can deal with it more productively." The book "looks beyond Russia's famous leaders to the economic and cultural spaces outside the Kremlin where promising changes are taking place."

Collins has long been chided by critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for going too easy on the former KGB thug. Trenin, a former GRU military intelligence officer, has been more skeptical, but also not a hard-line opponent of the new kleptocracy.

"Insightful and optimistic, Trenin's innovative and objective analysis provides an understanding that is crucial," Collins wrote.

One person Collins invited, Andrei Piontkovsky, who writes very cynical, satirical op-eds about Putin and the Federal Security Service, or FSB, which succeeded the KGB -- and whose last little book provoked the Russian government to try him for extremism -- e-mailed his regrets.

"Thank you for your kind invitation," he wrote. "Unfortunately, the day when insightful and optimistic Mr. Trenin presents his objective analysis, I have another obligation.

"I'll be in Moscow on my own Moscow 2007 trial facing FSB charges of 'extremism.' Please pass Mr. Trenin my fascination with his sense of historical optimism and his intellectual flexibility."

Well, more canapes for everyone else.

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