No Solidarity for Envoys to Poland

By Al Kamen
Friday, March 28, 2008

At the State Department, the ideological splits usually divide the hawks and doves, the internationalists and the isolationists, the pragmatists and the human rights supporters.

But some historical fault lines include personal rivalries and warring factions that the public rarely hears about. Some internal conflicts even feature groups akin to the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Take, for example, the nearly 30 years' war between the Hill-ites and the Fried-ists, including recent skirmishes that are much the talk in Foggy Bottom corridors.

Hostilities began in the 1980s when Daniel Fried and Christopher R. Hill were working on Poland at the State Department. Hill was skeptical of the dockworker-electrician Lech Walesa, whose Solidarity movement was trying to topple the communist dictatorship. Fried was a true believer in the effort. (Score one for Fried on that.)

Each was later an ambassador to Poland, and each has evidently made it clear to aides that he was better than the other. When Hill was in Warsaw early in the Bush administration and Fried was at the National Security Council overseeing Europe, Hill would openly gripe that Fried purposely kept him out of the good meetings with the president.

When Fried became assistant secretary of state for Europe under Secretary Condoleezza Rice, and Hill was assistant secretary for East Asia, Fried promptly cleaned house of the Hill-ites at the European bureau. Hill promptly hired some of the people Fried axed.

Then came the vacancy earlier this month for the top job for a career diplomat, undersecretary of state for political affairs, the No. 3 post in the department. And while nominee William Burns awaits confirmation, the acting undersecretary is none other than Fried, which means he's, for now, Hill's boss.

Hill, the point man on getting the North Koreans to drop their nukes program, is said to be none too pleased about the situation, and we're told his displeasure is apparent at senior staff meetings where Fried is present.

This reminds us of the occasional tension among the folks on "Gilligan's Island." Maybe they should all sing the theme song or one of the other songs on the show, which Fried's father worked on to put young Dan through college. To recall:

" So this is the tale of the castaways,

They're here for a long, long time.

They'll have to make the best of things,

It's an uphill climb."

The Hot Dogs Will Be American

Opening Day on Sunday at the spiffy new Nationals stadium heralds a new era for baseball. Common folks might be worried about getting hold of tickets. But some lobbyists around town are worried about their ability to give away their excellent tickets.

In the good old days, the lobbyists gobbled up all the best seats at sporting events -- on the 50-yard line, at midcourt or behind home plate -- and then doled them out to aides and lawmakers on the Hill or key administration officials.

But with the ever-tightening ethics rules, there's buzz that some lobby firms are wary about giving away the pricey -- $75 to $325 -- Nats tickets. And lawmakers and staffers are being warned not to take the tickets unless they pay for them -- and to keep a receipt for reimbursement.

Even worse, what with NAFTA a big election issue, it probably doesn't help that those snappy Nats tickets are printed in Canada, specifically, at Mercury Graphics in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

This is most likely a leftover situation from when the Nats were the Montreal Expos, but folks ultra-sensitive about the NAFTA debate might be unhappy about giving out a foreign-made product.

Another problem, at least for Democrats and especially for those tight with organized labor, is that there's no union logo on the tickets, which indicates these are nonunion printers.

Well, let's hope the Nats lineup will be a major draw for the fans. Might help if they added more speed or slugging. (See, for example, the Cleveland Indians lineup when they opened their new stadium in '94: All-Stars Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton . . .)

Avoid Ignition

When last we checked in on Ellen Engleman Connors, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board notorious for her poor relations with colleagues, she was heading off to Indiana to work in real estate. But she came back to Washington a while ago to be senior deputy chief in the enforcement bureau at the Federal Communications Commission.

Now she's off to Houston to be head of external relations at Johnson Space Center, bringing her back into the transportation business. Sort of.

Talking Over the Rainbow

President Bush waxed a bit nostalgic Wednesday during a roundtable with foreign print reporters as he ramped up for his trip next week to Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Russia.

"Are they still talking about the 'rainbow speech'?" Bush asked a reporter. "Were you there [in Bucharest, Romania, in 2002] for that?"

The reporter said she was.

"It was an amazing moment, wasn't it?" Bush said.

"It was amazing moment, yes," the reporter said.

"I was giving a speech in the town square where [former dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu had given his final speech," Bush explained to the reporters. "And it was raining, and, just as I got up to speak, a full rainbow appeared."

"Yes," the reporter added, and Bush spoke about a "bridge to a new Russia."

"Yes," Bush said.

"You remember that?" the reporter asked.

"I remember the rainbow most of all. It was a startling moment," Bush said.

Well, that Russia bridge thing ran into some project bumps and delays.

It may have seemed that President Bush and Laura Bush were spending a lot of time Monday on the White House South Lawn chatting and having fun with Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny. At one point, Bush even hugged Mrs. Bunny.

Actually, Bush, whose staff seems to be getting a blizzard of subpoenas and demands for testimony from the Hill these days, was just asking -- and getting -- sage legal advice from the rabbit.

As it turns out, Mr. Bunny was White House counsel Fred Fielding.

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