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Holes in the Memory

By Al Kamen
Friday, May 16, 2008

President Bush has been ridiculed and chastised in the liberal blogosphere for saying he gave up golf to show solidarity with the troops fighting in Iraq.

"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," he said in an interview with the Politico. "I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

Asked when he came to that conclusion, he said, "I remember when de Mello, who was at the U.N., got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man's life. And I was playing golf -- I think I was in central Texas -- and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, it's just not worth it anymore to do."

The problem is that Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. envoy in Iraq at the time, was killed Aug. 19, 2003. Bush, according to news reports, was still playing two days later, when he teed off at the Crosswater Golf Course in Sunriver, Ore., during a two-day visit to the Pacific Northwest.

He also played Sept. 28 with friends at Andrews Air Force Base course and again there on Oct. 13, in honor of Columbus Day. It appears that he didn't golf after that -- at least judging from a review of media coverage since then.

This is why, especially after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's recollections of her landing under fire in Bosnia, it's probably best for those of us of a certain age never to begin a sentence by saying: "Oh, yes, I remember distinctly, it was that moment when I was . . ."

Because the odds are, you don't.

Grip and Grin

Human rights advocates were wincing at a photo on the wires of Agency for International Development chief Henrietta Fore shaking hands and beaming with a Burmese military thug at the Rangoon airport a few days ago, shortly after the first U.S. planeload of supplies for victims of Cyclone Nargis was permitted to land.

There have been numerous reports that the military has turned around and sold the stuff or has taken it to warehouses and distributed moldy rice and the like. And the lowlifes have just started allowing a small number of international aid workers into the country to deliver the aid themselves.

Obviously, the administration had to deal with the odious regime to get any aid into Burma at all. And sure, it was worth a try sending a senior official over to try to lean on them for better access. But we're told this cheerful character is wearing the insignia of the Burmese Army's Northern Command, the guys who operate in ethnic minority areas where human rights abuses are rampant.

And the photo, with echoes of the famous shot of April Glaspie, then U.S. ambassador to Iraq, hanging with Saddam before he invaded Kuwait, creates an impression that there's some progress over there when, at least so far, there's been precious little.

At least the food supplies were offloaded by workers wearing USDA T-shirts -- maybe flown over directly from the Department of Agriculture?

No, those would be shirts of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a paramilitary group believed to have been involved in the attempted assassination a few years back of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Its members have reportedly been attacking people trying to distribute aid on their own.

A Far Cry From Bob Hope

This bulletin just in from the United Service Organizations, better known as the venerable USO.

Blackwater Worldwide has joined the USO as its newest Worldwide Strategic Partner. Blackwater, a global leader in advanced law enforcement and military peacekeeping training, has committed $2 million over four years to support USO programs and services for the troops, including homecoming celebrations and logistical support for USO entertainment tours.

"We welcome Blackwater Worldwide to the list of corporations who demonstrate their commitment to supporting American service members and their families by partnering with the USO," said Edward A. Powell, USO president and CEO. "This partnership will help the USO to continue its vital work Until Every One Comes Home." (That's the USO slogan.)

The Blackwater guys are known for their quick, violent reactions; no sudden clapping at the shows.

He's Not the Leader of the Band, Either

Some folks at the Pentagon may have done a double take reading this announcement Wednesday:

"Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced the following Department of Defense Senior Executive Service appointments:

" Robert P. McNamara, director for Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness reassigned to director, Accounting and Finance Policy, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Washington, D.C."

No, no. The Vietnam-era defense secretary was Robert S.

Moving On

Veteran GOP spinmeister Ron Bonjean has gone private, opening the Bonjean Co., which will do lobbying, crisis communications and such.

Bonjean, the first person to hold the top spokesman job in both the House and the Senate, has been communications director for former speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), former Senate majority leader Trent Lott and former commerce secretary Don Evans. Most recently, he was chief of staff for Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). His clients include the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That should keep him quite busy for the next few months.

Also, Robin Cleveland, a longtime top Senate aide and senior Bush White House official who recently was one of the inner circle at the World Bank of former president Paul Wolfowitz, popped up in the news the other day. The White House announced that she'd been named to the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

And former undersecretary of state for political affairs R. Nicholas Burns has been named a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center. Burns, a career Foreign Service officer, was ambassador to NATO and was on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration.

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