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I Feel Pretty and Witty and . . . What?

When an athlete's surname appeared to portray certain matters in a positive light, technology came to the rescue.
When an athlete's surname appeared to portray certain matters in a positive light, technology came to the rescue. (By Andy Lyons -- Getty Images)

"The only good news is that there is little opportunity for the Bush administration to make any further concessions in its waning days in office. But for many erstwhile administration supporters, this is a moment of genuine political poignancy. Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse."

-- John R. Bolton, President Bush's ambassador to the United Nations until just 17 months ago, writing, in his understated style, for the Wall Street Journal, of his opposition to the administration's agreement to drop North Korea from the axis of evil. The deal was in exchange for Pyongyang disclosing parts of its plutonium-production efforts and blowing up the cooling tower of a dismantled nuclear facility.

The Invisible Man

Speaking of the North Korea agreement, it appears this deal was an instance of Immaculate Negotiation. At the conclusion of a major accord, especially a tour de force of diplomacy, the key people involved in the effort usually are hailed for their diligent efforts.

But President Bush, in announcing the nuke deal last week with Korean President Kim Jong Il (or Kim Jong Two, as Bush once called him) didn't single out anyone. Nor did national security adviser Stephen Hadley note who headed the U.S. effort.

So Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill (whom hard-liners call Kim Jong Hill), the diplomat who spent the better part of three years brokering the accord, banging his head against the wall in endless bargaining with the belligerent North Koreans, goes unnoticed?

Before he showed up, the diplomatic effort was dead in the water. No one in the Bush administration really wanted to do anything diplomatically about the North Korean nuclear program, with the possible exception of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Even Rice didn't note Hill's contribution in her statement Thursday and comments to reporters on the deal.

And throughout those three years, lurking around every corner, in every corridor of the foreign policy bureaucracy, there were sworn enemies of any diplomatic deals with the duplicitous North Koreans (see Bolton, J., above). And let's face it, it wasn't easy treading amongst the sometimes less-than-helpful other countries involved: the Russians (or neo-Soviets), the Chicoms, the Japanese and the beef-loving South Koreans.

It's kind of like that giant shipment of 37,000 tons of wheat that miraculously appeared in North Korea a few days after the deal was announced. It just showed up. Absolutely no connection.

Answering the Call

Speaking of the State Department, the career Foreign Service took some lumps a while back in stories saying there was a shortfall of volunteers for nearly 300 openings in Iraq. But word at Foggy Bottom is that the response was strong after State began recruiting early for next summer's openings in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We are making good progress, and are reviewing the applications of the many volunteers who have already expressed a desire to answer the call to service in both Iraq and Afghanistan," an official told us yesterday. One incentive may be that, for those who sign up for a year in these hot spots, you've got an excellent chance to find yourself the next year sipping Campari and soda on the Via Veneto.

Another incentive may be that embassy staffers don't have to live in those tin-can trailers -- or sleep in their offices -- in the event of some nasty mortar attacks. That's because the hardened apartments in the new embassy complex are finished.

The downside is that the chancery, or office building, which should have been completed many months ago, still isn't. There have been myriad delays and inspections, and we're told there are still-unremedied plumbing and electrical problems and such. So, for now, that means a 20-minute commute from home to work each day if you want to sleep.

Still at Work, Still With Wolfie

Out and about . . . Looking tanned, trim and somewhat glamorous with a blonder mane than usual, Shaha Riza dined last Thursday at the residence of Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid with longtime companion and equally tanned former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. The dinner was in honor of former U.S. ambassador to Beirut Jeffrey Feltman, who survived a very rocky tour in Lebanon during which former prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated along with a succession of Lebanese legislators, publishers and journalists. Then there was that 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war.

Speaking of Ms. Riza, we're told she's still working for the World Bank, apparently earning her $180,000 salary (that's after taxes) and telecommuting from home.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this column.

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