The Other Side Was in the Last Throes, if You Will

By Al Kamen
Friday, May 15, 2009

We now know at least one reason former vice president Dick Cheney was taking the Acela up to New York on Monday morning: He was going to attend a debate on U.S. policy on Iran where his daughter Liz Cheney, former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, was arguing for the proposition that "Diplomacy With Iran Is Going Nowhere."

The debate Tuesday night, sponsored by the Rosenkranz Foundation, included, on Cheney's side, Dan Senor, a former Hill foreign policy aide best known for having been the top spokesman for the disastrous Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

The opponents were former undersecretary of state R. Nicholas Burns and Kenneth M. Pollack, former director of Persian Gulf affairs at the National Security Council and a former CIA analyst on Persian Gulf matters.

A pre-debate poll of 430 audience members showed that 34 percent favored the Cheney-Senor side, 33 percent were with Burns-Pollack and 33 percent were undecided.

After the one-hour, 45-minute debate, Cheney's position was favored by 35 percent, while the Burns team rocketed to a whopping 59 percent vote and undecideds dropped to 6 percent.

An electronic voting system was used, so we don't know how Dick Cheney voted. But it seems Liz won't be called "The Great Persuader."


Speaking of Iran and that region, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent out a "Dear Colleague" e-mail Tuesday asking for signatures "to the attached letter to President Obama regarding the Middle East peace process."

The letter says the usual stuff, emphasizing that Washington "must be both a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel" and noting: "Israel will be taking the greatest risks in any peace agreement."

Curiously, when we opened the attachment, we noticed it was named "AIPAC Letter Hoyer Cantor May 2009.pdf."

Seems as though someone forgot to change the name or something. AIPAC? The American Israel Public Affairs Committee? Is that how this stuff works?


The White House is continuing to put the finishing touches on its first wave of ambassadors. The Germany posting looks to be going to former investment banker Phil Murphy, national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who's oft credited with turning around the party's fundraising operation.

Murphy, long part of the Goldman Sachs mafia, which includes former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson, left his long career there three years ago to work for the DNC. He was also a founding board member of and donor to the liberal Center for American Progress.

The embassy in Berlin has not been necessarily put out for bids in the past. Prior ambassadors included Richard Holbrooke, former undersecretary of state Robert Kimmitt, career diplomat and Europe expert John Kornblum, and former senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.). On the other hand, the most recent envoy was Bush mega-contributor William R. Timken Jr.

Murphy actually has some experience in Germany. While at Goldman, he was head of the firm's German region. He might have some useful contacts. Okay, so it's not London or Paris, which have gone to other fat cats, but at least he's not going to be living in sleepy Bonn.


Some readers have complained that recent Post articles were inaccurate in saying that, should she be picked and confirmed, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court. That honor, they say, goes to Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who served in the 1930s.

These are often squishy questions, but our research indicates it would be a bit of a stretch to list Cardozo as the first Hispanic justice. Cardozo was from a Portuguese-Jewish family that fled the Inquisition in the 17th century and went to the Netherlands and England. (More than likely they arrived in Portugal from North Africa, so maybe some would argue he was actually the first Arab American on the court?) The family emigrated to New York in 1752, only 257 years ago.

The Census Bureau says that "Hispanics or Latinos are those people who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the Census 2000 questionnaire."

So maybe the question is whether Cardozo would have classified himself that way. People we've talked to say that's most unlikely.


Sad news from Albany. Former surgeon general Antonia Novello is looking at 12 years in the slammer on charges that, as New York state health commissioner, she illegally ordered state workers to chauffeur her around on shopping sprees, pick up her dry cleaning and water her plants over a two-year period, the Albany Times-Union reported.

At a hearing Tuesday, Novello, sister of comedian Don Novello, who played Father Guido Sarducci in the 1970s on "Saturday Night Live," pleaded not guilty to defrauding the government and filing false information with the state. The judge released her without bail but asked her to surrender her passport.


An item on James Arena-DeRosa, a leading candidate for Peace Corps director, should have noted that he was, but is no longer, the agency's New England regional director.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company