In the Loop: Ari Fleischer Credits Former Boss Bush for Reformist Wave in Iran

By Al Kamen
Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Republicans seemed to have been caught off guard last month when the liberal media credited President Obama with helping in the recent victory of a pro-Western coalition in Lebanon. So on Friday, the Iranians had barely finished voting -- and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hadn't yet stolen the election -- when the spinning began on who should get credit for the reformists' surge in the polls there.

Veteran spinmeister Ari Fleischer, a former Bush White House spokesman, appears to have been the first out the box, at 11:55 a.m., with an interesting analysis. No one yet knew the final outcome, he wrote in an e-mail to our colleague Glenn Kessler, but "one of the reasons there is a substantial reform movement in Iran -- particularly among its young people -- is because of George W. Bush's tough policies." He noted that Bush's policies in Lebanon also helped in the recent elections there.

"A big push for reform is because of the desire of Iranians to get out from sanctions, to put an end to the country's international ostracism," Fleischer wrote and, most interestingly, "because Shiites in particular see Shiites in Iraq having more freedoms than they do. Bush's tough policies have helped give rise to the reformists and I think we're witnessing that today."

Plus there was all this "outreach to the people of Iran," he wrote, at the State Department, with those "people-to-people exchange programs" involving artists and doctors and film folks and so forth. We especially recall the 14 artists then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met two years ago. All in all, they doubtless reached more people than Obama did with his Cairo speech on June 4.

So "I think it's fair to say the George Bush's Freedom Agenda planted seeds that have started to grow in the Middle East," Fleischer concluded.

Not to mention those seeds for the economy here.


Louis Caldera, the former White House Military Office chief who quit last month after approving that bizarre Air Force One photo op over Manhattan that frightened countless New Yorkers, has landed a job. He'll be a senior fellow focusing on higher education and national security matters at the Center for American Progress, run by John Podesta, a co-chairman of Obama's transition team.

Obama aides said at the time that the president was furious about the April 27 flyover, which included an Air Force One understudy and two F-16 military fighter aircraft flying over the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan, not all that far from the site of the World Trade Center. The photo shoot, which cost up to $357,000, sent panicked New Yorkers into the streets thinking another attack was occurring.


Speaking of air travel, there's talk that the administration is about to nominate a few members to the National Transportation Safety Board. We're hearing that Chris Hart, who had been on the NTSB a while back and was a top official at the Federal Aviation Administration, may be repeating his stint on the NTSB.

Mark Rosekind, a former NASA scientist and fatigue-management expert, also looks to be getting a seat on the five-member board.


Mark your calendars! John Dean, he of Watergate fame, is going to be speaking at . . . ready? The Nixon Library! This will be Wednesday, the 37th anniversary of the break-in. (The library had been run with a decidedly conservative tilt, but the new management apparently prefers more political diversity.)

But Dean? The "cancer on the presidency" guy who was key to bringing down the whole administration? He's doing a book-signing at the library, according to a note we received early last week, of the paperback edition of his 1976 work, "Blind Ambition," which is being privately published by his PR firm, with a new afterword.

Another guest sure to warm the hearts of Nixon fans, Richard Ben-Veniste, who worked in the Watergate special prosecutor's office and on the 9/11 Commission, is appearing July 8 to talk about his new book on those events. July 8, 1974, Loop fans may recall, was the day the Supreme Court heard arguments in U.S. v. Nixon. Ben-Veniste participated in the arguments before the court.


Obama officially made the long-awaited nominations of former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer to be ambassador to Switzerland and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney to Ireland last week. (We heard that GOP Rep. Peter King of New York demurred when asked about Dublin.)

Speaking of turning down jobs, prominent Washington lawyer Howard Gutman, who apparently had his pick of some excellent top-level jobs in the administration, opted instead to be ambassador to Brussels. Gutman, a former special assistant for counterterrorism to ex-FBI director William Webster, longtime Democratic adviser and original member of Obama's national finance committee -- he bundled more than half a million bucks -- will be only an hour and a half from Paris.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis lawyer Sam Kaplan, a longtime Minnesota Democratic power broker and fundraiser -- he was another major bundler for Obama -- is in line for an embassy job in Rabat, Morocco, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And Mark Gitenstein, former Senate Judiciary Committee aide to then-Chairman Joe Biden, picks up the Bucharest, Romania, embassy. Gitenstein had been considered a shoo-in for assistant attorney general for legal policy, but liberal opposition against him for some of his legal work for a number of business clients forced the administration to reconsider.

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