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Some Lobbies Are Closer to the Action Than Others

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So you can't get inside the government to see top officials and discuss the important issues of the day. But even though you can't darken the door of the White House -- and, with some exceptions, lobbyists are barred from working for the administration -- all is not lost.

Take this invitation we got from a Washington lobbying powerhouse.

From: Quinn Gillespie & Associates [mailto:receptionist@quinngillespie.com]

Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009

Subject: You're Invited: QGA Breakfast with Fred Baldassaro, Department of the Treasury

Please join us on Tuesday, July 28th, as QGA welcomes Fred Baldassaro, senior advisor in the office of business and public liaison at the Department of the Treasury. Over breakfast at QGA's office, we will host an off-the-record opportunity to meet him and discuss the current financial landscape including how the new ethics rules work; the staffing situation at Treasury; and the legislative priorities of the department.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.

Quinn Gillespie & Associates, 1133 Connecticut Avenue, NW; 5th Floor, Washington D.C.

Please RSVP to rsvp@qga.com or 202-429-6871 as space is limited.

Probably too late, but give it a try.

NO CUDDLING IN VIETNAM

Anyone who's spent hours listening to scratchy old recordings -- or trying to parse the oldie "Louie Louie" -- and then compared what you heard with written transcripts knows there are always discrepancies, sometimes major, sometimes not.

Even the State Department's official and authoritative history -- the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series -- recently acknowledged that its transcripts are not the final word on what, for example, was said in the Nixon White House.

"Readers are advised that the tape recording is the official document," the latest FRUS volume advises, "while the transcript represents solely an interpretation of that document."

Folks at the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy noted a few discrepancies from a volume the historian's office put out in 2006 that quoted taped conversations between President Richard M. Nixon and national security adviser Henry A. Kissinger about the Vietnam War.

According to the FRUS transcript, Kissinger says: "On the other hand, you and I know that you were going to go for broke against the North."

FAS has a "probable correction" that has Kissinger saying: "On the other hand, you and I know that you weren't going to go for broke against the North."

Seems like a notable difference.

And then, in the FRUS version, Kissinger says: "What they do is they're asking for, cuddling for, the things we are going to do anyway. Like troop withdrawals." We hadn't always thought of Ho Chi Minh as a cuddly sort.

FAS is thinking Kissinger actually said: "What they do is they're asking toughly for the things they know we're going to do anyway, like troop withdrawals."

Nixon, according to the FRUS version, says: "You see, that's the point [South Vietnamese President Nguyen] Thieu made which is tremendously compelling."

More likely -- since Thieu was not noted for his compelling points -- is the FAS version: "You see? That's the point that you made which is tremendously compelling."

Finally, the FRUS quotes Nixon: "And, you see, I'm going to lift the blockade as I've said. It's not over yet -- the bombing's not over yet."

Other ears tell FAS they hear Nixon tell Kissinger: "And, you see, that I'm going to live with the blockade as I've said. Well, it's an ultimatum."

Kissinger: "Yeah."

Nixon: "Bombing is not an ultimatum."

The director of the FAS secrecy project, Steven Aftergood, said Tuesday that there were "many examples of differences of no particular significance, but these are striking because the differences are significant."

As former Washington sportscaster Warner Wolf used to advise: "Let's go to the videotape." Or audio, as the case may be.

THE CRAIG RUMOR

A rumor has been circulating for several weeks inside and outside the administration that White House Counsel Gregory Craig is on his way out as the top lawyer in the West Wing. One of Washington's most highly regarded lawyers, Craig had been mentioned prominently for top jobs in the foreign policy operation before being asked to take the counsel's job.

By some accounts, Craig wants to move along in the not-so-distant future. Other sources say he's clashed with others in the inner circle over various matters, including his pushing for an executive order right after the inauguration declaring that the Guantanamo Bay prison will be closed. Also, the long knives are out for Craig because he supported releasing the devastating Justice Department memos authorizing torture.

But we're hearing that no one's asked him to go anywhere and that Obama is still very high on him.

"Sounds like typical Washington parlor games to me," Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff, e-mailed Tuesday in response to an inquiry. "These rumors are wrong."

ANOTHER NTSB EXIT

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker announced Tuesday that he will resign as acting chairman and member of the board. Rosenker, who led the NTSB for more than four years, is the second member to announce a resignation this week.

Rosenker, who directed the White House Military Office under President George W. Bush, said he would delay his departure until member Deborah Hersmann, who's been nominated for chairman, and Christopher Hart, who's been nominated to be a member, are confirmed, thus ensuring a quorum for the board. Sources say it's likely both nominees will be approved before the Senate recesses Aug. 7.

On Monday, board member Kathryn O'Leary "Kitty" Higgins, a 34-year veteran of jobs in the public sector going back to the Carter White House, said she will leave the NTSB on Aug. 3 to open her own consulting firm.

Higgins was deputy secretary of labor in the Clinton administration and was also Cabinet secretary in the Clinton White House. She also worked as chief of staff to Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and as staff director to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) on what is now the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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