Richard Holbrooke is not gay.
This assurance, based on extensive reporting, is offered to you, dear reader, because Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has vowed to block all pending White House nominations since -- and please make sure the kids can't read this -- a gay person has been named ambassador to Luxembourg. Holbrooke's appointment as U.N. ambassador is one of those being held hostage.
So is the nomination of Lawrence Summers as secretary of the Treasury. The mere announcement of Inhofe's intention sent the dollar down on overseas markets, where, probably, cynical speculators found it inconceivable that the world's financial well-being is being held hostage to the bigotry of a single senator. This, though, happens to be the case.
Larry Summers is not gay, either.
As for the other pending appointments, I can say nothing one way or the other. Probably, some of them deserve a fresh look.
I am going out on a limb for Holbrooke because he has been waiting long enough. He was nominated about a year ago, but before his appointment could be considered by the Senate he had to first clear an ethics hurdle. It was alleged -- anonymously, of course -- that in serving his country he was also serving the interests of his eventual employer, Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., where he is vice chairman.
The record suggests otherwise. While Holbrooke might care a bit about money, he cares much more about being in government. The proof is in the numbers. At First Boston, his salary is about $1.5 million a year. At the United Nations it would be $1.35 million less -- about $150,000 a year. He would also get a New York apartment, it's true, but he already has a New York apartment. Few people in government can afford to tip yet another set of New York doormen.
The anonymous charge resulted in a posse of ethics police being formed. Holbrooke had to get a lawyer. Presumably, he had to get tax records and files going back to about 1943. He had to explain this and that. Most of us might ask him to explain why he wants to sit at the United Nations and listen to some hypocrite denounce the United States, but the Feds wanted to know if he had ever made a nickel while on government property.
Pay attention, boys and girls: This is what can happen if you feel the urge for public service. Never mind that Holbrooke knows more about the Balkans than almost anyone else in government. Never mind that he is one of this country's most able diplomats. Never mind that he has eyeballed Slobodan Milosevic and knows the man as few here do. None of that matters. What mattered more were those ethics charges. In the end, Holbrooke paid a nominal $5,000 fine and a king's ransom in legal fees. Should he ever get a chance to serve his country, it will surely be at a net loss.
Now Inhofe has blocked the nomination once again. His cause is a rancid one: homophobia. He is out to stop James Hormel, a philanthropist, from serving as ambassador to Luxembourg. In this, he is supported by Majority Leader Trent Lott, the former cheerleader from the University of Mississippi who, clearly, has been overcompensating -- not to mention overachieving -- ever since.
Inhofe calls Hormel a "gay activist who puts his agenda ahead of the agenda of America." Never mind that Hormel is not a gay activist and never mind, too, that no one can tell you what America's agenda is. (How come no one ever accused Bill Clinton of putting the "heterosexual agenda" ahead of his country's?)
The fact remains that Inhofe is abusing a venerable Senate privilege. President Clinton has given Hormel a recess appointment -- a way around Senate confirmation. He did that only because Inhofe and Lott would not bring up the nomination. Lott couldn't figure out where he stood on Kosovo; he has made a stand on Hormel, though.
I wonder about Holbrooke. I wonder about a man who wants to be in government so badly that he spent a year of his life filling out government forms, yearning to make policy when other men -- real men -- yearn only to make money. Me, I might settle for $1.5 million a year and the freedom to do what I want. Holbrooke, his mind addled by patriotism or something, has hung in.
Now this gay issue has come up and I thought, in the interest of peace in the Balkans, I'd clear Holbrooke before Inhofe gets suspicious. I've checked and I'm relieved to report that Richard Holbrooke is not gay. He is, to say the least, fully qualified to be ambassador to Luxembourg any day.