Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) is known for being as thick-skinned as they come, able to handle the most rabid criticism with aplomb. But it appears the spat over the nomination of former senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) as ambassador to New Zealand has made him a bit testy.

Helms told Roll Call last week that he didn't think Moseley-Braun "should hold her breath until she becomes ambassador," and that she had "better look for another line of work."

He reportedly was still smarting over Moseley-Braun's having rolled him on the Senate floor a few years back over a federal patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy so they could use the Confederate flag in their logo. He told Roll Call he would block the nomination unless "at the very minimum, she apologized for criticizing the Confederate flag."

Obviously, she won't, and Democrats sharply criticized his demand.

Tuesday, when Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Dorning asked Helms if he still wanted an apology, Helms is said to have snapped: "Is that all you can ask about? If the world comes crumbling down, is that all you can ask about? You're not worth a damn as a journalist."

With that, Helms, who gets about now on a motorized cart after knee surgery, gunned the motor--a Helms aide says Dorning tried to block Helms's exit--and zipped away. But not before the cart rolled over the right foot of Raleigh News & Observer reporter James Rosen. (No injury save to his shoeshine.)

Although Helms has said he would hold a hearing on the nomination when the Senate reconvenes next year--to look into an "ethical cloud" over her 1996 visit to Africa--the nomination is seen even by Democrats as pretty much dead. Moseley-Braun most likely will be in the ambassador's residence in Wellington next year, however, but via a recess appointment.

Meanwhile, folks back in Moseley-Braun's old turf seem to be backing Helms in this dust-up. A call-in morning poll in the Chicago Sun Times--admittedly quite unscientific--asked whether readers thought Helms was justified in blocking the nomination. The response was 62.5 percent saying they thought he was.

Instead of Debate, a Geography Bee?

Also on the foreign policy front, Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) was rapped recently for confusing Slovenia and Slovakia, the gaffe taken by detractors as proof he was clueless on foreign policy.

But even someone as adept at international matters as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Bush rival, sometimes has trouble keeping things straight. McCain, chairman of the International Republican Institute, speaking at the group's gala awards dinner last week, twice thanked the ambassador from "Czechoslovakia" for his efforts. The country split in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Dornan to Return as 'Media Specialist'

Miss the Soviets? Pining for Monica? Bored to tears by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert? Not into trick-or-treating? Here's some great news. Former California representative Robert K. "B-1 Bob" Dornan, who's now--what else?--a radio talk show host, will be back in town on Oct. 30.

Conservative watchdog Accuracy in Media is presenting a conference on "The Media: Seekers of Truth or Servants of Power?" Take your pick. It's a one-day, 13-hour marathon, starting at 9 a.m. There's a reception and banquet featuring "top media specialists" such as Dornan. Students and interns can attend free, the flier says, but others will have to pay $149 for food and admission. Dornan fans know that's a bargain.

Outward and Upward

At the Justice Department, Scott Charney, highly regarded chief of the computer crime and intellectual property section--actually he invented the unit and headed it as it has grown since 1991 from five people to 23--is moving on to the private sector, specifically to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Terry Garcia, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, is moving to the National Geographic Society to be senior vice president for mission programs, which includes the annual Geography Bee. Garcia, a Los Angeles lawyer, began work at Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1994 as general counsel and moved to the assistant secretaryship three years ago. Also at Commerce, John F. Sopko, a former federal prosecutor, longtime congressional aide and most recently special counsel for dealing with investigations of the department, has been named deputy assistant secretary for export enforcement.

Mary F. Hanley, formerly vice president for communications at the Wilderness Society and more recently head of public affairs at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is off to be chief operating officer at Infotech Strategies, a small e-commerce consulting and PR firm.

Treasury's deputy assistant secretary for public affairs Michelle Smith, an aide to former senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) who moved with him to the Treasury Department in 1993, moves up to assistant secretary, replacing Howard M. Schloss, who went to the New York Stock Exchange.

Ken Zimmerman, formerly at the Justice Department's civil rights division and more recently deputy assistant secretary for enforcement and programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, is leaving town to be founding executive director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, an advocacy group in Newark.