Words, titles and such are very important in the diplomatic world. Maybe that's why President Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative to promote democracy got a decidedly lukewarm reception when he introduced it earlier this year.
The GMEI -- known as "gimme" -- was all right in concept, but it seemed just too Washington-centric. The Pakistanis, though included, didn't like to be called part of the Middle East. Morocco and the other North African countries, a long way from the heart of the Middle East, were a bit befuddled, and some folks said the Germans thought it sounded a bit like Lebensraum -- a policy from days best not recalled.
So the diplos got to work again and voila!, as Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) would say, out popped the "Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative" -- "BMENAI."
Folks chewed on this a bit more. Apparently this was seen as an improvement but just wasn't quite right -- still too D.C.-oriented, for one thing. So more diplomatic wordsmithing ensued.
And the effort paid off handsomely. The final draft documents tell us the United States is now engaged in the "Partnership for Progress and a Common Future With the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa," or "PPCFRBMENA."
The memo must not have gotten to Bush, who during his Iraq news conference on Tuesday kept talking about the Greater Middle East Initiative.
Nominee Needs Training
Democrats have this quaint notion that presidents should nominate experienced people to sit on boards and commissions overseeing various matters. Despite ample and bipartisan precedent to the contrary, they believe this practice should continue even in June of an election year.
So there was Sen. Frank J. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) at a Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday, talking to retired oil industry executive Enrique Sosa from Florida, nominated to the Amtrak board of directors.
Lautenberg badgered Sosa, a major GOP contributor who has given a bit to Democrats, about some labor matters. Then he noted that Sosa, breaking custom for nominees, had not submitted an opening statement. And on documents he did submit, Sosa said he had no experience on land transportation matters.
Have you ever ridden on Amtrak or in the Northeast corridor? Lautenberg asked. Well, no, Sosa replied. But he pledged to do so if confirmed.
Fair enough. After all, are all lawmakers overseeing NASA experienced in space travel?
Hint: Uncle Ben's Wild ----
And now, it's time once more to play Name That Senior Administration Official! See if you can figure out who the unnamed source might be in this White House transcript.
The briefing was aboard Air Force One en route to Rome last week, so that narrows the field. And the issues relate to foreign policy.
Still don't know? Another clue. The "Senior Administration Official" says Bush is not meeting Pope John Paul II for any political purposes. It's for a host of matters. "So we have a lot that we want to talk to the Vatican about on the human condition."
Don't want to give it a try yet?
Okay. The White House transcript says:
"THE FOLLOWING PORTION IS ON THE RECORD:
"Q: I was going to ask you about the news of the day: Did you have any wind of [CIA Director George J.] Tenet's plan?
"Dr. RICE: I learned about it just a few minutes before the president went out [to announce the resignation]."
A Man's Best Friend
Quote of the Week comes from Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, interviewed Friday by fifth-graders from Delaware Valley Elementary School News/TV in Milford, Pa.
"How did you get the nickname 'Powell's bulldog?' " one student asked.
Replied Armitage: "I can't imagine. . . . I thought it would be 'Powell's poodle,' which has some alliteration."
No Ministers to Summit Up
The G-8 Summit on Sea Island, Ga., promises to be a fine gathering. Most often, secretaries of state attend and meet with the other foreign ministers.
But as of Friday, it looked like Secretary of State Colin L. Powell might not be going. The feeling at State was that Powell had just met his counterparts, they weren't going to attend, and it felt like he'd "been there, done that."
No other secretary of state had skipped one of these events when they are on U.S. soil. (The locations rotate among the members.) Henry A. Kissinger went to the first such summit with President Gerald R. Ford in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1976; George P. Shultz accompanied President Ronald Reagan to Williamsburg; James A. Baker III went with President George H.W. Bush to Houston; and Madeleine K. Albright went with President Bill Clinton to Denver.
Powell, flying back from Ecuador on Tuesday, could almost wave as he flew over.
Then on Saturday, we got word he might still go at the end of lunch with African heads of state who are invited. Later that day his schedule grew to meeting with leaders coming from Arab countries.
Where Are They Now?
Speaking of antiquated notions . . . John Bridgeland, former director of the Bush II Domestic Policy Council and of the USA Freedom Corps, is opening a bipartisan, yes, bipartisan policy firm called "Civic Enterprises," to help communities address social issues.
The firm includes John J. DiIulio Jr., formerly of the Bush White House, and such Democrats as Clinton policy aide William Galston.