The U.S.-Asia foreign policy establishment here is positively gaga over a teensy transmission error last week by consultant Chris Nelson, author of the highly authoritative Nelson Report, a must-read for those involved in foreign affairs, especially on Asia.
Nelson, who works for Samuels International, prepared an exceptionally frank "special report for the embassy of the Republic of South Korea" titled "Players on Korea Policy in Washington, D.C."
Acknowledging his brutal assessments -- his survey left few untrashed -- he warned the embassy that "if ANY of this Report is seen by ANY one outside of the embassy, its humble author is going to have to receive political asylum."
Alas. Nelson, instead of sending the 22-page analysis to the Korean Embassy, hit his list for Nelson Report subscribers, administration officials, Hill folks, think tankers, media types and others -- more than 800 people, including many of whom he had skewered or identified as people who talk to him. So it's most unclear who would offer asylum.
The Bush administration won't do so, not after he wrote that its "failed policy" on North Korea -- not to mention its "bunker mentality" -- will not change "so long as Dick Cheney is vice president, Steve Hadley is National Security Advisor, and not even, apparently, so long as Condi Rice is Secretary of State." No need even to mention Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's views, he said.
Former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage, "tells anyone who asks that he is a serious candidate to replace Rumsfeld," Nelson writes, saying such an occurrence would require a "miracle."
On the Hill, one House aide, Nelson says, "is genuinely mentally unbalanced -- seriously, this is not a sarcasm -- in the view of his staff colleagues." Nelson names the aide. (No, we're not going to.) One House member is "difficult," another a "blowhard," while the "possibility that either" Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) or Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) "might get themselves selected" to succeed International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) is "a terrifying prospect to serious foreign policy players."
On the Senate side, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Nelson said, are in the " 'trouble' category."
Nelson, a former UPI reporter and House and Senate staffer, rails at some reporters' coverage -- New York Times reporter David Sanger "is dishonest by omission," Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz is "dishonest by commission."
He then referred to himself in the third person, saying that his work "has established a position of influence by sheer persistence and focus," and " 'everyone' talks to him. . . ." Hmmm. Maybe not anymore.
In a follow-up e-mail Saturday, an anguished Nelson wrote to his e-mail list, "In a single moment of stupidity, I have hurt and betrayed many who have tried so generously to help and who share my deepest fears about Korea policy.
"Apology is impossible at this point. I can only ask mercy."
Fortunately, Nelson works in Washington, where a simple apology -- something rare in this town -- should be more than enough.
Corporate clients pay about $700 per month for the newsletter, but it turns out that this disaster was intended as a freebie for the Korean Embassy, because Nelson was worried about U.S. policy in the region.
So how is everyone taking it? "The feedback is enormously positive," Nelson said yesterday, noting he spent all day Monday calling those mentioned. It was "more than I deserve, for which I am enormously grateful," he said.
Watch Out, Tiger -- Here Comes Rehnquist
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist did not retire on Monday when the court finished its term. He looked pretty good, especially in that snappy Nike cap, complete with the swoosh. This led to speculation he may be staying on to work out a product-endorsement deal with the sportswear giant. Something like "Lids for All Ages," or maybe "You're Never Too Old for Nike"?
But the smart money is still solid that Rehnquist will retire soon, both to give the administration a chance to fill the seat and to have the court at full strength by October and through the next term.
For the CIA Suggestion Box
And a Loop tip of the hat to CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise, who did indeed put in the CIA clip file the list of winners of the In the Loop contest to give Director Porter J. Goss a new title. We never doubted her, but there may have been some at Langley who did.