Feeling low because you've missed out on all the good ambassadorships? Cheer up! One exceptionally fine one, the Netherlands, which appeared filled just might be opening up again.
Seems a most unusual snag has developed in the bid of Los Angeles multibillionaire and Ameriquest Mortgage Co. chairman and founder Roland E. Arnall, a longtime major Democratic contributor until recently, to that most excellent posting in the land of tulips and wooden shoes.
Arnall and his wife, Dawn Arnall, were reportedly the single biggest source of financial support for President Bush since 2002, giving or raising at least $12.25 million. More than enough to erase all contributions to Democrats.
But there were other concerns. Arnall's company is the largest mortgage lender to lower-income people and those with iffy credit ratings. Regulators in 30 states have raised concerns about shoddy lending practices, alleged fraud, falsification of documents and bait-and-switch tactics.
Arnall has set aside $325 million to settle the claims. The eight Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrats had said they would nonetheless vote against Arnall, though they think he's a good nominee, because the legal cloud over him had not been resolved -- and some states wanted a commitment to change sales practices as part of a deal.
Then Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said he, too, still had problems and wanted to think about it, maybe talk it over with Arnall.
"I do think it's important who represents this country abroad," Hagel said at the hearing. "I do think we should send people who are not under a cloud of investigation. Mr. Arnall, fairly or unfairly, finds himself in that position."
Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) nonetheless pushed for a vote. Hagel came down against Arnall, deadlocking the committee 9 to 9.
Some thought the tie, as would usually be the case, blocked the nomination from going the floor for a vote. Not so.
Lugar read the Senate rules to say the tally that counted was of the 10 senators present and they voted 8 to 2 for Arnall. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) protested that the proxies had to be included, but the nomination went to the Senate floor -- at least for now.
Democrats say if the nomination is brought up for a vote, they will challenge Lugar's interpretation of the rules. They say the Senate parliamentarian has indicated the Dems would prevail.
This may yet be worked out -- but keep those resumes at the ready.
A Retreat to Summit Up
Bush is to stop in Brazil this weekend after his visit to Argentina for the Summit of the Americas. He's not going to Rio like so many of those congressional delegations. Instead, he's stopping at a presidential retreat outside Brasilia called "Granja do Torto," which is just a name but, if translated very literally, could be taken to mean "Farm of the Crooked or Twisted."
Bush is there to chat about trade and such with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose poll numbers have been tanking of late over a political corruption scandal. Lula's chief of staff, Jose Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, resigned recently amid allegations that he knew of and encouraged a multimillion-dollar scheme to buy votes in Congress.
Lots of notes to compare?
Helms Aide Finds Work
Speaking of Latin America, Roger F. Noriega, former assistant secretary of state for that region, former ambassador to the Organization of American States and an aide to former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse A. Helms (R-N.C.), has landed a job in the lobbying shop at the law firm of Tew Cardenas.
Harriet Miers -- the Memory Lingers On
The abrupt plug-pulling last week of White House counsel Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court took some getting used to.
For example, as late as Tuesday we were getting notices such as this one from the office of Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.):
"Media Advisory -- Durbin to meet w/Miers at 6 p.m. today."
That was followed promptly by: "Ooops! Corrected Media Advisory -- Durbin to meet with Alito at 14:30 pm tomorrow."
Even on Wednesday the Senate Web site's calendar had this:
Monday, Nov. 7, 2005
12:30 p.m. Judiciary
To hold hearings to examine the nomination of Harriet Ellan Miers, of Texas, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. SH-216.
Who'd have thought she made such an impression.
At NCTC, Brock for Cummings
Kevin R. Brock, a 22-year FBI veteran and now assistant director of the Office of intelligence, has been named principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), replacing Arthur Cummings, an FBI career officer who's heading back to the bureau.