- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

Louise Frechette has attended more going-away parties than she can count, but only one featured a singing billionaire.

Miss Frechette, who left the United Nations two weeks ago after nearly eight years as deputy secretary-general, has been feted all over Turtle Bay for her hard work, organizational acumen, female gender and tireless efforts on U.N. reform. Few people have mentioned the Iraq portfolio, of course, which was also her responsibility.

At a recent send-off hosted by the U.N. Foundation, the speeches were following the familiar script, and even Miss Frechette, who looks fabulous by the way, seemed a little bored by all the tributes.

Certainly Ted Turner was.

“I don’t really have anything else to add,” the unpredictable media, sports and philanthropy mogul said as he took the microphone. “So, while I was standing here, I wrote a song.”

Holding Miss Frechette’s hand so she couldn’t escape, Mr. Turner serenaded the flinty Canadian with an a cappella farewell sung to the tune of “Down in the Valley.” The lyrics were something about “taking our sunshine” and “pathways of wine.” The room was filled with dropped jaws and bulging eyes. And applause for a man who still makes money look like fun.

Miss Frechette’s U.N. tenure, by contrast, never looked like much fun.

• She submitted her resignation after an in-house investigation blamed her office for failing to take precautions to prepare for or prevent the Baghdad bombing that killed 22 persons in August 2003.

• Investigators working for Paul Volcker blasted her squarely for failing to properly manage the billion-dollar oil-for-food program.

• And frankly, reform isn’t going so well either, although that’s hardly her fault these days.

All of this has been reported, over and over, in the press. There were editorials that called for her resignation, and many people think she left eight months before the end of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s term because the research gig was the first train outta town.

So, Mademoiselle Frechette, do you feel you were treated unfairly?

“Noooooooooo,” she said, adding reflexively: “Some extreme elements will never be fair about anything in the U.N.”

But she still loves the United Nations, she said, and still believes in its work. So is there a special envoy title in her future?

“Oh no,” she said happily. “It’s time for me to start a new life, to slow down, to start the life of an academic. I want to be a retiree who spends time thinking and writing and enjoying life.”

Not that the U.N. job was unrelenting pressure. Miss Frechette tried to handle crises during work hours, she said, and managed to see every opera, listen to lots of music and view tons of movies evenings and weekends.

She leaves Manhattan diplomacy for academia in Waterloo, Ontario, where she will be a distinguished fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian think tank, where she will study the very timely issue of nuclear power and international security.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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