- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

‘QUIET HEROES’

The owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers spent the Fourth of July weekend in Dublin, as he began his tenure as the new U.S. ambassador to Ireland with favorable press coverage of his arrival and a warm greeting from the prime minister.

Dan Rooney, a lifelong Republican who broke with his party to endorse Barack Obama in Pennsylvania’s Democratic presidential primary last year, told reporters in the Irish capital that the president is planning to visit Ireland “when things settle down.”

“Well, I know he wants to come. When things settle down, he definitely would plan on it,” he said. “His schedule right now is so full, it’s difficult to see when it would be.”

Mr. Rooney said Mr. Obama might stop over in Ireland on the way back from an overseas trip.

“On one of his trips to, you know, Europe or maybe the Far East or somewhere, if he could come back this way, it would be good,” he said.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen called Mr. Rooney a “great personal friend of mine down the years.”

Mr. Rooney traces his heritage to County Down and is one of the founders of the American Ireland Funds, which has raised about $300 million to promote peace in Northern Ireland.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Rooney talked about the “quiet heroes” who worked for years to bring peace between Protestants and Catholics in the British province.

“If ever there was a rousing justification for diplomacy and an example for other conflicts around the world, it is the Irish peace process and its combination of diplomats, presidents, prime ministers, political leaders, community leaders, church leaders and especially quiet heroes who never gave up hope,” he said.

MUGABE OUTBURST

Robert Mugabe, the authoritarian president of Zimbabwe who has unleased mobs against political opponents, insulted one of the highest-ranking black American diplomats in remarks carried by a state-owned newspaper Monday.

He called Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for Africa, an “idiot” after Mr. Carson apparently criticized Mr. Mugabe’s years of misrule that brought the East African nation to bankruptcy with an staggering inflation rate of nearly 90 sextillion percent. (A sextillion is a one followed by 21 zeroes.)

“You wouldn’t speak to an idiot of that nature,” he said, according to the Herald newspaper. “I was very angry with him, and he thinks he could dictate to use what to do.”

Mr. Mugabe encountered Mr. Carson last week during a summit of the African Union in Libya.

“You have the likes of little fellow like Carson, saying, ‘Do this. Do that.’ Who is he? I hope he is not speaking for Obama. I told him he was a shame, a great shame being an African-American,” Mr. Mugabe said.

U.S. Embassy officials declined to comment on Mr. Mugabe’s remarks, the Associated Press reported from Zimbabwe.

Ambassador James McGee, who spent three years as U.S. envoy calling for political reforms in Zimbabwe, said in a farewell speech Friday that Mr. Mugabe needs no more foreign aid to end repression in Zimbabwe.

“It doesn’t cost anything to have judges apply the law equally,” he said. “Dropping politically motivated persecutions is free. Stopping the arrests of political activists and independent journalists is also free.”

Mr. McGee will be replaced by Charles A. Ray, a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Cambodia from 2002 to 2005. Since 2006, Mr. Ray has served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoners of war and missing personnel.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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