- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Diplomatic lovefest

Sen. Jesse Helms is not known for gushing over diplomats, but Marc Grossman is an exception.
The North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is so impressed with Mr. Grossman that he offered to dedicate a chair in the committee room to him to commemorate his fourth confirmation hearing yesterday.
Mr. Helms opened and closed the meeting with high praise for Mr. Grossman, whom President Bush nominated to be undersecretary of state for political affairs, the third-highest position in the State Department. He called Mr. Grossman a "very fine nominee."
He noted that Mr. Grossman has been confirmed by the committee as ambassador to Turkey, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs and as director-general of the Foreign Service.
"It may be time to reserve a permanent seat for you at that witness table at least engrave a little doodad on the back of it for you, because your visit today confirms that you have earned the trust of two presidents. I am confident that you will meet and overcome the challenges that await you," he said.
Although laudatory, Mr. Helms also delivered some strong advice and asked tough questions.
"As you assume your new position, I would hope that you will make certain that all of our ambassadors understand the importance of proper handling of classified material," he said.
Under Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, the State Department suffered several embarrassing security scandals.
Mr. Helms also urged Mr. Grossman to "instruct our ambassadors to devote sustained personal attention and energy to the critical area of nonproliferation."
"And please, please instruct them that they must take swift and certain action to stand up for American principles when victims of tyranny come to our embassies looking for help," he added.
Mr. Grossman promised Mr. Helms he would consult regularly with the committee if he is confirmed by the full Senate.
Mr. Grossman referred to comments by Secretary of State Colin Powell before the same committee at his confirmation hearing.
"So many people around the world are today discovering what we have been learning for over 200 years, that political and economic freedom work; and the countries that wish to succeed need governments that are based on the will of the people, and economies that unleash the people's power to create," Mr. Grossman said.
Despite the praise, Mr. Helms and other committee members quizzed him on China, Kosovo, Macedonia, Cyprus and other issues. Mr. Grossman generally repeated administration policy on those areas.
Mr. Helms stumped him, however, with a direct question about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him a "troublemaker and would-be dictator."
"Do you consider Hugo Chavez a threat to hemisphere stability?" Mr. Helms asked.
Mr. Grossman admitted he was not prepared to answer that question.
Although the committee has yet to vote on his nomination, the outcome is not in doubt.
"Well, I have one question," Mr. Helms said. "Do you still want this job?"
"Senator, if you all will give it to me, I'd love to have it," Mr. Grossman replied.
"You've got it," Mr. Helms said.

Africa and protocol

President Bush has tapped two officials from his father's administration to serve as assistant secretary of state for Africa and chief of protocol.
Walter Kansteiner, selected for the Africa post, served as deputy White House press secretary for foreign affairs and as director of African affairs at the National Security Council under President George Bush.
Mr. Kansteiner was director for Africa on the State Department's policy planning staff from 1989 to 1991.
Mr. Bush this week picked Donald Burnham Ensenat to be the State Department's chief of protocol. Mr. Ensenat, a New Orleans lawyer, was ambassador to Brunei from 1992 to 1993 and director of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. from 1989 to 1992.


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