NOT VERY SPECIAL
One of Canada’s best-known ambassadors in Washington offered a little unsolicited advice Wednesday to the new envoy from America’s northern neighbor, urging him to grab the spotlight, network like a lobbyist and learn all about the curious customs inside the Beltway.
Allan Gotlieb, ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1989, told the new ambassador, Gary Doer, that nothing beats a good Rolodex, nobody pays attention to a shy diplomat and the 535 members of Congress are like 535 foreign ministers, each with a personal agenda and Canada low among their priorities.
“The threats are countless, the victories rare and the terrain treacherous for a foreign diplomat,” Mr. Gotlieb wrote in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.
“In Congress, … Canada is just another special interest and not a very special one at that.”
Canada might be America’s largest supplier of foreign oil and its biggest trading partner, but Canada has no permanent friends or enemies in the House and Senate, he said.
“Our allies on some issues are opponents on others,” Mr. Gotlieb wrote. “U.S. legislators are enfranchised by executive-like powers. Although Canada will usually remain far down on the list of their priorities, they are the leading source of most of our conflicts.”
However, he added, Canada always finds a friend in the White House.
“The president is the best friend Canada has in Washington,” Mr. Gotlieb said. “It’s the executive branch, not Congress, where Canada’s vital importance to U.S. national security interests are known and count for something. … We can win few battles if the president isn’t on our side.”
When Mr. Gotlieb arrived in Washington, he said he got some special advice from an “influential insider,” who told him, “In the theater of Washington, the actors change, but the play remains the same.”
Sometimes, the actors do not even change. During the Reagan and first Bush administrations, Mr. Gotlieb frequently dealt with Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, and Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat.
“Fast forward 25 years and five presidents later: Who are playing the key roles?” he asked, citing the three Democratic committee chairmen. “They are … known as immortals in Washington’s Forever Land.”
Mr. Gotlieb also advised Mr. Doer to pay close attention to what he called the “third house of Congress,” the “permanent assembly of lobbyists, consultants, lawyers and communications experts.”
Finally “maintain that Rolodex” and do not ignore the Washington social scene, said Mr. Gotlieb, who was noted for throwing lavish dinner parties with his wife, Sondra.
“You’ll also find that, in the Beltway, if you don’t have a high profile, you don’t exist,” he said.
The ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, pressed the Obama administration on Wednesday to reiterate its support for restoring him to power, after a leading U.S. diplomat said Washington will recognize the winner of a Nov. 29 presidential election regardless of whether Mr. Zelaya is reinstated.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Zelaya asked her to “clarify” the U.S. position regarding what he called the “coup d’etat” that removed him from office. In June, the Honduran Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Zelaya had violated the country’s constitution by trying to seek re-election and ordered the military to arrest him.
Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, this week said in a Spanish-language television interview with CNN that the Honduran Congress will have to decide on whether to reinstate Mr. Zelaya as part of a deal reached with the interim government.
c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.