I can think of dozens of highly placed Republicans who could have been constructive participants in the secret Kofi Annan counseling session.
Warren Hoge disclosed the December 5 meeting today in a New York Times report. If anyone hears who leaked the story to him, let me know.
I have the privilege of knowing many of those at the meeting. Famous anti-Vietnam War journalist and former Council on Foreign Relations President Leslie Gelb was there. And the meeting was held in the apartment of Richard Holbrooke, whose wife is a board member of the New America Foundation.
My old UCLA friend, Robert Orr — who is married to former Chief of Staff to Vice President Gore Audrey Choi — worked both as aide-de-camp to Richard Holbrooke at the State Department and United Nations and then headed the Washington Office of the Council on Foreign Relations — thus working for Les Gelb. Today, Bob works for Kofi Annan as Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations for Strategic Planning.
John Ruggie, who used to have Orr’s role was there at the December 5th meeting. Former U.S. Senator from Colorado and United Nations Foundation President Tim Wirth and his right-hand staff member and former AOL Time-Warner Foundation Chief Kathy Bushkin were both there. Nader Mousavizadeh, a former UN staff member and now at Goldman Sachs, was there. He is the only one in the meeting I don’t have the privilege of knowing.
However, while I completely agree with their effort to bolster the United Nations, particularly as it initiates a reform process and agree generally with the good counsel they provided Annan — particularly that the U.N. cannot be seen as being at war with the Bush administration and hope to survive long — the group meeting Annan should have been more politically diverse.
Many Republicans believe that America and the Bush administration need the U.N. to achieve many of America’s national objectives, and it would be smart of Annan to find areas of common cause with the White House, despite their many differences.
But the room should have included people like outgoing Republican Congressman and former Corning CEO Amo Houghton, or any of a number of Brent Scowcroft’s good staff, or perhaps a senior foreign policy advisor to Senator Chuck Hagel. There are numerous Republicans who think that the breach between the White House and United Nations needs to be bridged.
I don’t know who initiated the meeting — maybe Holbrooke, or perhaps it was Orr and Ruggie operating together to bring their co-shared former bosses into the same room.
Their objectives were correct, despite the demonization of Holbrooke this morning on Fox News. However, the next secret meetings should be smarter secret meetings.
Fellow-traveler Republicans need to be included, and it needs to be remembered by this smart troupe of foreign policy hands that such high profile secret meetings usually do end up having the light of day shine in.
— Steve Clemons