Thursday, June 23, 2005

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: BOLTON BLOGGER HAS N.M. TIES

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 23, 2005


The man who publishes the go-to blog for opponents of John Bolton owns a house in Santa Fe.

If you’ve been using the internet to closely follow the fight over President Bush’s nomination of Bolton to the post of United Nations, chances are you’ve come across Steve Clemons’ blog called The Washington Note.

Clemons is a former adviser for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

“I worked for Sen. Bingaman for three years,” Clemons said in a phone interview this week, referring to his three-year stint that began in 1995. “My official title was senior policy adviser on economic and international affairs.”

Clemons, who lives in the city that’s the namesake of his blog, doesn’t claim deep ties to New Mexico. “My grandmother lived there,” he said. In his college years he frequently visited Santa Fe and Taos. And, of course he came to the state several times during his Bingaman years. Among other projects, he helped organize an Asian trade conference in Albuquerque that was an annual event for a few years.

“And I have a tiny little home there, just off the Plaza,” he said.

Although he said his blog sometimes seems like a full-time job, Clemons is senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank. He also writes about foreign policy and international economics for several publications in the U.S. and Asia.

Since mid March — shortly after Bush nominated Bolton — Clemons’ blog has dealt with little else.

“Here is the deal,” he wrote in an early post. “I just don't think America's core interests can be served by this appointment. I don't mind a U.N.-skeptic going to the United Nations, but at least that skeptic needs to believe in the essential role and function of a reformed United Nations —- and needs to be a constructive force in achieving that goal.”

Since then, Clemons’ rap on Bolton has become more pointed: “He has been reckless with intelligence and irresponsibly abusive toward intelligence analysts, undermined his boss Colin Powell, engaged in dangerous brinkmanship with problem nations while delicate negotiations were underway to ‘tie down’ their burgeoning (weapons of mass destruction) programs, and has a long tenure in many positions of not respecting Congress or the importance of the separation of powers,” Clemons blogged last week.

Bill and Bolton: The blog not only has chronicled all the twists and turns of the Bolton fight, it’s actually broken some news on the issue. And a couple of times the name of another Washington insider with Santa Fe ties — Gov. Bill Richardson — has popped up in Clemons’ blog.

Clemons has criticized Richardson — a former U.N. ambassador — and several other prominent Democrats for making public statements that Bolton would be confirmed.

Clemons said he talked about the matter with Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks. “I was pretty livid,” he said. “No moderate Republicans are going to jump ship if Democrats keep talking like this.”

Richardson, he said, “Sent me an e-mail telling me to stop biting my friends.” But, Clemons noted, the governor “did a one-day turnaround” and made a strong statement against Bolton.

Clemons in April reported speculation that Richardson could be among 10 officials in communications intercepted by the National Security Agency —- transcripts of which were sought by Bolton.

Richardson in early 2003 met with North Korean diplomats in Santa Fe and reported frequently about those talks to then Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“The thinking is that Bolton was trying to sabotage anyone negotiating with North Korea,” Clemons said.

The White House’s refusal to turn over the requested NSA intercepts to the Senate is what is holding up the Bolton nomination. A Republican attempt Monday to force a vote on the nomination failed for a second time.

Bingaman and Bolton: For the record, Clemons’ old boss has voted twice against forcing a Bolton vote.

That prompted state GOP Chair Allen Weh to blast Bingaman in a news release this week, saying the senator had “once again bowed to pressure from the liberal leadership.”

“The Senate should promptly confirm John Bolton so that we can get on with the business of reforming the United Nations,” Weh said.

Thanks, Drudge: If you were having a hard time getting on The New Mexican’s free web site Tuesday, blame it on right-wing internet personality Matt Drudge.

The Drudge Report linked to my story on the governor’s recent speeding controversy.

ABC News' political site The Note, also linked to the story on the New Mexican site.

So many new readers clicked on the link, it caused the paper’s web server to crash.

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