Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Still more back and forth on the long, long, long anticipated appointment of Douglas H. Paal to serve as America's chief envoy to Taiwan, the island nation at the center of one of the most volatile crisis points in the world.

The publication of this article in The New Republic three weeks ago at first threatened to torpedo Paal's chances for the Taiwan appointment. But State Department and White House officials quickly regrouped and dug in their heels, insisting that Paal's appointment go through. Hot-spots of opposition to Paal's appointment -- like the Office of the Vice President -- either got on board or were muzzled.

Since then, behind the scenes, there's been a flurry of letters written back and forth and last-ditch politicking.

Here's a bit of it.

Days after the TNR article appeared, James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, attacked the article and The New Republic at a speaking engagement in Washington, calling it among other things an example of "hack journalism."

Yesterday, Washington Asia-hand Steven Clemons, Executive Vice President of the New America Foundation, wrote Kelly a letter criticizing his cavalier dismissal of the ethical and legal questions raised in the article. The letter contains a description of Kelly's remarks.

(According to this State Department website, Kelly is scheduled to address the foreign media today -- March 14th -- at 2:15 PM at the Washington foreign press center. He'll likely be asked about the Doug Paal appointment.)

Here's the earlier letter Senator Jesse Helms sent to Kelly's boss, Colin Powell, asking for an explanation of, or response to, the questions raised in The New Republic article.

Because of the Helms' letter, and other developments, State Department officials have now agreed to hold a private briefing for Senate opponents of the Paal appointment to discuss the questions surrounding it.

That meeting is expected to take place in the next several days. But Paal's opponents in the Senate believe the administration's mind is made up and it's a done deal.

More from the annals of foreign agency.

In the coming days we'll be discussing the captivating tale of Richard A. Schechter and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P and their work on behalf Bogoljub Karic and the Karic Group of companies. Here's a link to the Karic family foundation.

In the bastard form of crony capitalism which prevailed during Slobodan Milosevic's decade-plus reign, Bogoljub Karic served as crony-in-chief. He rose to riches and fame under the Milosevic regime; he operated as Milosevic's personal banker; he published Milosevic's wife's memoirs and loaned her his private jet. Karic even served in Milosevic's cabinet during the Kosovo war and, according to the February 9th, 2002 Daily Telegraph, Serb authorities still believe Karic is serving as the Milosevic family's banker.

Those fascinating documents are still to come. But for now let's deal with some unfinished business, or rather, continue a story we started a little while back.

As regular readers will remember, on March 2nd we discussed the lobbying which Jefferson Waterman International did for the Republic of Croatia, particularly with regards to laying the media groundwork for their military reconquest of the Krajina region. There was also a follow-up on March 6th.

We don't want to give readers the idea that the Croats were the only ones playing the foreign lobbying game in Washington in the 1990s. So today we have filings from foreign agents who represented the two pseudo-states Serbs carved out from Croatia and Bosnia -- the Serbian Krajina, repped by Zoran Djordjevic, and the Republika Srpska, repped by Danielle Sremac.

In any case, the Serbs and the Croats both had folks working for them in DC. The basic difference seems to be that the Croats had a more professional operation. They had established firms -- with no obvious ethnic connection to Croatia -- working for them for big bucks. The Serbs tended to have Serbs or Serbian-Americans working on their behalf in DC. And often they were paid, at least in part, with funds collected from Serbian-Americans.

The really interesting figure here is Danielle Sremac.

Sremac made frequent television appearances in the 1990s as a supporter of the Serb position in the Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts. More recently she hits the airwaves as the Director of something called the Institute for Balkan Affairs.

Seldom noted in these various media appearances was the fact that Sremac was the paid agent of the Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb secessionist pseudo-state ruled by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. And she signed on to represent RS, as these documents show, in July 1994, at what can only be called the era when the RS was committing the worst of its excesses, war crimes, and miscellaneous other crimes against humanity type activities.

I never read the Slate Diary of Robert Klingler, the supposed American CEO of a major European auto manufacturer, later exposed as a fraud. But the article born of the investigation into the hoax is one of the most interesting little detective stories I've read in a long time. You really must read it.

The upshot of the story is that 'Robert Klingler' is not some anonymous schmo but almost certainly a fellow named Ravi Desai, a storied and rather whacked impresario from the dot.com era.

Desai himself is fascinating to learn about -- and one learns a good bit about him from this article. Many folks manage to be highly educated and fabulously and legitimately successful. Not a few are able to live as frauds and hucksters who pad their resumes with myriad non-existent accomplishments and credentials. There is a select breed, however, able and for some odd reason perhaps best understood through the modalities of psychiatry inclined to be both. Desai apparently falls into that category -- the few, the proud, the ridiculous.

The author of the article, Jack Shafer, has been my editor at Slate for the last year or more. And occasionally, frustratingly so, since he's constantly sending me back to do more reporting, more interviewing -- often long after I feel enough's been done. But reading this article, I see that Jack lives by what he preaches. And it also makes me wish Jack were doing more of these investigative type pieces.

Of course, I guess there's one more possibility yet unmentioned. Perhaps Jack's been yearning to write such a piece for some time. And the original hoax diary was just a ploy to make it possible -- cunninngly and sinisterly devised as a joint enterprise by the fertile minds of Ravi Desai and Jack Shafer!!!

Obviously, the Public Citizen report on Army Secretary Thomas White didn't come out today, as I said it would previously.

TPM regrets the failed prediction, based on a tip from someone I'm now referring to as the source formerly known as reliable. 'The source' will regret it even more, once TPM gets a hold of him. But that's another matter.

However, I am assured by, well, let's say extremely informed sources that the report is still coming out. And there's still a good chance it'll be out by the end of the week.

The folks at Public Citizen are telling people in DC that they have a big report coming out on Tuesday about former Enron executive and current Army Secretary Thomas White. They're using words like "bombshell" and telling some it'll force White to resign.

I haven't seen it, so I can't tell you whether this is more than just bluster.

I have said, though, that I think White's in trouble. Not because his ouster is merited (though I suspect it is), but because it must be looking more and more convenient to the political wizards at the White House.

I'm writing tonight from out of town, so can someone go over to the Post offices and check to see if Karl Rove and/or Mitch Daniels has hacked into the paper's server. I'm not sure how else to explain this risible clunker by Rob Norton in the Outlook section. It's Fineman with green eye shades.

Admittedly, Outlook is for opinion pieces. But coming after this sop it's hard to know what to think.

A little follow-up on Doug Paal's nomination to serve as AIT Director in Taipei.

Earlier this week, in a letter dated March 4th, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell telling the Secretary:

The February 21st article in The New Republic regarding Douglas Paal leads me to express my deep concern about his potential appointment to direct the American Institute in Taiwan.

Later he writes that the "assertions made in The New Republic ... warrant further inquiry."

Helms goes on to request Powell's personal response to four questions he outlines based on issues raised in the New Republic article.

A copy of the letter has now been added to the TPM Document Collection.