By Arun Kumar
Washington : With just 20 months to go before he leaves the White House, George W. Bush is looking for a deal, any deal that would overshadow the botched war in Iraq and be remembered as the legacy of his presidency.
The civil nuclear deal with India could have been one that would be recalled like Richard Nixon's opening up to China. That deal seems to be so tantalisingly near and yet so far, but critics are already comparing him to tricky Dick all right – for all the wrong reasons.
If not abroad, at least a deal at home would do. The one on immigration that would lay out a path to citizenship for 12 million people including some 300,000 from India, who have sneaked in without documents to do jobs the Americans wouldn't do, seemed a good bet.
That was before the storm broke out. From several presidential candidates of his own Republican party to radio talk hosts to analysts from the right wing dubbed the bipartisan plan hammered out by his key aides with Democratic majority as a "sellout" and an "amnesty".
What is worse even the intended beneficiaries of his vision of a "melting pot" eyed it with suspicion. Is it a mere ploy to bring them out and then throw them out? And isn't the hefty $3,000 fine and $4,000 fee for a green card a bit too harsh? And is it fair to those who have followed the rules of the game and stood patiently in line. And how about those 800,000 odd who joined the line after May 2005 only to find the window shut in their faces now?
The Bush plan also seeks to increase H1B visas for those with special skills by 50,000, a step that could help Indian professionals seeking jobs in US. But a move by two Senators to probe the use of such visas by nine top Indian firms is threatening to brew another backlash against outsourcing like the one witnessed in the last presidential poll.
Making deals ahead of elections appears to be turning out to be a big deal for Bush – if only he could outsource it!
A sheep's clothes for Wolfowitz
Wolfowitz is gone from the World Bank at last – fired for getting big raises for his girl friend. But not before extracting a testimonial from the Bank board about "his service at the bank" and how "much has been achieved in the last two years" under his stewardship.
The Bank also accepted his assurance "that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution".
Anything to make him go – that seemed to be the attitude at the bank as he tenaciously stuck to the job deepening the leadership crisis that had paralysed the institution for two months since a Washington daily broke the story.
The media meanwhile ran its own little titillating sideshow with some profound discussion about what should be the appropriate description for the woman behind the man – companion, girl friend, 'mistress' or bimbo as it was not clear whether Wolfowitz was still married, separated or divorced from his wife.
Others made snide comments about how Shah Riza, "the femme part of the Rizawitz combo", as one daily put it, was furious about how she has been treated by the World Bank – "being forced to take leave, staying on the bank's hideously cushy payroll, and having to endure enormous raises and promotions – all because Wolfowitz wanted to be head of the bank".
Another recalled how "sour over her sweetheart deal" an angry Riza wondered aloud: "If I had been a man would it have happened to me? And why is it the woman is always the one who has to leave?"
Now that Wolfowitz is gone, would Riza come back? That's the new guessing game in town!
Money makes the mare go!
Going by the financial disclosures of the presidential hopefuls, it's a race of the wealthy. At least 10 of the major party candidates are millionaires and together the whole pack is worth at least a quarter billion dollars.
The aspirants have amassed their booty in different ways. If emerging black democrat star Barack Obama wrote his way to the bank with a best selling memoir, 'America's Mayor' Republican Rudy Giuliani raked in $11 million sharing his pearls of wisdom around the world.
Leading the field of the rich is Massachusetts' former Republican governor Mitt Romney, who did it by dealing in private equity funds. Another Republican, Vietnam war veteran John McCain, simply married the millionaire daughter of an Arizona beer magnate.
Democrat John Edwards, who made his first bucks by defending the ill and the injured in court, holds $7.5 million in a New York hedge fund. With him rumoured to now get $400 haircuts, a rival Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee, suggested that "Congress has been spending money like John Edwards at a beauty salon".
Other millionaires in the race include New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, senators Sam Brownback and Christopher Dodd and House representative Duncan Hunter.
Presidential historians note that from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to George Bush, a long list of wealthy have made it to the White House as "celebrity, name recognition, fame, money all play into the success of campaigns"!
Sting gone, Sanjaya is missed with the bees!
When Indian American teenage singer Sanjaya Malakar was steadily climbing the "American Idol" ladder, many here saw it as a problem! Now that he's gone, he is being missed along with the honeybees that are said to be disappearing at an alarming rate across North America.
A recent popular "Over the Hedge" cartoon by Michael Fry and T. Lewis had the box turtle wondering: "Something's missing."
"I agree it's something that's usually here, but now it's gone," replies the red squirrel, "Like Sanjaya."
"Or bees", adds the turtle.
"What if I miss Sanjaya more?" asks the squirrel. "Then you have got a big problem," says the turtle. "Sanjaya you come back with those bees!" cries the racoon.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])