WASHINGTON INSIGHT

THE ROAD TO HANOI: Speculation is growing in Washington that Secretary of State Warren Christopher will make a groundbreaking visit to Vietnam this summer. Christopher is scheduled to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, on July 26 for the annual meeting of the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations. Nothing has been announced, but chances are that he will go to Hanoi before or after that meeting. The United States announced recently that it had finished arrangements to set up a liaison office in Hanoi. . . . Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord is about to go to Vietnam, and there is speculation that among his responsibilities is to make preparations for a visit by Christopher. If Christopher does make the trip, he would be in position to open up the new liaison office himself. Christopher would be the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Hanoi.

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BROWN VERSUS BROWN: Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.) says he has enough "clear commitments" from both Democrats and Republicans to defeat the nomination of former anti-war activist Sam W. Brown Jr. as ambassador to the Vienna-based Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Northern California businessman, who is no relation to the GOP senator, has been tapped by President Clinton to head the U.S. delegation to the organization that oversees arms control and security agreements in Europe. But his confirmation is being filibustered by Senate Republicans who note that Brown's only military experience was as a prominent organizer of nationwide protests against the Vietnam War. . . . Echoes of the divisions that split the nation 20 years ago reverberated on the Senate floor last week as Democrats twice failed to muster the three-fifths majority needed to break the filibuster and vote on Brown's confirmation. But Sen. Brown insisted that nominee Brown's Vietnam record is not the issue. "It's not the war," he said. "That issue's behind us. The real concern is that Sam Brown is not qualified."

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LINING UP: Out in the real world, the hot tickets are to World Cup soccer games and Barbra Streisand concerts. But here in the government's company town, some of the most precious tickets are to committee hearings, which are frequently held in small rooms with far fewer seats than lobbyists who want to sit in them. . . . And now the Capitol's police force is investigating whether some lobbyists are getting in illegally by paying friendly congressional staff members, who have keys to the House and Senate office buildings, to go inside before the buildings are open to the public and stand in line for them. If they are, the staffers in their employ would be violating congressional rules prohibiting anyone in an "official position" from using that position to gain outside employment. . . . Chris Van Horn, owner of the CVK Group, which provides "line-standing" services to lobbyists, has complained that his place-holders--mostly college students--have found as many as 10 people in line ahead of them when they entered office buildings at their 7 a.m. opening.

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COURT PLAN: The President, having passed over federal Judge Jose A. Cabranes for the Supreme Court, has now nominated him for the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New York. Aides say Clinton hopes to put several more Latinos in the appeals courts during the next couple of months in hopes that one will emerge as a likely high court nominee by the time the next vacancy occurs. Next in line is Antonia Hernandez, head of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund based in Los Angeles, whose nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to be announced soon.

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