McCain ready to exile Gramm to Belarus

Todd J. Gillman

Last week in Minsk, Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko at Belarus Independence Day. Could Gramm win Senate confirmation in time for next year's parade?

Obama pounced on Gramm's "nation of whiners" statement. "America already has one Dr. Phil. We don't need another one when it comes to the economy," he told a crowd in Fairfax, Va.

Moments later, in Belleville, Mich., McCain threw his pal Gramm under the bus, indicating that he's not only off the list of potential Treasury secretaries, he might find himself exiled to Europe's last communist dictatorship, the land of Chernobyl and secret police, Belarus. (If only Siberia had a US embassy....)

"Phil Gramm does not speak for me," McCain said, looking not at all happy that conversation about the economy had come down to whether recession is a "mental" condition experienced by "whiners."

And then the coupe de grace when a reporter asked if Gramm would still be considered for SecTreas or any other top administration role: "I think that Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for Ambassador to Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that."

As it happens, Minsk's man in Washington answers his own phone.

"It's news for me, and I don't have any comment," Belarus' chief of mission, Oleg Kravchenko, just told me.