Earlier this year, when we were getting ready to ship the Mother Jones excerpt from my book about refugees from Burma, Clara Jeffery called me into her office. There’s a part in the article about how many of the refugees couldn’t get asylum in the United States because they were considered terrorists (long story), at least until Condoleezza Rice signed some waivers that allowed the immigration of tens of thousands of them. “How did this issue end up on Rice’s desk?” Clara asked me. I had little doubt that the lobbying of Christian groups was involved (many Burmese in Thai refugee camps are Christian), but I said I didn’t really know, because I didn’t. But do you know who else doesn’t know? Condoleezza Rice. Her personal researcher, Leisel Bogan, just called me and said that Rice would like to know if I had any idea how this issue ended up on her desk.
“We were on a plane,” Bogan explained, “and I was reading the Wall Street Journal review of your book and showed it to her, and she said, ‘This looks really interesting; we should get it.’ Bogan did not mention whether Condi’s interest had anything to do with the Journal‘s somewhat gratuitously calling me “a profane young bisexual from Ohio,” but in any case, it turned out that “Your book was the most informative I’ve read.” And since I had 67 pages of source info, I was also obviously a superanal geek. So when they needed some backstory about US-Burma policy for Rice’s upcoming book, Bogan rang my bell.
Bogan and I did some constructive brainstorming that I think will lead her to what they need. Time will tell how accurate my speculations about the waiver’s history are. But in the meantime, knowing that Rice couldn’t have answered Clara’s question makes me feel like less of a slacker for not knowing, either.