Three Men and a Banquet

It sound like the beginning of a joke…

Bill Clinton, Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra, and Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, are sitting down to a banquet…

except until the New York Times broke the story this morning, Mssrs. Giustra and Nazarbayev had not been familiar enough to support a joke’s setup.

Frank who?

And what little I’ve noticed about Nazarbayev has led me to believe he might have been part of the model for Trff Bmzklfrpz, Garry Trudeau’s president of Berzerkistan:

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So what’s the story?

Upon landing on the first stop of a three-country philanthropic tour, [Clinton and Giustra] were whisked off to share a sumptuous midnight banquet with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whose 19-year stranglehold on the country has all but quashed political dissent.

Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.

The monster deal stunned the mining industry, turning an unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers in a transaction ultimately worth tens of millions of dollars to Mr. Giustra, analysts said.

Just months after the Kazakh pact was finalized, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received its own windfall: a $31.3 million donation from Mr. Giustra that had remained a secret until he acknowledged it last month. The gift, combined with Mr. Giustra’s more recent and public pledge to give the William J. Clinton Foundation an additional $100 million, secured Mr. Giustra a place in Mr. Clinton’s inner circle, an exclusive club of wealthy entrepreneurs in which friendship with the former president has its privileges.

Three men, one dinner, three winners. Who loses?

Obviously, the people of Kazakhstan, whose thug-in-chief is now a legitimate international figure.

Also, Senator Clinton, who had

co-signed a [Congressional] commission letter to the State Department that sounded “alarm bells” about the prospect that Kazakhstan might head the [international] group. The letter stated that Kazakhstan’s bid “would not be acceptable,” citing “serious corruption,” canceled elections and government control of the news media.

And we think off the cuff comments in South Carolina were meddling?

I know this is the way the big boys do business, and hey, I’m only a humble country parson. Yet this certainly is a blast of real-world flatulence interrupting all the presidential campaigns’ pious sermonizing about higher ideals, no? 

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