NPR culture hero and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me Host straight-guy Carl Kassel defines timbre of voice and voice of reason. He stands in a lineage back to Walter Cronkite, Edgar R. Murrow and Daniel Shore. It should not come as such a surprise, then to hear that Obama has tapped his ace, Carl Kassel to be the new special negotiator and envoy, chosen specifically to meet with Vladimir Putin. On Kerry’s advice an international mediation firm, who has had contact with the Kremlin through intermediaries, developed the terms of the mini-summit which is to be held at a dacha outside St. Petersburg where Putin went as a child.
In an interview with Cory Flintoff, whom he knows from the old days, Kassel expressed how the unusual mission came about; and why he had to keep the reason for his retirement under wraps. Flintoff has also been appointed to a special international mediator position, though he is not envoy to Putin. Flintoff will be taking up residence at Spruce Island, in an Alaskan archipelago now in the hands of the Americans. Recently Moscow has claimed the ownership to be Russian. Officials who conducted research in the archives in Juneau found curious evidence. The claim revolves around documents that the Czar ceded the island in perpetuity to a Russian Orthodox monastery.
Kassel told Flintoff that he liked being “Obama’s Ace,” sent out to meet Putin as envoy and negotiator following his career as NPR host. The ethnic nationalism that oligarchs favor, together with the honey-badger-like toughness of the cronies, has led even the unflappable Kassel to shake his head in an avuncular way, if to say: “What are these boys doing? I’ll need to be gentle but very firm and use my mellifluous voice, as I do in general, to encourage people to do what they know they ought to do.”
The extended hand of firmness and civil society ideals formed out of a team of historians supported by the Carnegie Foundation and the Marshall Fund, who thought that maybe Putin did not really understand what a constitution was. Theorizing that a bit of French and American Enlightenment thought on the Rights of Man might inspire Putin to “Just quit it now, you’re embarrassing yourself and all of us.” Clearly Putin would not be able to hear that from Madeleine Albright at the moment, since she questioned Putin’s grasp of Reality, let along Realpolitik.
Though Kassel has described his mission unofficially as Special Envoy and Constitutional Pedagogue to the court of Vladimir Putin. He will settle into a neutral process set up by Elena Pankilova, director of Transparency International’s Russia Office, which recently co-sponsored the Sixth Russia and CIS Anti-Corruption Summit in Moscow. Her keynote address spoke of due diligence in the enforcement of the Law 103 Anti-Corruption measure passed in the Duma.
Kassel’s rapport with American audiences through his persona as adjudicator on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” which surprisingly for Obama, has a significant following among Putin’s Court of Cronies. Reportedly they like Kassel’s imitations of Putin and Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Though officially his position is Official Judge and Scorekeeper of Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and Curator of the Funny Voices. Unofficially he has always thought of himself as “The Adjudicator,” he told Flintoff.
Peter Sagal also submitted a proposal following being approached through a mutual Chicago powerbroker connected to Obama. Apparently his calling Putin “a pain in the *ss” disqualified him. Plus he apparently knew he would not pass the security screenings required. Kerry delayed as long as possible before announcing that NPR host Carl Kassel would be his envoy and ace negotiator to meet with Putin. Kassel discussed the confidence, he had that he could talk some sense to Putin whom he acknowledged really did seem like “That willful honey badger from the YouTube Video.”
Satire by Lawrence Shapiro