Two Nominees Meet Nominal Resistance

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Dick Holbrooke’s "ethical baggage" is a coin purse compared to the steamer trunks Bill Clinton lugs around, and it probably wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow if Clinton hadn’t dropped his pants. Surely the prickly Balkan dealmaker would never have gone into bended-knee mode for the Senate Foreign Relations committee this week if he hadn’t known that the best way to get to the U.N. was to give Jesse Helms & Co. what his boss wouldn’t: a real -– or at least proportionate -- apology. "With regret, I must say that carelessness on occasion on my part contributed to these misconceptions," Holbrooke said Thursday. Holbrooke is now looking good, although Helms still has some gripes about "appeasing Slobodan Milosevic" that he’s going to air. For frustrated righties, a poke at Holbrooke is a poke at a President who never lets them land a good one.

Over in the Senate Finance Committee, Larry Summers is having a much easier time -– after all, who could complain about the economy? But Robert Rubin’s often irascible No. 2, says TIME senior economist Bernard Baumohl, "has ruffled a lot of feathers since he got to Washington, and they’re not totally inclined to let him off too easy." So Summers sat through a three-hour grilling on everything from steel imports to Social Security surpluses, and, by the end, everyone seemed satisfied -- even steel-state Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who told Summers he was "superbly qualified for this." Holbrooke still has Helms to deal with, but at the end of the day he and Summers are the administration policies they took part in: the Balkans and the bull market. The former’s been a much bumpier road, but the reality is that whether the Republican Senate likes it or not, both are in the happy-ending phase right now. The same is likely to be true of the nominees.