Pledging a Nude Deal for the American people

Al Kamen
Columnist August 21, 2012

A flesh-baring swim in the Sea of Galilee last year earned Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) a rebuke from House leaders. But he got support from the American Association for Nude Recreation (“The credible voice of reason for nude recreation since 1931”).

“Congressman Yoder is a typical American who enjoys skinny-dipping,” the AANR says in a news release. The nudist lobby says Yoder’s antics may help its cause of promoting nude recreation.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

“Overall, the reaction’s been mostly positive,” said Tom Mulhall, the AANR’s public relations chairman and the owner of the Terra Cotta Inn, a clothing-optional resort in Palm Springs.

The AANR’s release lists American presidents purported to have enjoyed a nude splash: John Quincy Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush. (Bush’s supposed bare romp was technically in a sauna, not a body of water, but we’re not quibbling.)

“President Johnson even went skinny-dipping while in office with evangelist Billy Graham,” the group reports. Sadly, we have no photos.


Kansas Republican congressman Kevin Yoder has apologized for any offense caused by his naked swim in the Sea of Galilee last summer. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
Apply now!

Desperate for that post-election call from President Obama or President Romney offering you a senior administration job?

Are you ready to spend countless hours filling out multiple questionnaires — not to mention thousands of dollars on an accountant to help with your financial disclosure forms?

Don’t despair. There are signs that some rationality may prevail on the absurd and endless paperwork for nominees, a mindless one-size-fits-all formula — one form for the covert-ops chief at CIA, the same one for the assistant secretary of commerce for widget production.

A bipartisan bill that became law earlier this month streamlines or reduces confirmation requirements for about 30 percent of the positions now needing committee hearings and Senate floor votes.

That should ensure that incoming department heads no longer have that “home alone” problem for weeks or often months waiting for their deputies.

The new law also establishes a “Working Group on Streamlining Paperwork for Executive Nominations.”

True, these “committees-to-study” most always amount to little more than can-kickers. Still, there’s a bipartisan Senate bloc — from the top leadership down — actually committed to improving the system. (That’s how the bill passed the Senate 79 to 20 in the first place.)

The working group includes folks from White House personnel, the Office of Personnel Management, the FBI and the Office of Government Ethics as well as officials from prior administrations and, one would presume, some people with strong ties to both parties in the Senate.

One goal is to develop a “smart form” that all nominees would fill out with basic data that would be used by both the Senate and the White House. (Nominees now have to provide duplicate information on different sets of forms.)

Another goal is to accelerate background investigations, which can take four months or more, by seeing whether “non-FBI personnel” can be used to conduct most checks.

The legislation asks the working group to explore ways to vary background checks “depending on the sensitivity of the position.” So a narrower check on the widget producer, a broader one for intelligence chiefs.

And the group is to develop an “electronic system” for collecting and distributing information on nominees.

The system is so cumbersome now because everyone involved is afraid they may find out that their nominee for immigration enforcement has a “nanny problem” or that the nominee for tax compliance owes back taxes.

It’s gotten to the point where “risk avoidance has become more costly than the risk you’re trying to avoid,” observed Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service. The need is to “manage risk, not avoid risk,” he said. “You can’t avoid risk.”

The guy worked where?

President Obama’s campaign just loves to refer to Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. It has made plenty of hay out of the Republican presidential candidate’s time with the company (home of the “vulture capitalists”!) and mentions it at every opporunity. Except one.

The White House dared not utter the B-word when Obama named Boris Bershteyn to step in to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and Bershteyn’s official bio makes no mention of Bershteyn’s time at the consulting firm Bain & Co. That’s where Romney worked before founding the spinoff private-equity firm Bain Capital.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Bershteyn was an associate consultant at Bain & Co. in the early 2000s, before he got his Yale law degree.

An Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman noted the distinction between Bain & Co. and Bain Capital and pointed out that Bershteyn’s time at Bain was early in his career. She also said the official bio highlights Bershteyn’s legal experience, not his consulting background — and so, apparently, it was left off for editing reasons, not political ones.

Still, the Bain connection has some chuckling about how anyone with a stint at Bain on his or her résumé is probably not highlighting it at the moment. Ribbing is inevitable.

“He seems like a perfect regulatory czar — in a Romney White House,” quips Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell.

Peace out

Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams announced his resignation Tuesday, citing the standard “personal and family considerations.” In a statement, Obama praised his efforts “reforming and modernizing the agency” and called him “a champion of the thousands of remarkable Peace Corps Volunteers serving across the globe.”

Williams’s three-year tenure was marred by criticism of the agency’s handling of sexual assaults against volunteers, though we hear his decision to leave caught many in the agency by surprise.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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