A taste for diplomacy


Secretary of State John Kerry holds a bilateral meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, at the State Department in Washington on Feb. 8, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
February 11, 2013

Critical Loop Information Bulletin for heads of state, foreign ministers and their chefs:

An excellent meal of fine food and wine has often been the key to successful diplomatic negotiations. So if you’re hosting Secretary of State John Kerry , here are some pointers.

In arranging a dinner with the former senator last year, one host asked whether Kerry had meal preferences.

One aide e-mailed: “Anything is good, as long as there is no celery involved.” Celery?

Shades of President George H.W. Bush’s war on broccoli back in 1990, when he famously declared: “I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid, and my mother made me eat it. I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

The edict, banning the offending vegetable from the White House and Air Force One, outraged broccoli farmers and the nutrition-minded.

But simply eschewing celery — while sure to upset the farmers — isn’t very much to go on when you’re putting on a full dinner.

So a second aide, apparently speaking with deep knowledge, refined the menu suggestions:

“He particularly enjoys scallops. . . . You’ll also do well with lamb chops, shepherd's pie, simple salad, clam chowder, chocolate desserts, ice cream. Apple juice, water, Zinfandel wine, Sauv Blanc. He doesn’t drink coffee and the celery restriction is accurate.”

Sounds very New England, maybe a bit old-fashioned. (But best not go overboard into a New England boiled dinner or creamed chipped beef.) In addition, we’ve heard it’s best not to serve farm-raised salmon. Good to know Kerry drinks water. It’s unclear whether sparkling or still, so offer both, just not tap.

Remember, a well-fed secretary of state could be the margin of difference in tense negotiations.

Closed doors, open windows

Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm’s name has been floated for many Cabinet jobs, including secretary of labor or transportation or energy.

But she’s thinking she may be out of the running.

Granholm, who last year hosted a show called “The War Room” on Current TV — the network Al Gore sold in January to al-Jazeera — said Sunday that she’s “probably” going to work at the Pew Charitable Trusts as a spokeswoman on clean-energy matters, though it’s not a “done deal.” (Quite so — a source at Pew says it’s not going to happen.)

Granholm, interviewed on “Platts Energy Week,” an all-
energy news and talk show, said she’d been watching confirmation hearings in the past few weeks.

“If you think it was hard getting Hagel confirmed,” she said, referring to Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, “imagine somebody who has run a progressive talk show for the past year, probably poking a few Republicans in the eye,” maybe even some who will be voting on her nomination.

“I might be a little bit of a tough” challenge to confirm, Gran­holm said, “but I’m going to do all sorts of stuff serving on the outside, for sure.”

Sounds as though a Cabinet post is not in her future. On the other hand, there are good jobs that don’t require confirmation.

Maybe hold a concert?

How does a foreign country get trade preferences from Washington? It hires a lobbyist, of course.

That’s what Bangladeshi officials concluded after meeting with a congressional delegation.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni , briefing reporters after a visit last month by a delegation led by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), said the group told her that Bangladesh should get duty and quota-free access to U.S. markets, the Financial Express newspaper said.

She said the delegation advised her that countries that have lobbyists get better results.

That may or may not be true, but it’s not exactly what the delegation said, ­Kingston spokesman Chris Crawford told us Friday after checking with Kingston. “The L-word was never mentioned,” Crawford said, “and “certainly no particular firm was mentioned.”

The point the delegation was making, Crawford said, was that most Americans “don’t know about this country,” even though it’s the eighth-largest country in the world in population and the fourth-largest Muslim country.

There “was a discussion of the need for Bangladesh to present its case,” Crawford said, much as India and Israel (other stops on the trip) do, using its embassy and expats living in the United States.

The delegation also included GOP Reps. Ed Whitfield (Ky.), Scott Tipton (Colo.) and Adam Schiff (Calif.).

But Moni told reporters after the meeting that “we must consider appointing a lobbyist firm as many countries have such firms in the U.S. to look after the overall business interests.”

Score one for Gucci Gulch.

More moves at Foggy Bottom

Heather Higginbottom , now deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is heading over to the State Department to be counselor to Secretary Kerry.

Higginbottom was Kerry’s legislative director from 1999 to 2004 and then founded and headed the American Security Project, a national security think tank.

Right after the 2008 election — she was dubbed one of Obama’s “big thinkers” on heath care — Obama named her deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. She moved over to the OMB in 2011 after overcoming Senate Republican complaints that she didn’t have business and accounting experience.

Meanwhile, a senior State Department official told reporters Friday that David Wade, who was Kerry’s Senate chief of staff, will be his chief of staff at State, and Bill Danvers , who was Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff director, will be deputy chief of staff for policy. Boston.com politics editor and veteran Boston Globe political reporter Glen Johnson will be a senior adviser on strategic communications.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
inthe loop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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