The Washington Post

European birthday bashes for Reagan


Didn’t join the McCarthy congressional delegation (codel) on that jaunt to Europe this week? Our deepest apologies if it was our fault: We did fail to mention that the 10-member group (plus spouses and aides), flying the cozy military jet, business class all the way, is, on top of everything else, off on a week-long birthday party.

Yes, we’re told that the codel, led by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), after a stop to mingle with the troops in Germany, was on hand Monday in Krakow, Poland, to kick off a week of celebrations across Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan. (The birthday was Feb. 6, but . . . it’s a big event.)

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

Krakow was home to Pope John Paul II for four decades. The events there celebrated the special relationship between Reagan and the pope in the fight against the Soviets.

The traveling party’s next stop was Budapest, where it arrived Tuesday to join the Hungarian parliament’s commemorative session for Reagan. Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was on hand to speak.

A Reagan statue is to be unveiled Wednesday in Freedom Square, where the Soviets left a monument to remind the Hungarians that the Russians saved them from the Nazis. Reagan is staring down that monument, we’re told, looking through it to the U.S. Embassy. The Hungarians are putting on a gala dinner.

Meanwhile, another House codel, this one headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), will be gliding into Budapest after two days of meetings in Brussels for the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue gathering with European counterparts. The eight-member codel includes Republican Reps. Ed Whitfield (Ky.), Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Brian Bilbray (Calif.) and John J. Duncan Jr. (Tenn.) and Democratic Reps. Loretta Sanchez (Calif.), Jim Costa (Calif.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.).

We assume some spouses are also on the usual miljet. These TLD gatherings, frankly, tend to be a bit too wonky — lots of heavy breathing about NATO and Libya and Afghanistan — but they’re pleasant enough to be Loop-recommended.

And how about this? The Stearns gang will be linking with the McCarthy group, we’re told, for ceremonies at the new Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest. (So don’t even think about booking a table for dinner at Bagolyvar.)

On Thursday there’s another gala dinner, at the palace of Czech Prime Minister Petr Ne, followed by a conference the next day in Prague.

The schedule for Friday has Ambassador Norm Eisen hosting a dinner in honor of the Reagan Foundation — which is coordinating and sponsoring the trip — and the street in front of the splendid ambassadorial residence is to be named Ronald Reagan Street.

The centennial celebration week ends in London with the real highlight of the trip: the unveiling on the Fourth of July of a 10-foot bronze statue of the 40th president near the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square.

The Reagan statue will be to your right as you leave the U.S. Embassy. (The hideous building is being vacated in a few years, but the statue is on public land, so it is expected to remain.)

To your left is the statue of President Dwight Eisenhower, erected in 1989, which has Eisenhower looking out at the buildings that served as his headquarters during World War II. Residents of Kansas City, Kan., not far from Ike’s home town of Abilene, paid for the memorial.

Directly in front of you, in the square, is the Franklin Roosevelt statue, unveiled three years after his death in 1945. It was funded in just six days in 1946 through the sale of a souvenir brochure to 160,000 grieving citizens of the still-devastated London, according to the embassy.

Reagan’s ties to the mother country are not quite the same as Ike’s or FDR’s. They come from his close partnership with Margaret Thatcher against the Soviets. So England is perhaps the place where his defense of freedom around the world was shared and echoed.

The Reagan Foundation paid for Reagan’s statue. The main sponsor of the centennial week’s activites was GE, Reagan’s former employer, which chipped in $15 million. Other large contributors include Visa, Jelly Belly (remember that jar Reagan kept on his desk in the White House and on Air Force One?) and Edison International.

Told you not to miss this trip. Who knows? At some point, deficit concerns may curb these fine opportunities. Well, probably not.

Broken impasses

The Senate on Tuesday ended a lengthy standoff over the nomination of Washington lawyer and former Justice Department attorney James Cole to be deputy attorney general.

Cole was first nominated for the job more than a year ago, but strong Republican opposition over his views on civilian trials for terrorist suspects and his work as an independent monitor for insurance giant AIG, among other matters, stalled a vote on the nomination.

Cole, who was given a recess appointment by President Obama on Dec. 29, was finally approved on a 55 to 42 vote with five Republicans voting in favor. (Without Senate approval, his recess appointment would have expired at the end of this year.)

The Senate also approved by voice vote two other senior Justice Department nominees: Lisa Monaco, who had been Cole’s top aide as principal deputy associate attorney general, to be assistant attorney general for national security and Washington lawyer Virginia Seitz to be assistant attorney general and head the office of legal counsel, the powerful office that hasn’t had a confirmed leader since 2004.

Follow In the Loop on Twitter: @AlKamenWP.


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