Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

In Kabul, it’s a very early Fourth of July

Getting ready to celebrate the Fourth of July on the Mall? Worried about all the traffic, the crowds, the heat, the potential thunderstorms?

Then perhaps you should follow the example of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which celebrated the 237th Independence Day on June 26, exactly a week before the actual day of the signing of the Declaration.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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No members of the media were invited — in fact, any reporters there that day were escorted out before the assorted dignitaries and other invitees were to arrive. (The embassy issued a brief news release about the ceremony after it ended.)

Could be something of a trend here. Loop Fans may recall that the embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, celebrated the Fourth — which it calls “National Day” — in early March.

The reason for that, we understood, is because Riyadh is perhaps the hottest capital in the world, with daytime temps in July averaging 110 degrees and the record high close to 120 degrees. The highs in March average 30 degrees cooler.

But that can’t be the reason in Kabul, where July’s average high temperature, in the low 90s, isn’t much different from here. And celebrating a week early can’t make much difference.

We’re checking with the embassy, but it could be that Ambassador James B. Cunningham or some key invitees had scheduling conflicts or some other relatively mundane reason for the early celebration. Maybe they were so excited about the holiday they just couldn’t wait?

Or maybe there were security concerns?

Meanwhile, we’ve gotten word that the military has decided to ban Afghan employees from the sprawling Bagram air base outside Kabul on the Fourth.

But Afghan employees run the mess hall. So it’s going to be MRE’s (meals ready-to-eat) for the holiday?

Blinded by the light

Secretary of State John F. Kerry was trying to conduct some non-Asia business Tuesday at a regional security conference in Brunei.

Russian and U.S. reporters were doorstopping a room down a long hallway where he was waiting to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

When the dour Lavrov arrived, the media scrambled inside the room for a “photo spray,” the traditional, brief grip-and-grin for the cameras, before being hustled out.

“Are you going to talk about asylum for Snowden?” CBS’s Margaret Brennan asked.

“Don’t shout at me, please,” Lavrov muttered before the press was hustled out and the door closed.

Lavrov and Kerry met for an hour and 40 minutes. The Russian cameras drifted away while the Americans stayed parked outside the door.

When Lavrov finally emerged, he strode quickly down the hall, with reporters hustling to keep up.

How was the meeting?

“Excellent,” Lavrov said in mid-stride. What about Snowden?

“I missed my lunch and I have a meeting to attend,” he said, and then: “Turn off that light, you’re blinding me.”

But the fugitive Edward Snowden?

Lavrov scowled. “You are absolutely crazy, and I don’t know how you can work like this.”

Hey, doin’ the best we can. Guess the Russian press doesn’t badger top officials.

A Stetson in Paris?

Increasing chatter that IBM heiress and philanthropist Jane Stetson , former Democratic National Committee national finance chair and mega-bundler for President Obama, is a strong candidate to be the next ambassador to France.

Stetson is the granddaughter of Thomas J. Watson, founder of International Business Machines (IBM), and daughter of Arthur K. Watson, who was ambassador to France in the early ’70s.

She’s fluent in French and has studied at the Sorbonne and the American College in Paris.

Stetson raised $2.4 million for Obama and the DNC for the 2012 campaign, and her bundling since 2007 totals just under $4 million, according to an analysis in the New York Times. And that may be lowballing the totals and failing to include personal contributions.

Billionaire hedge fund head and major bundler Marc Lasry had been the White House’s first pick for the job — although he was never officially nominated — but he withdrew two months ago amid news reports that he played poker in an alleged Russian mob-run ring that was laundering money through a Carlyle hotel art gallery.

“It’s not that he’s committed a crime,” a source told the New York Post at the time, “but it opens a can of worms” in terms of getting the nomination confirmed.

Meanwhile, we’re hearing that the White House is thinking about renominating Washington lawyer and major Obama campaign bundler Timothy Broas to be ambassador to the Netherlands.

The White House withdrew the nomination in June 2012, 10 days after Broas was charged with speeding, drunken driving and resisting arrest near his home in Chevy Chase. He was going 47 mph in a 35 mph zone in that infamous radar zone on Connecticut Avenue just north of Chevy Chase Circle. The latter two charges were dropped shortly after the arrest.

With Emily Heil

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

 
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