Need work? How about chief of SBA

Al Kamen
Columnist September 5, 2013

It doesn’t look as if a vacant Cabinet-level post, the head of the Small Business Administration, will be filled anytime soon.

Karen Mills, the former SBA chief, left Washington for the ivory tower last month. But it’s been harder than expected for the White House to find a successor, we hear. Several candidates have hit obstacles during the vetting process, say folks charting the administration’s progress.

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

The White House has been hoping to find a strong candidate who might add diversity to the Cabinet mix, and we hear that it is focusing on a couple of new prospects, both Latinos.

Meanwhile, small-business advocates are growing impatient with the slow candidate search process, worried that their issues will be put on the back burner without a strong voice at the Cabinet table.

So, the search continues. New reality TV show idea: “So You Think You Can Be a Cabinet Secretary?”


Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Karen Mills looks up as U.S. President Obama speaks about government reform in this January 2012 photo. The SBA Cabinet post is now vacant. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Want a tyrant’s rifle?

Feeling nostalgic for the good old days of the Iraq war?

An online auction site is selling a rifle once owned by Saddam Hussein — allegedly the one he so famously waved around and festively fired in the air at public events. The price of owning a little piece of history to help you remember that other brutal dictator known for occasionally gassing his own people?

Between $7,500 and $15,000.

The Rock Island Auction Co., which is making the lovely M77 Ruger available, describes it as one of “the most notable and certainly historic One-of-a-Kind rifles.”

“This brutal dictator needs NO introduction to the American people, as he is one of the most despised and hated Middle East leaders of the 20/21st Century,” the site enthuses.

According to an affidavit that accompanies the listing describing its provenance, the rifle was obtained by the CIA in 2004 and ultimately was given to the chief of station in Baghdad, who obtained the weapon as an “honorarium” for his decades of undercover service, per the CIA’s policy.

He’s the one putting the piece up for sale.

Hey, it’s never too soon to start thinking about Christmas shopping.

The ad that will not die

Loop fans might recall that TV ad by George Washington University Hospital this summer that used some out-of-context footage of President Ronald Reagan. Thanks to one of our eagle-eyed readers, we reported that the slick video meant to promote the hospital juxtaposed images of the aftermath of the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan with an image of the Reagans waving from a hospital window — only the footage was shot at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, not GW.

After we pointed it out, GW replaced the clip, after blaming incorrectly labeled B-roll footage and the ad company the hospital hired. The new, more historically accurate ad swaps in footage of Reagan at the White House in the aftermath of the shooting, wearing a red cardigan (under which, it was reported, he was wearing a bulletproof vest), his arm around his wife, waving.

Now that’s what we call truth in advertising.

But like a bad penny, the old ad has resurfaced. A Loop fan spotted the original spot — with its misleading imagery — running on local ABC affiliate WJLA last weekend and contacted Contrast Creative, the advertising agency that created it. Contrast Creative replied that it, in turn, had contacted WJLA.

“Instead of running the revised, historically accurate commercial on 9/2, they mistakenly ran the old commercial,” the ad company told the viewer. “With your help, this has been corrected. You should now be seeing the revised commercial going forward.”

Perhaps we should chalk that up to winning one for (accuracy about) the Gipper.

Transparency, to a point

People interested in government agencies’ efforts to improve their openness and transparency will probably want to attend next Thursday’s board of directors meeting of the Millennium Challenge Corp.

That’s the international aid agency set up during the George W. Bush administration to improve on Washington’s effectiveness in delivering assistance to developing countries. The idea was to focus on countries that are committed to human rights, democracy and other good things.

“Transparency regarding the process and criteria that govern selection” of the folks getting grants “is a hallmark of the MCC model,” the agency’s Web site says.

One agenda item is “consideration” of assistance to El Salvador. Might be interesting to hear about that.

Another item is “Open Data and Transparency.” That would be fascinating for an agency whose “hallmark is transparency.”

Alas, the calendar notice says the gathering next week at the State Department is “closed to the public.”

Guess it’s understandable that board meetings are generally closed-door affairs. But surely there’s some irony there.

Well, sunlight-seekers can take heart: We hear that the organization will hold a public town hall meeting the day after the private session to discuss what was discussed.

So this might be called filtered sunlight? Or maybe what the artists call chiaroscuro?

With Emily Heil

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

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