Obama, Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes attending West Coast fundraiser

The Obama White House has dealt with its share of scandals lately.

If the president wants advice on spinning his administration’s woes, he can turn to a famous fixer for counsel — or at least someone who plays the part quite dramatically on television.

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

President Obama will travel (again) to Southern California, where the money flows and the golf is great, next month to raise money for the Democratic National Committee at the home of “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes. And, yes, Kerry Washington (a.k.a. Olivia Pope) will be there, too.

To merely be in the presence of Washington and Obama costs $1,000 (or you can raise $5,000). It’s $10,000 (or raise $20,000) for the reception and a photo with Obama. To get the picture and eat dinner in the same room as Obama is $20,000, and to co-host, which gets you all of the above plus your name on the invitation, is $32,400, according to an invitation made public by the Sunlight Foundation.

The DNC confirmed the event.

Rhimes’s Los Angeles address is available upon RSVP (and probably after the check is deposited), and a “performance” (presumably a musical guest) is listed as TBD. The July 23 party will mark the fourth time that Obama has visited California this year. He’s spent more than 40 days in the state over his presidency, according to a database of presidential travel built by Brendan Doherty, an associate professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Kerry Washington has been a faithful Obama supporter since early in the 2008 campaign. But while Michelle Obama is a fan of the show, which depicts a flawed president having an affair with a campaign adviser/D.C. fixer, the president had — as of March — never watched it, he told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show. But he assured her that television politics is far more interesting than the real thing.

“If you followed me, most of my day is sitting in a room listening to a bunch of folks in gray suits talking about a bunch of stuff that wouldn’t make very good television,” Obama said in the interview.

Of course, that was aired before he took to the streets of Washington and started referring to himself as “the bear.”

From moderate to spaceman

A hearty Loop welcome-back to Mitch Daniels Bush II’s budget director, a former Indiana governor and the “moderate” Republican who was supposed to save the party from itself in 2012, before he backed out. He returns to Washington this week as an expert on space exploration.

In February 2013, Daniels was appointed by the National Research Council to serve on a board reviewing NASA’s human spaceflight program. After 18 months of work, the congressionally mandated committee will present its recommendations on Wednesday. And Daniels, as the group’s co-chair, is testifying before the Senate Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Daniels called the Loop on Tuesday afternoon to talk space. He said he plans to frame his argument to Congress this way: “Do you want to go to Mars or don’t you?”

Responding to criticism that space travel is a luxury not affordable during times of economic frailty, Daniels said that “most Americans overestimate what’s involved” — and that cutting off NASA spending would do little to address the nation’s larger budgetary problems.

“I don’t want to go cosmic on you,” he said (pun intended, we assume), but the government needs to focus its reforming on entitlement-program spending.

Daniels said he was “captivated” by the Apollo missions as a kid but beyond that was not especially interested in space exploration before this assignment.

Daniels is currently president of Purdue University, which is the alma mater of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, as well as Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, two of the three astronauts killed during a pre-launch test of Apollo 1 in 1967. The school is called the “cradle of astronauts,” with 23 astronaut alums in all.

Daniels is expected to tell Congress that NASA won’t be able to send people to Mars under current budgets and programs. The report’s recommendations include a case for going back to the moon.

There’s serious debate over whether to spend taxpayer dollars on space exploration vs. serious domestic needs (crumbling infrastructure, failing schools) in America and on Earth. The Congressional Budget Office in November 2013 said that eliminating human spaceflights would save the federal government $73 billion between 2015 and 2023.

Yet, the GOP-led House actually advanced an appropriations bill that allocates spending for NASA in fiscal 2015 slightly above what the Obama White House requested. During a debate on the House floor a few weeks ago, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Tex.) defended NASA funding, reciting from every elementary-school chalkboard across America: “Imagine inspiring and encouraging young American students to shoot for the stars.”

Once more into the . . .

Don’t forget! Deadline is Friday to enter the Loop’s “Iraq Operation Name ” contest. Most U.S. military operations get cool titles.

But the president’s recent dispatch of up to 300 military advisers to Iraq doesn’t have a moniker. Nothing.

Loop Fans can help! What should the U.S. call this effort?

Send your suggestions to intheloop@washpost.com. Subject line: Iraq Operation Name: The top 10 winners will receive an official — and highly coveted — “In the Loop” T-shirt plus mention in the column — unless you want to enter “on background.”

Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner. You must also include a phone number — home, work or, preferably, cell — to be eligible. Submit entries by close of business Friday, June 27.

(There will be 11 winners this time, because we got an entry even before we launched the contest. The entry? “Operation Shiite Storm.”)

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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