Putin says Obama would rescue him if he were drowning. (What if the tables were turned?)

Vladimir Putin and President Obama will never be best friends, but the Russian president is fairly confident his counterpart would at least toss him a life buoy if he were flailing in open water.

Near the conclusion of a marathon four-hour Q&A session on Russia’s RT television network, Putin read a question aloud from someone curious whether he thought Obama would save him from drowning. The question was met with laughter and applause.

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

Despite their strained relationship, Putin gave Obama the benefit of the doubt.

“In addition to intergovernmental relations, there are some personal relations,” Putin answered, according to the English translation from RT. “I don’t think I have close personal relationship with Obama. I think Obama is a courageous and good person and he would for sure save me.”

The Loop asked the White House whether it could confirm Obama’s hypothetical altruism. Shockingly, we got no response.

And Putin, let it be noted, was not asked whether he, if the circumstances were reversed, would save Obama.

A long way in a short while

Former U.S. ambassador Richard Hoagland, a career Foreign Service officer, spoke candidly at a gay-pride conference this week about the difficulties gay diplomats faced in the not-so-distant past.

Hoagland recalled an instance in the 1990s when his security clearance was taking a long time to be renewed, and he suspected it could have to do with concerns about his sexuality. He went to the head of diplomatic security and threatened: “You have no reason to deny my security clearance. I want it on my desk in one week, or I’m going to The Washington Post.”

(Not jumping to conclusions about where specifically he would have taken his grievances, but the Loop did start in 1993.)

Hoagland, currently the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, discussed global human rights issues facing LGBT people during a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Where just 14 years ago it was considered “radical” to include the LGBT community in the larger conversation about human rights atrocities around the world, now it is a major part of the State Department’s platform, he said.

Still, Hoagland cautioned that the work of U.S. diplomats to promote gay rights abroad must continue, citing the U.S. government’s monitoring of the treatment of gay individuals in Uganda, Russia and India.

“This is an unfortunate truth: With about 80 countries worldwide criminalizing homosexuality, LGBT persons around the world remain vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, harassment, discrimination and violence,” Hoagland said. “Even today, five countries still define homosexuality as a crime punishable by death.”

Hoagland, who was U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and then Tajikistan, was a founding member of GLIFAA, the State Department group originally known as Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, according to an agency official.

As deputy ambassador in Pakistan, he spurred a significant controversy when he held an LGBT pride celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in 2011.

Balking at change

Rep. Stevan Pearce (R-N.M.) held three town hall meetings in his district this week, not to talk about Obamacare, or tax reform, or even the economy in general.

Pearce wanted to talk about chickens.

Late last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the lesser prairie chicken to the list of threatened animals under the Endangered Species Act, a move that has upset ranchers, farmers and oil companies in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, where these grouse gravitate. The federal agency, in making the announcement, said “it will limit regulatory impacts on landowners and businesses,” but that hasn’t quelled concern.

So Pearce, a former oil executive whose top campaign contributors are from the oil and gas industry, set out during his break from Washington to lend a sympathetic ear about the chickens.

“Their choices affect your right to farm your land, graze your cattle, or continue the energy boom that’s created so many good-paying jobs throughout Southeastern New Mexico. Federal officials owe New Mexicans an explanation for why their extraordinary cooperative efforts to preserve lesser prairie chicken habitat were not good enough,” Pearce said in a news release announcing the not one, not two, but three meetings on the subject.

Federal officials were on hand at the sessions to answer questions, Pearce’s office told the Loop. Constituents asked whether unintentionally harming a bird on private property would result in jail time. The officials did not answer this. The people in attendance argued that predators are more to blame for the declining population than man-made hindrances such as fences and wires.

Suppose Pearce’s constituents don’t want to be blamed for fowl play.

Quote of the week

Apparently God also opposes super-size sodas.

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t 100 percent sure God exists, but if there is an Almighty, Bloomberg is confident his political work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Now, we can’t promise God is keeping score, but Bloomberg won this week’s Loop Quote of the Week hands down.

Showcasing unabashed ego, Bloomberg told the New York Times in an interview that his advocacy on issues such as public health and gun control is like a golden ticket through the pearly gates. “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed,” he said, apparently with a smile. “I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

Curious: Is $50 million — the amount he’s investing on his latest gun-control campaign — the going rate for a guaranteed spot in the afterlife?

— With Colby Itkowitz

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

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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