Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

And now, a Benghazi poem

Too bad there aren’t many words that rhyme with “Benghazi.” Otherwise there might be more poetry about the vagaries of the international diplomacy machine.

But there’s at least one poetic ode, courtesy of Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department and one of the four officials placed on leave in December after the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost (“thrown under the bus,” as the Web site Diplopundit, which first flagged the poem, describes it).

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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In addition to being a diplomat, Maxwell is an aspiring poet who participated in National Poetry Writing Month, in which participants attempt to write a poem a day for a month straight. He chronicled his efforts on his blog, and Diplopundit selected one of his works, “Invitation,” as particularly compelling.

We agree.

It begins: “The Queen’s Henchmen / request the pleasure of your company / at a Lynching — to be held / at 23rd and C Streets NW / on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 / just past sunset.”

Interesting. Not that poems should be read literally, but that is the address of State Department headquarters, and Maxwell and three others were placed on leave Dec. 18.

The poem is grim, with the lynching described as “A blood sacrifice — / to divert the hounds — / to appease the gods — / to cleanse our filth and / satisfy our guilty consciences.”

But there’s a moment of levity, when the event is described as being “B.Y.O.B. / Refreshments will not be served / because of the continuing resolution.”

Clearly he’s well versed.

Friends no more

Hollywood has its share of high-profile breakups. Here’s the Washington version: It’s all over between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former senator Pete Domenici.

Reid (D-Nev.) dropped word of the rift in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, saying he soured on Domenici (R-N.M.) after news broke that his former pal and longtime colleague had fathered a child 35 years ago with Michelle Laxalt, the daughter of then-Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), when he was 46 and she was 24.

Reid said he turned down a meeting request by Domenici, with whom he served for more than two decades. Apparently he’s so upset he can barely bring himself to utter the man’s name. “I don’t mention Domenici’s name anymore because of what he did to Michelle Laxalt,” he told the paper.

But Domenici still hopes to reconcile, he told the Albuquerque Journal. “Harry has been a longtime friend,” he said. “I’m sorry for what happened 35 years ago, and I look forward to any opportunity to talk with him about these matters.”

The IT department

Chatter is that the White House is bringing in some high-powered legal talent to beef up its technology shop.

We’re told that Twitter’s legal director, Nicole Wong, who had been vice president and deputy general counsel at Google, is to be named senior adviser to White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park focusing on Internet privacy and cybersecurity issues.

The expected move, noted Tuesday by CNet, would fill a new position as the White House works on cyberthreats.

About that stint in D.C.

When last we checked in with Jeanette Hanna, a polarizing official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she was making waves with an unspecified “personnel matter” and a controversial posting in Washington.

Now we’ve seen an inspector general’s report revealing that her 775-day detail in the capital, which ended in February 2012, cost taxpayers nearly $178,000.

According to the IG’s findings, Hanna (who is still employed by the Interior Department) spent more than $30,000 to rent an SUV, when rules say she should have gotten a cheaper compact car, and spent more than $33,000 renting a hotel room that sat empty while she traveled back to her home in Oklahoma for 283 days of her detail.

She also applied for reimbursement for a full per diem payment during the time she spent in Washington (rules say employees should get 55 percent of the per diem during such extended trips).

When the Loop contacted the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for a comment, a spokeswoman said the report “speaks for itself.”

The IG’s report also paints Hanna as a bit of a nightmare boss. According to a preliminary report into complaints while she was a regional director in Oklahoma, Hanna installed 40 additional security cameras for her office “with live feeds, to monitor employees.” Some underlings “were physically shaking” during interviews about her, according to an investigator, “and feared retribution,” the report notes.

But her boss, Paul Tsosie, chief of staff to the assistant secretary for Indian affairs, was supportive. He granted her waivers to get the SUV and to maintain housing in D.C. while she traveled home — and approved her per diem request, though it was ultimately denied, the report states.

When Hanna filed a complaint under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, Tsosie tried to help her settle it for six figures. Eventually it was dismissed as being without merit.

According to the report, “Tsosie admitted Hanna could be abrasive but said: ‘All I know is she gets my work done.’ ”

With Emily Heil

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

 
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