Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Rethinking rocker in Bahrain

It seemed like a pretty neat idea when rocker ­Andrew W.K. posted on his Web site last week that the State Department was sending him as a cultural ambassador to Bahrain to help folks in that deeply unsettled country.

Just Monday, the government used tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators and street battles flared, the Associated Press reported.

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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So how about sending a rocker whose hits include “Party Hard” and “Party Til You Puke” to get warring Sunnis and Shiites to start dancing in the streets instead of fighting?

Apparently not.

“We had a Bahraini entity approach the embassy about co-sponsoring a visit by this guy, who I take is pretty popular there in Bahrain,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Monday, our colleague Anne Gearan reports.

Maybe someone at first thought the lyrics to “Party Til You Puke” — “You can never kill us. We choke, We gun, We kill, We stab, We rob, We steal” — would have a calming effect?

In any event, the co-sponsorship request was “initially approved” — what? — Nuland said, “and then when more senior management at the embassy took a look at this, the conclusion was that this was not an appropriate use of U.S. government funds.”

Seemed someone “looked at the body of his work,” Nuland explained, and the conclusion was “we didn’t need to be part of his invitation.”

Bottom line: “He is not going to Bahrain on the U.S. government’s dime,” she said.

“The body of his work?” His oeuvre?

She’s not in Bahrain either

Odd movement at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Sometime around late summer, General Counsel Lisa Gomer was suddenly moved out of the counsel’s office and given some sort of “special” assignment, we heard.

All the lawyers on her team were told they could no longer talk to her about her work. This was especially problematic because she had planned a big meeting in Washington of agency lawyers, including folks stationed abroad, for October, and because of the situation, it had to be canceled.

Sources said this was a costly decision because of cancelation fees for reservations, air flights and such. The agency says not ­really, noting that the booked airline tickets were changeable without cost and the conference venue simply moved the booking to a new conference date in February.

Gomer, a Harvard Law School classmate of President Obama’s, is a veteran of international development, having worked for the United Nations and been a consultant to the the United Nations Development Program.

No one at USAID appears to know what’s going on. There were even suspicions that her reassignment was being kept under wraps prior to the election. (Of course everyone suspected everything was kept under wraps until after the election. Besides, weeks after the election, it’s still under wraps.)

The agency is sticking with the usual “not at liberty to discuss,” but it appears that Gomer is still in the building though not in or running the general counsel’s office. Deputy General Counsel Susan Pascocello has moved up to acting general counsel for now.

Everyone but Andrew W.K.

Add two more to the list of the names being bandied about as possible successors to Energy Secretary Steven Chu : former Colorado governor Bill Ritter and John Podesta , founder of the Center for American Progress.

Chu hasn’t officially announced it, but he’s widely expected to be leaving the administration before too long. It’s thought that Podesta, who was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and co-chaired the Obama transition team, would bring more political savvy to the job than Chu, whose background was as a lauded (as in Nobel Prize-winning) academic. Ritter has also been mentioned as a candidate to head the Interior Department, if and when Secretary Ken Salazar departs.

Another spot likely to open up is that of Environmental Protection Agency chief, with Administrator Lisa Jackson all but certain to step down. We’re hearing that one of the names mentioned to replace her, Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, is being touted by those who think his relatively cordial relationship with business and his position as a career staffer would make him much less of a lightning rod for criticism (read: easier to confirm) than some other possibilities.

And speaking of that always-spinning revolving door, Mary Schapiro announced Monday that she’s stepping down as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, our colleague Dina ElBoghdady reports. Obama plans to name Elisse Walter, one of the SEC’s Democratic commissioners, to replace her.

Meanwhile, David Kappos , director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, announced to his staff Monday morning that he’s stepping down.

Up in the air no more?

After a deep freeze, it looks as though things might be moving again in the Senate: Sen. Jim DeMint is no longer blocking the nomination of Michael Huerta to be Federal Aviation Administration administrator.

The South Carolina Republican had put a hold on Huerta this summer, reasoning that Republicans shouldn’t appoint anyone to the five-year position before the presidential election. If GOP nominee Mitt Romney had won, Huerta could have served through his first term. But now that President Obama has been reelected, De­Mint has withdrawn the nominee’s roadblock.

Huerta has served as the acting chief at the FAA since Randy Babbitt resigned after a drunken-driving arrest. The charges were later dropped against Babbitt.

Huerta’s nomination was approved by a Senate committee in July, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now hopes to add the nomination to a package that could clear the full Senate before the end of the session, a spokesman says.

With Emily Heil

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

 
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