Singapore on Wagar’s horizon?


U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke with his family in Beijing. (Andy Wong/AP)
Columnist

Some mega-bundlers seeking Asia-Pacific ambassadorships expressed an interest early on in a posting in Beijing — despite its horrific air pollution.

But incumbent Gary Locke has been on the job there just 20 months, so that isn’t likely to open up for a while. (Besides, he and his wife just sold their 1925 home in Seattle in January for $1.33 million, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.)

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

Japan’s going to Caroline Kennedy, and Australia looks to be going to former Office of Personnel Management chief John Berry.

Now we’re hearing that Miami trial lawyer Kirk Wagar , who raised more than $1 million for President Obama’s reelection effort, is the leading candidate to be ambassador to Singapore.

The Canadian-born Wagar, a citizen since 2004, is an Obama pal who became one of his earliest supporters and headed his fundraising effort in Florida in 2008. How close a pal? Close enough to be invited to the first Obama White House state dinner, in 2009, for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Wagar — an irrepressible, in-your-face former rugby player — has also been on the advisory board of the Ex-Im Bank, a post that might be useful if he’s working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

On the bunny trail

Sometimes people eschew fame. Take Lon Johnson, the new Michigan Democratic Party chairman and the spouse of Julianna Smoot, major Democratic fundraiser, former White House social secretary and Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager.

Johnson, who became chairman of the floundering state party in February, didn’t reply to several calls and messages on his cellphone — including one where he answered and said he’d call back.

The calls were to confirm and ask him about what we’d heard was a bravura turn as Mr. Bunny at the White House Easter Egg Roll, based on what we’d heard from a knowledgeable source.

(Your vision through the bunny’s mouth is quite limited, so a great performance is one where you don’t hurt yourself and you don’t step on the little kids.)

The totally transparent Obama White House — in contrast to just about every prior administration, including Richard M. Nixon’s — has also kept secret the names of those who have volunteered to don the hazardous and truly uncomfortable bunny costume.

Maybe there’s some sort of al-Qaeda connection?

Civility lost?

Senate Finance Committee staffers are back from their 13-day fact-finding trip to Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam to prep for the upcoming debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement being negotiated between Washington and 10 other countries.

When we wished them a hearty bon voyage, we were told they were going to meet with senior government officials and trade and industry leaders in those three countries.

The embassy in Canberra began working in early March to also put together a meeting with some representatives of civil society — union folks, enviros, public health advocates, indigenous groups and so on — to “give their perspectives on the TPP and some of the specific issues in the agreement,” according to an e-mail to one of those invited.

The embassy contacted leaders from those sectors, and a meeting was tentatively set for March 25.

But a week before the meeting, the embassy e-mailed the civil-society folks to say the committee staffers were no longer able to meet. Seems they had a very busy schedule and many other people to get to, so there was simply no time.

A committee source says they were invited to meet instead with the U.S. ambassador at a “larger gathering with a wide variety of business, government and civil society groups.” Doesn’t seem quite the same thing.

Well, maybe the committee aides met with reps of similar groups in New Zealand. (Civil society not being very big — pretty much nonexistent — in Vietnam.)

There are scurrilous reports that some of the committee staffers found time while in New Zealand to squeeze in a visit to the site of the Hobbit village in “The Lord of the Rings.”

We’ll believe that only if we see photographic evidence.

Crises large and small

Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s Mideast peacemaking trip seems to be going relatively smoothly.

But as our colleague Anne Gearan reports, it had a hard time getting off the ground Saturday.

Kerry’s Air Force plane suffered technical problems after he, wife Teresa Heinz Kerry and staff members had boarded for a scheduled 7 a.m. departure to Turkey.

The Air Force scrambled to transfer luggage, equipment and food from one 757 jet to another, while Kerry cooled his heels in the distinguished visitors’ lounge at Joint Base Andrews. More than three hours later, the party took off on the replacement plane.

In Turkey, Kerry tried to reinforce an agreement to repair the key Muslim nation’s ties to Israel. The deepening humanitarian crisis in Syria was a main agenda item.

Kerry then traveled to Israel and the West Bank. He is trying to shepherd new peace talks on hold since 2010. The visit is a quick follow-up to President Obama’s first trip to Israel as president last month.

Kerry is also attending a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in London before flying to Asia for crisis talks about North Korea.

With Emily Heil

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

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