The ambassador wears Prada?

Al Kamen
Columnist May 1, 2013

Hedge-fund billionaire, Obama mega-bundler and high-stakes poker player Marc Lasry dropped his bid last week for that fine ambassadorship in Paris.

But that move may not have opened the door very wide for others to jump in with their rsums — or, more precisely, campaign-contribution receipts.

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

We heard pretty definitively that the administration was looking at a woman to be the next ambassador to France.

If so, it seems the job would be Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour’s for the asking.

The New York Post reported that Wintour, who had been talked about for either London or Paris early on — but Matt Barzun remains likely for London — was back in the running for the job. (If so, it may be a very short race.)

On the other hand, Women’s Wear Daily questioned that, noting that Wintour had just been promoted to artistic director at Condé Nast and that the promotion was contingent on her commitment to the company. And we understand that she’s happy in her current job.

‘‘If you accept it, you can’t then come and tell me you’ve accepted at a later date a job as an ambassador,’” Condé Nast CEO Charles Townsend said in March, according to WWD.

Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

Wintour was at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner over the weekend — on the correspondents’ side — but we didn’t get a chance to ask her.

Paris isn’t London, but it’s not bad.

Maybe not JetBlue

Somebody call William Shatner. It seems the actor-slash-discount-travel-service-spokesman’s services may be needed.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) spent nearly $20,000 on transportation alone for a four-day trip to Korea and Vietnam, according to documents recently filed with the House clerk — and flagged by our pal Kent Cooper at Political MoneyLine.

According to the documents, Jackson Lee met up with a codel (shorthand for “congressional delegation,” or a group of lawmakers traveling abroad on official business) focused on child welfare and adoption issues in Seoul on Feb. 16. The members then headed to Hanoi, where they met with various Vietnamese officials.

The rest of the group traveled on to Cambodia. But Jackson Lee took a commercial flight back to her home district in Houston, leaving the group a day before the trip ended “due to commitments in her district.”

The tally for her transportation? A whopping $19,969.70.

Jackson Lee’s spokesman would only say that the tickets were business-class.

Others on the trip spent less. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Calif.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.) spent somewhere in the $13K range, we hear — a lot of money, sure, but not unheard of for lawmakers making similar Asian jaunts.

And it’s also unclear how Jackson Lee racked up an additional $580 in expenses — as her travel document shows — in Frankfurt. According to the brief description of the trip, she was on an overnight trip from Hanoi to Houston “via Frankfurt.” Her spokesman didn’t immediately answer.

Could she have crashed in a hotel for a few hours? Make that an expensive hotel.

Mr. Shatner?

The other lakes

Former senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) may be heading back to town pretty soon to be special envoy for the Great Lakes region.

No, we’re not talking Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario. These Great Lakes are in a conflict-plagued part of Central Africa that includes Congo, Uganda and Burundi. The seemingly endless strife in the region since the 1990s has led to millions of deaths and refugees.

During his three terms in the Senate, Feingold, who would replace Ambassador R. Barrie Walkley, a career Foreign Service officer, had for several years run the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa.

Feingold told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Daniel Bice, who first reported the State Department-Feingold discussions, that he “would of course welcome the opportunity to work with Secretary [John] Kerry,” a pal from Senate days. (Sounds as though he’d say yes, if asked.)

Human rights groups, who have been pushing for a high-level envoy to the region, would be heartened by Feingold’s appointment, though we hear they’d probably prefer he report directly to the White House, not the State Department.

Generally angry

Spat of the week: “May we respond? I think I heard a question. I don’t want to respond if the gentleman’s going to leave. Would you care to hear a brief response?”

That was Army Secretary John McHugh, calling out Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) at the House Armed Services Committee hearing for asking a question about a computer system used in Army intelligence and then trying to leave the hearing room. The Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, then had a rather heated exchange with Hunter in which Hunter finally declared that leaving without listening was his “prerogative.”

The fight makes for good TV — the YouTube clip has gotten more than 137,000 views, which is not bad for a congressional hearing.

With Emily Heil

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

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