The women behind the strongmen

Al Kamen
Columnist June 12, 2012

MEMORANDUM

TO: Vogue editors

RE: Possible profile subjects

We so enjoyed reading that profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad , particularly the bits about her Christian Louboutin heels and charitable works. We can only say: give us more! More dictators’ wives! Bring on the ladies who love tyrants, the women behind the despots — so long as they’re glamorous and wear fabulous shoes.

And now, thanks to a New York Times piece describing how the Assad profile came to be, we have a better idea of the qualifications for profile subjects. Apparently, a trim figure and a well-stocked closet are key. The author of the Asma al-Assad profile described her as “extremely thin and very well-dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue,” according to the Times.


A picture taken on December 11, 2010, shows Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad speaking at the Bristol Hotel in Paris. (Miguel Medina/Getty Images)

So given the interest in dictator-chic, here are a few possible interview candidates who fit the bill. They’d make fantastic feature stories, but here’s a helpful hint: in interviews, steer clear of the following words and phrases (not that you would go there anyway): “genocide,” “human rights” and “economic sanctions.”

●Mrs. Kim Jong Un. She’s an international woman of mystery. In fact, no one knows whether the wife of the highly secretive North Korean despot even exists! Reports have cited a “pretty new companion” wearing sharp suits among the newly installed leader’s entourage. As a bonus, there’s a sexy youth angle: At 28, Kim Jong Un is the world’s youngest head of state.

●Chantal Biya. So, she’s not exactly pin-thin — hourglass curvy is more like it. Still, the first lady of Cameroon certainly cuts a glamorous figure. She favors Western designers, including Chanel and Dior, and her elaborate hairstyles are so iconic, they’re called “The Chantal Biya” (kind of like Jennifer Aniston’s “the Rachel”).

Your writers should be careful, though. The guy who wrote an unauthorized biography of her wound up getting tossed in jail.

●The Gaddafi ladies. The late deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi might be out of the picture these days, but we’d love to read more about some of the women in his family. Take his daughter Ayesha. She was a lieutenant colonel in the Libyan army whose designer duds and model-like looks earned her the title “the Claudia Schiffer of North Africa.”

Then there’s Gaddafi’s daughter-in-law Aline, the wife of his son Hannibal. Sure, the Lebanese former model might have once poured boiling water on her maid’s face, but she’s certainly got the jet-set thing down: racy Internet photos? Yep! Domestic dispute in a luxury hotel room? You bet.

High scoring

Anyone notice a cloud hanging over the Mall last week? That might have been the White House softball team getting absolutely smoked by the team fielded by the marijuana lobby.

The One Hitters, the team of pro-pot activists, beat STOTUS (the Softball Team of the U.S.) 25-3.

Marijuana doesn’t seem to dampen athletic prowess (which we already knew — hello, Michael Phelps !). Still, the victors were gracious about the rout. “The One Hitters enjoyed slugging it out with the White House,” said Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the group that sponsors the team. “Hopefully we can play them again when they aren’t totally absorbed in work.”

We almost missed the hidden pun hidden. Hint: David Maraniss’s latest book revealed that President Obama’s high school pot-smoking philosophy included “total absorption” of the precious weed.

The win over the feds was a boost to the One Hitters, who were disappointed last season when the Czardinals, the team representing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (that would be the Drug Czar) canceled on them, citing a double-booked game.

Bench moves

The Obama administration, working to fill key judicial openings, has nominated two lawyers for long-vacant seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Caitlin Halligan , 45, who clerked on that court for now-retired Judge Patricia M. Wald and then for Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer , a former New York solicitor general and now general counsel for the New York County District Attorney’s Office, had been nominated before.

Senate Republicans blocked her nomination in December, citing her representation of the state in a case involving gun manufacturers.

Obama also nominated Principal Deputy Solicitor General Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan , 45, who clerked for 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson and then for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor before her departure from the Supreme Court. He also worked in the solicitor general’s office in the George W. Bush administration.

Some liberal advocates were decidedly lukewarm toward his nomination, however. Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice expressed concerns about his commitment to workers’ rights.

It’s extremely unlikely that either nominee will be confirmed this year. Judicial confirmations wind down in the summer, especially for appeals court nominees — and most especially during an election year.

The White House’s action Monday was generally seen as an effort to move Halligan and Srinivasan through Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and tee them up for an early confirmation should Obama win reelection.

Four of the Supreme Court’s nine justices served on the D.C. federal appeals court.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @Inthe LoopWP.

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