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In the Loop

Transition Rumors at World Bank Start at Top

By Al Kamen
Monday, December 20, 2004; Page A21

Likely outgoing World Bank President James Wolfensohn raised some headquarters eyebrows last week with a few lines in an otherwise humdrum, end-of-the-year message to all employees.

"I would like to report to you on the Senior Management Team's annual 'strategic forum,' " he began, apparently in a desperate bid to reduce his audience. He droned on for a while about meeting "Millennium Development Goals," or, as we say in the biz, MDGs, and such.

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Then, just toward the end, came this:

"I know that there is anxiety regarding leadership succession at the Bank." Oh, really? "We can expect clarity on the situation early in the new year, and I have no doubt that we will make an effective transition."

Transition? So many alarm bells went off you'd have thought the building was about to empty. "In the meantime, we must get on with the job, maintaining our focus on quality and excellence," he said.

Virtually no one who read that could imagine it meant anything other than Wolfensohn acknowledging that he was toast and saying we'd know soon who would be replacing him, that no one should worry but that the transition would be smooth and in the meantime just keep working.

No one, that is, but bank spokesman Gerry Rice, denying that Wolfensohn was implying anything substantive about his future: "It is just what it is," Rice said. "He expects to know more in the new year about what the arrangements will be. He's just saying, there will be some transition -- either his reappointment, or his extension, or some new person coming on in the new year."

That's exactly right. Why, it could be a transition from Wolfensohn to Wolfensohn. As that Lucinda Williams song goes: "Well it's over, I know it but I can't let go."

Staying on Message at NASA

Meanwhile, folks at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have been getting a bit uneasy over recent e-mails the brass says are intended to make things more efficient and the grunts say could censor them.

NASA headquarters Chief of Staff John D. Shumacher's and Deputy Administrator Frederick D. Gregory's memos set the stage. Gregory's Dec. 7 memo ordered "an immediate freeze on all nonessential publications and materials," with an eye to getting rid of "duplication, redundancy and waste."

Public Affairs chief Glenn Mahone's memo in October told everyone to submit copies of all materials -- from DVDs to "pamphlets, bookmarkers, and all other items used in any manner to communicate to the press, public, or other NASA constituencies" -- for the entire last year for review.

Some staff divined ulterior motives. One thought was that maybe this effort was really to quiet science types at the small Goddard outpost in Manhattan who had been most off-message, spouting that there was such a thing as global warming and that something could be done about it.

Mahone assures us the effort is truly benign. "This has nothing to do in any way whatsoever, with trying to muzzle anyone," he said. "It's not approval of content," but "a question of consistence of message" that's more to do with improving design and production of publications -- not fact sheets or news releases -- to save money and improve "coherence."

As President Ronald Reagan said, "Trust but verify."

No Longer a Member, but Back as Staff

Rep. Edward L. Schrock (R-Va.), a two-term member who dropped a reelection bid last summer after a gay activist said on his Web site that Schrock sought gay sex through a telephone dating service, is staying on the Hill -- but this time as a staffer.

Schrock, a conservative and retired Navy captain, didn't confirm or deny the charges, leveled in August, but said they did "not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues facing our nation and the region," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Schrock, 63, from Hampton Roads, is to be a subcommittee staff director on the House Government Reform Committee, the newspaper reported, which is chaired by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).

At Last, Police Protection for Codel Junkets

Great news for Capitol Hill police. Finally, they, too, will be able to hop on congressional delegations to some fine spots overseas. The just-passed appropriations bill says that members of the Capitol Police may travel with senators going overseas. Better yet, they get to travel with, "or in preparation for" travel with, a senator.

This is most excellent. What it means is that they can go to Rome just before mandatory senatorial visits at Easter to check things out and then return a week later for the trip itself. And you get overtime and expenses. Merry Christmas!

Meanwhile, House members apparently have to be satisfied with State Department-supplied security, though Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) travels with the sergeant at arms for security.

Moving Off the Hill

Speaking of Hastert, his press secretary, the very highly regarded John P. Feehery, is heading to the private sector after 15 years on the Hill. Feehery, who has also worked for then-Rep. Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), says he has got "several excellent opportunities to contemplate." His wife, Kerry, who has worked for Sens. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.), has signed on to be communications director for Sen.-elect Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

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