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In the Loop

The U.N.'s Taller, So He's Moving Up

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A19

Despite all the hubbub, is the selection of Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations a big promotion? It doesn't carry Cabinet rank, after all, and the ambassador reports to the assistant secretary of state for international organizations, a job Bolton had in Bush I.

Thomas R. Pickering was U.N. ambassador back then and was said to have on occasion resisted direction from Bolton. If Bolton is the ambassador, will he take direction from the assistant secretary? Some folks say he will. We'll see.

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Bolton also will have a new staff at the United Nations, including Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry's sister Margaret A. "Peggy" Kerry, a career civil servant who works there as a liaison with nongovernmental organizations.

Loop Fans may recall that, during the presidential campaign, a Catholic antiabortion group raised a fuss when Kerry did a little speechifying for her brother, promising feminists that Kerry, if elected, would overturn various Bush policies -- such as barring funds for U.N. population-control efforts.

Bolton is often referred to in the media as a "neo-con," which is not accurate. His first priority is that, democratic or not, other countries do what Washington tells them. So he's more properly a nationalist American or nationalist conservative. That would be "nat-con."

The U.N. post was not Bolton's first choice -- he wanted to be No. 2 at the State Department. But at least he'll have the spectacular Negroponte Kitchen at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to use. And it'll be an easier commute to visit his daughter, who is in college nearby.

Lugar Had Less Reserve in '99

Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans have reacted guardedly to the Bolton nomination. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said he was "going to reserve any comments about the appropriateness or not of the president's choice."

In contrast, when President Bill Clinton nominated Richard C. Holbrooke for the U.N. job in 1999, Lugar didn't "reserve any comments." He called Holbrooke "an excellent nominee" and said "somebody is needed at the U.N. who is tough, who looks after American interests."

Plaque Removal

A clarification may be in order regarding a recent column about the elegant Mel Sembler Building in Rome, the embassy annex named for the sitting ambassador and the annex's conference center, named for Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.). Young got the building named for Mel Sembler, a wealthy GOP contributor.

It is apparently correct that this is the first time the U.S. government has named a building for a sitting ambassador. But we're told other distinguished ambassadors may have had their names on plaques at embassy buildings.

For example, the late Washington lawyer Ralph E. Becker, ambassador to Honduras for nine months in 1976-77, had his name on a plaque inside an embassy annex apparently acquired while he was in Tegucigalpa. The plaque was removed after he left, embassy veterans say, though he is still fondly remembered for having nodded off during his credentials presentation at the presidential palace.

(The House passed a bill in 1980 to strike a plaque honoring Becker, a founding trustee of the Kennedy Center and a major cultural and civic patron here, for the grand foyer of the building. He would have been the third person honored there by name, John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower being the first two. But the Senate apparently declined to go along.) Unclear why Congress and the White House don't put a stop to this naming of diplomatic buildings overseas for contributors, politicians and the like.

Keep an Eye on the Menu

For those who have been worried, we're happy to report that the Department of Labor cafeteria, a renowned centre of haute cuisine, is once again open for business. Seems D.C. health inspectors closed the cafeteria on Thursday, Labor Department officials said in an e-mail, "due to signs of recent rodent entry."

But the cafeteria reopened for lunch Friday after the contractor, Guest Services Inc., "increased its food safety measures."

"Employees are encouraged to report . . . any evidence of the presence of pests in the building," meaning, we hope, only those of the four- or multi-legged variety.

Just a Few Digits Off

And this e-mail invitation just in from the powerful lobbying group, the Consumer Electronics Association. It's having a "celebratory dinner" March 15 to "pay tribute to 80 years of technology and innovation." ("Be there as we honor the inaugural class of Digital Patriots, all known for their positive impact on the rapidly evolving consumer technology industry.")

The "Digital Patriots," the invite said, "are outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell; Sen. George Allen (R-Va.); Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.); and Rep. Richard Boucher (D-Va.)."

The CEA is especially close to Boucher, whose first name is actually Frederick.

Rising Starrlets

Another former aide to former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr goes to the White House staff. The new deputy general counsel is William K. Kelley, a Notre Dame law professor, clerk when Starr was on the appeals court and then clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia. Kelley wrote the Monica S. Lewinsky report along with, among others, current White House staff secretary Brett M. Kavanaugh, but reportedly not the nasty parts.

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