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In the Loop

Shipping Out for Inauguration Day

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A19

Too late to book space on what some have dubbed the "Democrats in Denial" cruise next week in the Caribbean. There have been persistent reports of disconsolate Democrats leaving Washington next week rather than confront joyous Republicans in town for President Bush's inauguration.

But Peggy Cusack, an events planner who did election night for the Kerry campaign and was a Gore veteran, decided "this would be a perfect week" to get way out of town.

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Next thing you know, about 35 folks -- not all of them campaign veterans and some not from this area -- signed on to a Carnival Cruise Lines ship headed for the Caribbean.

They opted for a "pretty short cruise" -- this one's just Monday to Friday -- because "we were trying to find something newly unemployed people could afford," she said.

The ship leaves Miami on Monday for the Florida Keys, then sails to Cozumel on Wednesday. Inauguration Day finds the Democrats in international waters, heading back to Miami. The cabins are together, Cusack said, so "we have our own little Democratic wing."

We trust that will be on the left, or port, side of the ship?

Did They Get Turkish Coffee, Too?

Folks in Europe are still talking about that splendid, 10-day, pre-Christmas tour of Europe led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to attend the 60th anniversary ceremonies of the Battle of the Bulge. The group stopped to visit with folks at a Naval air station in Sicily, visit more troops at Incirlik air base in Turkey -- important in the Persian Gulf War but much less of note these days -- visit wounded soldiers in Germany and be there for the inauguration of the newly renovated embassy in Luxembourg.

Hastert took four staffers to help him. GOP Reps. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Sherwood Boehlert (N.Y.), John Shadegg (Ariz.), John Boozman (Ark.), Ander Crenshaw (Fla.) and Mark Souder (Ind.), and Democratic Rep. John Dingell (Mich.), along with former Republican leader Bob Michel (Ill.), a veteran of that famous battle, and their spouses are said to have had a fantastic time.

Less fun, of course, for support personnel, who baby-sat the tour, schlepped bags and packed gifts. They're amazed the plane got off the ground in Turkey -- what with all the fine rugs and pashminas -- not to mention some Turkish-made shotguns Hastert and Dingell bought.

Prematurely Pressing 'Send'

Seems James L. Stone, deputy administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, has been working hard to rein in one of his program chiefs, Beverly Watts Davis, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Stone, a New York mental health official, and Davis, who headed a San Antonio anti-drug effort, were appointed to their jobs in May 2003.

Davis, Stone explained in two e-mail memos to SAMHSA chief Charles Curie, tended to "go off the reservation" and show up late for meetings.

"Fundamentally," Stone said, "she is a 'lone ranger' and that role is not appropriate, or functional, in a large bureaucracy." What's more, Stone wrote: "she needs to improve her ability to communicate in a meaningful way with her managers (Working with a small group of supporters until 9:00 every night leaves others out and does not indicate an interest in creating a 'team.')" Of course, working until 9 p.m. might be seen as commendable?

Davis, who heads a staff of about 120, is "an excellent speaker" and "widely admired in the [drug] prevention community," Stone acknowledged, and is "very intelligent, has an excellent grasp of the issues."

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