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In the Loop

Vote of Confidence

By Al Kamen
Friday, December 3, 2004; Page A25

In these unsettled times, it's refreshing to know you can count on some things. So in late October, when former Michigan representative Milton Robert "Bob" Carr led a group of Democratic ex-congressmen to Ukraine to monitor the first round of elections -- a trip paid for by Aleksei Kiselev, a lobbyist for the government-backed candidate -- it could only be hoped they would find everything went reasonably well. And, sure enough, that's what they found.

Carr led a second delegation of observers in the final round of the hotly contested elections. The members included Norman E. D'Amours (N.H.), Michael P. Forbes (N.Y.), Michael D. Ward (Ky.) and David W. Evans (Ind.).

_____In the Loop_____
Terms of Endearment (The Washington Post, Dec 1, 2004)
Round-Trip or One-Way Tickets? (The Washington Post, Nov 24, 2004)
The Beaten Need to March to a New Beat (The Washington Post, Nov 22, 2004)
Follow the Trail of Rice (The Washington Post, Nov 19, 2004)
If You're Available Jan. 20 . . . (The Washington Post, Nov 17, 2004)
More In the Loop

The same lobbyist apparently picked up expenses, business-class airfare and fine hotels, plus a $500-per-day stipend for each observer.

Even so, at a news conference after the voting, in which the government-backed candidate was declared the victor, it was not certain what Carr's observer group would do. After all, pretty much every other monitoring group -- from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations, Ukrainian monitors and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs -- all came to the same conclusion: To wit, there was widespread fraud by the government.

On the other hand, former KGB thug, now Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a stranger to democratic ways and pal of Ukraine's strongman government, thought the elections were fine.

But President Bush's representative in Kiev, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), blasted "illegal expulsions of opposition members of election commissions; inaccurate voter lists; evidence of students, government employees and private sector workers being forced by their deans and supervisors to vote for one candidate . . . busloads of people voting more than once with absentee ballots; representatives of the media being beaten and their equipment stolen or destroyed. . . ." Lugar condemned "corrupt authorities [who] tried to disrupt, frighten and intimidate citizens."

So what did Carr's delegation conclude?

"Were there problems?" Carr asked at a post-election news conference. "Definitely." But his group had gone to 48 -- of 33,000 -- polling places and generally "found minor and non-material violations." So we should "congratulate" the elections officials, he said, for their "hard work and dedication and for a job well done."

Good to see some people still know how to dance with them that brung 'em.

Make Democrats Dance to Your Tune

Don't forget to enter the In the Loop Name That Tune Contest! This is to help the hapless Democrats -- still wandering in search of a winning campaign strategy -- come up with a catchy theme song -- pop, folk, hip-hop, whatever -- to give at least musical coherence to the effort.

Send your entry -- and rationale -- via e-mail to intheloop@washpost.comor mail to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Deadline is midnight Monday. Top 10 winners get a still-rare, highly coveted In the Loop T-shirt.

Entries on background are welcome, but everyone must include telephone contact numbers to be eligible.

Medals for Meddle or Mettle?

Failing upward? President Bush announced yesterday he'll be awarding the presidential Medal of Freedom to the Tres Amigos of Iraq: former CIA chief George J. "Slam Dunk" Tenet, who gave him bad information; retired Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who didn't have enough troops for the postwar occupation; and former Iraq viceroy L. Paul Bremer, who complained about the troop levels too late.

A Trial Balloon Named Edelman

The latest name du jour for deputy secretary of state is Eric S. Edelman, now ambassador to Turkey, who is seen as someone -- perhaps the only one on the planet -- who can comfortably straddle all the relevant political worlds. He's a career foreign service officer, a former ambassador to Finland who also worked for then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz and for Clinton Ambassador-at-Large Strobe Talbott.

But he also worked for Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney from 1990 to 1993 and for Vice President Cheney from 2001 to 2003 and with Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice frequently when he represented Cheney at top-level meetings. Edelman was sworn in to his current job by, of course, Cheney.

Don't Bite the Hand

It may be difficult these days for Democrats to land good jobs in Washington, but it can be done. Rep. Calvin M. Dooley (D-Calif.), leaving after 14 years in the House, has been named chief executive of the National Food Processors Association. The NFPA announcement for Dooley, a fourth-generation farmer and conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats' leader, naturally highlights kudos from GOP stalwarts such as Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.).

To Transition or Not to Transition

Loop Fans noticed the other day that Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita's nomination to be assistant secretary for public affairs had been withdrawn. This led everyone to the obvious conclusion that DiRita is leaving.

Or maybe, we hear, that he is just keeping options open. If he had been confirmed, which looked possible with the Senate's end-of-year-backlog clearing out, then he would have been committed to staying, and it would have been harder to contemplate other possibilities in this time of transition.

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