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Example Goes From Good to Bad

But we all know that some of these folks are simply getting the boot. So how to tell what's going on? It's not easy, but there are clues. One is the "48-Hour Rule," which raises a red flag if a replacement, especially someone from outside the federal government who needs a lengthy background check, is announced within 48 hours of the resignation.

For example, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge's letter sent and released on Nov. 30, followed by the announced selection of New Yorker Bernard B. Kerik a few days later was most suspicious.

_____In the Loop_____
Iraqi Empties Newsroom (The Washington Post, Dec 8, 2004)
State Pays Price for Hassling Appropriator (The Washington Post, Dec 6, 2004)
Vote of Confidence (The Washington Post, Dec 3, 2004)
Terms of Endearment (The Washington Post, Dec 1, 2004)
Round-Trip or One-Way Tickets? (The Washington Post, Nov 24, 2004)
More In the Loop

Yesterday, Jim Nicholson, former Republican National Committee chairman and ambassador to the Vatican, was named to take over at the Department of Veterans Affairs from Anthony J. Principi, whose resignation letter was dated Nov. 16 but not revealed until Wednesday.

It's not certain, but Nicholson probably would have been re-vetted and interviewed some time ago. (Unless you assume Bush yelled out yesterday to counselor Karl Rove, "Hey, who do we have under 'Veterans'?" and Nicholson's name was on top and he just happened to be in town.)

Obviously there are exceptions, such as Supreme Court resignations where everything is kept secret until the replacement can be announced. And some Cabinet folks may sincerely want out. But abrupt departures without firm job offers and with quickly named successors can be useful hints.

Last Things First

Good to see that Congress balanced the budget before leaving town and took care of any shortfalls in Social Security. That allowed our lawmakers to focus on critical, unmet needs such as funding for a permanent headquarters for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The institute, which filled a gaping need for a Washington-based foreign policy think tank, has grown into an organization that promotes international conflict management and reconstruction, especially in the Balkans and now in Iraq.

The new building is to be on a spectacular 2 1/2-acre site at 23rd Street NW and Constitution Avenue, right near the mall and overlooking the Lincoln Memorial. Congress gave the institute only $100 million of the budget surplus.

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