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In the Loop

Wolf at the Door

By Al Kamen
Friday, January 7, 2005; Page A17

There was buzz early in the week that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz had seen President Bush and informed him that Wolfowitz would be leaving and that Rummy wanted a big-time corporate type to be the new deputy.

We quickly rounded up the usual suspects to see if this was true, but they only said things like: "There may be something there," or, "You'll just have to be patient," or, when asked who might know, suggested we call Newt Gingrich.

_____In the Loop_____
Gonzales's Curtain Call (The Washington Post, Jan 5, 2005)
Al Kamen on Vacation (The Washington Post, Dec 24, 2004)
Transition Rumors at World Bank Start at Top (The Washington Post, Dec 20, 2004)
Singing the Norwegian Blues (The Washington Post, Dec 17, 2004)
It's Time for Dems to Face the Music (The Washington Post, Dec 15, 2004)
More In the Loop

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita waxed thusly: "As far as I know, he has no plans to leave his job. But I also know that everybody -- the president, the vice president, Secretary Rumsfeld, a whole lot of other people in this administration -- think he's an enormous talent. So I wouldn't be surprised, particularly at this point in time where there's movement in the administration, if people are scratching their heads and thinking if there's someplace else his talents could be applied." (No, not poll watcher in downtown Fallujah. There is an opening at the United Nations, however.) If Wolfowitz were, in fact, leaving the Pentagon, we were advised that it probably would not be for a while.

House GOP Wants Some Frist Aid

House Republican leaders, already unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) -- who they say blindsided them in 2003 on an important tax bill -- were grumbling anew about him yesterday when Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) seconded a House Democratic move to debate Ohio's electoral vote, thus requiring hours of pointless debate before the Republicans prevailed.

Democratic leaders apparently had tried to head Boxer off. House Republicans felt that Frist, off visiting countries battered by the tsunami, should have been around at least to try to help out "when we're trying to get the president elected," said one well-placed source in the House leadership.

On the other hand, Frist, who is a medical doctor, after all, certainly would be able to lend a helpful hand to the tsunami victims, and it is unclear what he could have done with Boxer.

Besides, presidential brother Jeb Bush, governor of Florida, went to Asia with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and got impressive television coverage before coming back early for his parents' 60th wedding anniversary.

The footage in Banda Aceh, we're told, has the compassionate Jeb patting the shoulders or heads of Indonesians. He probably did not read the briefing paper by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta: "HEADS ARE SENSITIVE AND BACKS ARE PRIVATE: Don't touch or pat the heads of others. The hearty American clap on the back and a too readily seized shoulder are not particularly appreciated."

Frist, often cited as a likely presidential candidate in '08, has not declared, while Jeb Bush already has taken the traditional first step before running, which is to firmly declare that he will not be a candidate.

Zoellick Falls Out of Cabinet, May Land on Feet

The selection of U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick to be deputy secretary of state took veteran observers by surprise. USTR is a Cabinet-rank job, they noted, while the Foggy Bottom post is not. Zoellick's move was most unusual, this being a city of "self-promoters, not self-demoters," one wag opined.

Well, deputy secretary of state could lead to bigger things if soon-to-be secretary Condoleezza Rice runs for office in California in a few years.

Here, Now, Instant Poll -- 4 to 1

No one on the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday asked Attorney General-designate Alberto R. "Fredo" Gonzales whether he would take down the huge blue drape outgoing Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's crew put up to cover the 12-foot semi-nude "Lady Justice" statue at the Justice Department.

However, our poll on what Gonzales would do was more than 4 to1 that he would not expose Minnie Lou's right breast. We were surprised even that many thought he'd actually go for full disclosure.

Huge Deposit Found at the SEC

'Twas the week before Christmas, and Securities and Exchange Commission staffers thought they'd gotten a two-weeks' pay present. Then e-mail on Dec. 17 from the administrative office showed up.

"Subject: URGENT SALARY INFORMATION," it began. "A large number of employees received two salary deposits . . . today." But the Treasury Department would be notifying the banks to rescind the second paycheck. "No action needs to be taken on the part of employees. The reversal will be done automatically by Treasury," the e-mail said.

Thanks a lot.

Bush Turns McGurn Around

Moving in . . . William McGurn, formerly a Wall Street Journal editorial writer, is reported to be Bush's new head speechwriter. He would replace Michael Gerson, who's moving to be a counselor. McGurn had turned down the job several times, Newsweek reported yesterday online, but agreed to sign on after meeting with Bush.

When He Said Fore, Did He Mean 4?

Didn't say so on our invitation, but White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James L. Connaughton yesterday attended the Western Business Roundtable lobbying/golf fest via videoconference, not in person, according to spokesman Bill Holbrook.

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