The arrival Friday of a United Airlines flight into Ho Chi Minh City was seen as a big deal, not merely because folks such as actor David Hasselhoff, star of the cerebral but widely acclaimed TV series "Knight Rider" and the even more esoteric "Baywatch," were aboard.
No, the landing was historic because it was the first commercial flight to arrive at Tan Son Nhat airport since the communists took over in 1975.
_____In the Loop_____
Example Goes From Good to Bad (The Washington Post, Dec 10, 2004)
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)
More In the Loop
But another Californian, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D), was not on that or any other flight to Vietnam. That's because she's persona non grata, unable to get a visa because she has had the effrontery to criticize the commies for "blatant disregard of religious freedom" and the usual violations of human rights.
Sanchez, whose Orange County district includes "Little Saigon," also co-founded the Congressional Vietnam Caucus, a group of human rights hard-liners constantly badgering the Vietnamese to stop repressing elderly Buddhist monks.
A couple of weeks ago she was in Thailand and hoped to go to Vietnam for a couple of days to talk security and trade issues, meet with the American Chamber of Commerce and nongovernmental groups, maybe pop in on a few imprisoned dissidents and so on.
The U.S. Embassy requested a visa for her. But the country's august National Assembly said no way. "Ms. Loretta Sanchez altogether lacks objectivity and goodwill toward Vietnam. The Vietnamese National Assembly and Vietnamese public opinion" -- to which the assembly is doubtless very responsive -- "share the view that a visit to Vietnam by . . . Sanchez would not serve Vietnam-U.S. relations."
U.S. Ambassador Michael W. Marine appealed to no avail. That'll show her how the Vietnamese love to hear dissenting views.
The Real Daily Outrage
The liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) recently gave its "daily outrage" award to the conservative Heritage Foundation for referring holiday shoppers to something called the Town Hall Book Service. CAP was most upset that the book service features one work comparing the "American Left to Stalin, Hitler and Mao," and another saying that "the civil war wasn't really about slavery" and so on.
So what? It's a very conservative Web site. What's the big deal?
But what CAP missed was this: Seems the book service also offers the 2004 White House Christmas Ornament on "special sale" for $24.95. It "honors President Rutherford B. Hayes . . . and recreates a snowy scene on the North Lawn" where "laughter, mingled with the jingling of sleigh bells, filled the crisp air." All this language is lifted directly from a blurb on the official White House Historical Association Web site, which warns people: "Please be aware that third party vendors resell the official White House Christmas ornament. Always look for the WHHA logo on the web page to ensure that your purchase of the ornaments is from the association."
And WHHA's price? $16. Vs. $24.95? That's the outrage.
Meanwhile, John D. Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was in town last week for "consultations" during the visit of interim Iraqi President Ghazi Yawar. The chats included dinner Monday night with Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice at Aquarelle in the Watergate.
The talk likely was about matters Iraqi, but this being a time of job anxiety, the buzz went up at Foggy Bottom that Negroponte, former ambassador to the United Nations and other spots, might be in the running for the No. 2 job at State.
There has been some chatter floating William H. Taft IV, legal adviser to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell since April 2001, as a potential U.N. ambassador. He was previously in the running but lost out to outgoing Ambassador John C. Danforth.