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In the Loop

First Fan Knows His Way Around the Diamond

By Al Kamen
Monday, April 18, 2005; Page A15

And now, the In the Loop Award for political reporting goes to Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell for his insightful coverage of opening day for the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium and particularly his interview of Nationals President Tony Tavares.

Tavares, who had chatted with President Bush and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, said Bush was "so up on the game that it's astounding." At one point, he said by way of example, a question arose as to who was the best catcher in the National League.

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"I blanked on who catches for the Phillies," Tavares said. "I asked the commissioner. He didn't know. The president said, '[Mike] Lieberthal.' "

Bush's sports expertise seems to go beyond the majors, even beyond baseball. In the latest edition of Alumnews, the journal for graduates of Georgetown Prep in Rockville, writer Joseph Seib, son of the Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib, recounts meeting Bush at the most recent White House Christmas party for reporters.

Bush, upon learning that Joseph played baseball for Prep, asked, "Is your league going to boot your baseball team out of the league for being too good like they did the football team?"

Not bad for a guy who says he doesn't read the newspapers.

Whose Idea Was That?

On the other hand, it's hard to keep up with every tiny little thing in the paper. Take the new, White House-approved policy to require U.S. citizens to show passports when they reenter the country from Mexico and Canada -- and require the same for citizens of those countries.

"When I first read that in the newspaper about the need to have passports," Bush told a meeting of editors Wednesday, "I said, 'What's going on here?' "

Chilly Job Climate

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who'd been grousing recently that not enough senior officials were taking a hike, may be resting easier these days. A number of top administration folks are either moving around or up in the administration, and others are looking for jobs outside.

Two, it turns out -- Assistant Secretary of Commerce William H. Lash III and Federal Election Commissioner Bradley A. Smith -- are in the running for president of the State University of New York at Brockport.

Hey guys, the average high temperature around there in January barely hits freezing. You wanna reconsider?

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Paul D. Wolfowitz, preparing to take over as president of the World Bank on June 1 after four years as the No. 2 at the Pentagon, showed his sensitive side Friday with a surprise drop-by at "Opportunity for Africa," a panel organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies at the Rayburn House Office Building.

On his way in, the former warrior passed a poster asserting that "the rich world is falling behind on its pledges to the poor."

"He looks so much younger!" a member of the event staff cooed about the grinning 61-year-old. "He looks gentler!" another worker whispered about the architect of the Iraq war. (No, we are not making this up.)

Wolfowitz's blue Navigator and the black Tahoe that tails it were parked in the U-shaped driveway out front, along with the silver Rolls -- leased, we're told -- that had ferried British Ambassador David Manning to the seminar. The occasion was the unveiling of a report by the Commission for Africa, chaired by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

When people greet him as "Mr. President," the ever-self-effacing Wolfowitz corrects them with a jaunty "President-elect!"

Wolfowitz was introduced with his Pentagon title but noted that he was there in his new capacity and came on his lunch break to get a free copy of the report, "Our Common Interest" -- or, as he put it, "to sing for my supper."

The New Paul added that those not from Africa have a "great interest in seeing that continent succeed."

A Question of Loyalty

Much was made at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week about U.N. ambassador nominee John R. Bolton bullying former State Department analyst -- now lobbyist -- CarlW. Ford Jr., who called himself a "loyal Republican."

Bolton fans quickly raced to the campaign contribution databases to see just how loyal Ford really was. They did indeed find mostly contributions to GOP types and to President Bush's campaign, but there were eyebrow raisers: $500 to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and $1,000 each to Reps. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Trading Up

In recent moves, John B. Bellinger III, who had been legal adviser to Condoleezza Rice back at the National Security Council, is taking on those duties for her at the State Department these days.

Alex M. Azar, now general counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services, is the pick to be HHS deputy secretary, and presidential campaign advance chief Brian D. Montgomery, who was White House advance director and more recently Cabinet secretary, moves to be assistant secretary for Housing and Urban Development (Federal Housing Commissioner).

As expected, real estate executive Craig Roberts Stapleton, former Bush partner in the Texas Rangers and spouse of Bush's cousin Dorothy, is the pick to be ambassador to France.

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