Paying Respect

By Al Kamen
Monday, April 25, 2005

The House seemed to be acting with uncharacteristic fiscal restraint a couple of weeks ago when it sent only 27 lawmakers to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome. (The Senate sent only 14.)

Fortunately, the House reverted to the free-wheeling form we've come to love when 21 legislators flew off to Rome on Friday on a military plane to attend Pope Benedict XVI 's inaugural Mass. (The Senate is not sending a delegation this time. President Bush named his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush , who's not running in 2008, to head the official delegation.)

But House members who didn't make it to the funeral really, really wanted to go, the Associated Press reported. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), heading the latest delegation, is the only one to attend both events.

As would be hoped, this is a decidedly bipartisan exercise: 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats were aboard, and at least 18 are Roman Catholic, according to the AP tally. And while the funeral trip was heavily weighted toward the leadership, the latest group includes five freshmen and relatively new members. Estimated cost to taxpayers is only about $2,200 per lawmaker.

Despite the small cost, David E. Williams of Citizens Against Government Waste was critical. Williams acknowledged it was understandable that lawmakers wanted to pay their respects, but not at taxpayer expense. The money wasn't much, he noted, but the delegation reflected "the whole culture of privilege in the House and Senate."

Well, maybe it could be called a training trip, acclimating newer members to the rigors of spending April in Rome at public expense?

Norton Bags a Trophy

Speaking of being a bit picky, the Humane Society of the United States says it doesn't think it is appropriate that Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton named Matthew J. Hogan to be acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Seems Hogan had been the chief lobbyist for Safari Club International, which the animal lovers called "an extreme trophy hunting organization that advocates the killing of rare species around the world."

The head of the Fish and Wildlife Service should be "someone with a true wildlife conservation ethic, not an allegiance to the trophy hunting industry," the Humane Society said.

Rice Tells Diplomats to Be -- Uh -- Diplomatic

The timing of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 's cable Thursday seemed a bit curious to some folks, especially given the hammering John R. Bolton , nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, took last week in the Senate over his allegedly forceful way of dealing with those who disagree with him.

The cable, sent to ambassadorial wannabes in the foreign service, focused on the selection criteria in the 2006 cycle.

"Special emphasis is placed," Rice said, on "the highest standards of leadership. . . . Those standards apply not only to policy and formal management skills, but also to interpersonal skills. . . . "

Okay, so chasing government contractors down hotel hallways would be frowned upon. Throwing stuff at detractors is likewise a no-no. But surely, browbeating subordinates is okay?

Son Screen

Ah, baseball in Washington. It is like nowhere else in the country. In most stadiums, the huge outfield screens between innings highlight school clubs or various groups attending the games. There are always a few birthday and anniversary wishes for fans.

But at Tuesday's Washington Nationals game, along about the fifth inning, the screen said: "RFK welcomes Fred Malek and the Shanghai Jin Jiang group."

Really? Is Nationals owner-in-waiting Frederic V. Malek squiring about a potential purchasing partner? Are these Chinese fans with deep pockets?

Well, not exactly. Malek says the ad wasn't his, but rather belonged to his son, Fred Malek Jr., who runs his own marketing company and brought executives from the giant Chinese hotel company to the game. (Any group of 25 or more fans can ask for some sort of greeting on the board during the game, according to Nationals officials.)

So, this being the nation's capital, what kind of ads might we see on the big screens in the future? Perhaps something like: "Health costs too much? Tell Reps. Jones and Smith, sitting in section 115, third row, to vote for H.R. 1708." Or perhaps: "Hasn't Rep. Jackson been there long enough? Vote Milgrew in Nov.!"

Make That to Go

This just in from Baghdad, home of the Whopper! Yes, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's newest Burger King opened in the International Zone recently and proudly announced that "the new BK" was serving "80 Whoppers an hour."

This apparently beats the world indoor record set by the Bush administration during the prewar WMD briefings.

Moving On

K. Gayle Osterberg , communications director for the Senate Budget Committee and, before that, communications director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is going private to be vice president for communications at the Motion Picture Association of America. Be nice to her and maybe she'll get you good seats.

Scott Milburn , communications director for Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), is said to be the pick to be the new spokesman for the president's Office of Management and Budget.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company