Game (Court), Set (Chevy Chase) -- Match

By Al Kamen
Friday, July 22, 2005

There's been some fussing among women's and minority groups over President Bush 's decision to name Judge John G. Roberts Jr . to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the high court.

But these critics overlook a critical geographic balance that Roberts, if confirmed, will preserve. We're talking here about the all-important Chevy Chase Seat on the court -- officially, seat number 9. O'Connor for years lived just across Connecticut Avenue from the ultra-tony Chevy Chase Club. Roberts lives just a few blocks away in the same super-wealthy suburb.

And it should be noted that, despite a likely Democratic-inspired whispering campaign, we have found no evidence that Roberts has illegally trimmed his trees -- this is a big deal in that neighborhood.

Opponents could not wait to blast the nomination. The Federation of American Scientists e-mailed news that Roberts "played a minor role in the Reagan administration [in] the Iran-Contra affair." Then, only 36 minutes later, a second e-mail arrived saying, "Roberts was not named" in the independent counsel's report. "There were two individuals named John Roberts."

Our favorite in this genre was this one from the Feminist Majority Foundation at 5 p.m. "Correction: The version of this press release sent at 10:00 a.m. included an inaccuracy. The Feminist Majority, we believe, incorrectly stated that John Roberts represented Hooters in a sex discrimination case. We regret the error."

State Flashes an Easy Quarter-Mil

Your tax dollars at work -- this request for bidders came from the State Department, which is still trying to figure out why folks in Muslim countries hate us.

"While there have been several studies done on the effectiveness of U.S. public diplomacy in the past," the request explains, "with the arrival of a new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs [ Karen P. Hughes , whose nomination is to get a Senate hearing today] and with a greater emphasis on effective public diplomacy by the current administration, both the Department of State and Congress see the need for a thorough and scientific study of how to address negative perceptions of the U.S., particularly in Muslim countries."

So the department is willing to pay $250,000 for "an external study of publicly available data on foreign public opinion" and recommendations for "specific actions."

Now, this study must "include a thorough analysis of the impact of foreign public perceptions of the United States on U.S. policy." Like maybe zero?

There's a "pre-proposal conference" today in Arlington, and bids are due next Friday. Work must be done by Sept. 30. So, let's see. You go over to the State Department, up to the sixth floor, to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, where they have this info. Then you log on to the Pew Research Center and click on Pew Global Attitudes Project to get their surveys -- latest was last week. Then maybe a check on Google or Nexis. Doubtless there will be follow-up work to be done, requiring more contracts.

Hmmmm. We may bid on this.

Hughes: Out Plame Leaker

Speaking of Hughes, in her acclaimed book "Ten Minutes from Normal," the former White House counselor opines about the investigation into the leak on Valerie Plame . She suspects columnist Robert D. Novak 's sources may have been in one of the agencies, not the White House.

"But regardless of the source, the leak compromised the confidential identity of a longtime public servant, which was wrong, and unfair to her and those who worked with her. Whoever did it should come forward and not hide behind journalistic ethics for his or her self-protection."

Looking Out for No. 2

Just yesterday, on this very page, Christopher B. Burnham , a GOP loyalist and fundraiser and new undersecretary for management at the United Nations, opined that, despite his new job, his "primary loyalty is to the United States of America."

Ay! Ay! Ay! By noon, a U.N. spokeswoman was out with a "clarification on his behalf," saying that he took an oath of loyalty to the United Nations and "understands that his professional obligation is to the United Nations and the Secretary-General."

The oath he took says, "I solemnly declare and promise . . . to [work] with the interests of the United Nations only in view, and not to seek or accept instructions . . . from any government or other source."

So Real It Sounds Just Like a Novel

Perfect timing for NBC's Andrea Mitchell . There she was yesterday in Khartoum, Sudan, where the thuggish security guards for the Big Thug, President Omar Hassan Bashir , spent the better part of an hour blocking aides to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and reporters accompanying her from entering the presidential palace.

The reporters got in, our colleague Glenn Kessler reports from the scene, but were warned not to ask the president any questions. Mitchell popped one anyway. The thugs grabbed her shoulder and tried to drag her away, infuriating Rice and winning Mitchell oodles of publicity. As it happens, her book -- "Talking Back . . . to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels" -- is being published soon.

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