Correction to This Article
The Nov. 29 In the Loop column incorrectly identified the school at Tufts University that selected this year¿s recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy. It is the Fletcher School.

Diplomacy Ain't What It Used to Be

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

We received a cable yesterday from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announcing the recipient of this year's Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy.

The award, named for the legendary journalist who went on to head the U.S. Information Agency, is given to a State Department employee "who best exemplifies the standards of dedication, integrity, courage, sensitivity and excellence in the field of public diplomacy," Rice said.

The winner? None other than Alberto Fernandez, head of public diplomacy for the Mideast. Fernandez, who speaks Arabic fluently, is best known in this country for having told al-Jazeera television back in October that Washington had been arrogant and stupid in Iraq.

He issued a written apology saying he "seriously misspoke." Some conservatives were furious and called for his head, but Undersecretary Karen Hughes said all was forgiven.

Fernandez, whose laid-back, chatty style has made him quite popular among viewers, according to Arabic media folks, was selected by Tufts University's school of law and diplomacy from a list of three finalists chosen by State.

The award includes a $10,000 check. Calling U.S. policy stupid: $5,000. Calling it arrogant: $5,000. Saying all that in Arabic on al-Jazeera: priceless.

Musical Posts at State

Speaking of the State Department, it appears Rice will break the modern indoor record for being without a deputy secretary of state. Former deputy Robert Zoellick left in early July.

The previous record was 3 1/2 months -- from Clifton Wharton's departure to Strobe Talbot t's arrival during Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher's tenure. (This, of course, was considered breakneck speed in Clinton time.) Granted, there was a five-month gap when Secretary of State James A. Baker III left State and Lawrence Eagleburger moved up to replace him without getting a deputy to replace himself. (That really doesn't count, however, since they never tried to find a replacement during the final months of the first Bush administration.) But even if Rice named someone now, there wouldn't be confirmation until early next year, so the record will be hers.

Meanwhile, chatter at State is that Iraq coordinator David Satterfield, who has served as chargé in Baghdad and before that as ambassador to Lebanon, may be headed to Pakistan to be ambassador, replacing Ryan Crocker, who's said to be heading to Baghdad -- where, on his first diplomatic posting, he met his wife -- replacing Zalmay Khalilzad, who's said to be headed to just about every top foreign policy job.

The Federal National Agency Association

Is the Federal Emergency Management Agency in line for a makeover? Seemed like it, judging from a press schedule issued Monday by FEMA's parent, the Department of Homeland Security.

At 12:30 p.m. tomorrow Undersecretary R. David Paulison, head of FEMA, the schedule said, will "participate in a press conference with the National Emergency Management Agency to announce a new emergency management tag logo and moniker."

Rebranding FEMA might make sense after last year's failed hurricane response and was in fact suggested by Senate investigators, among other changes.

Not to worry. FEMA's stationery, jackets and vehicle decals appear safe, at least for now.

Turns out that public-affairs staffers conflated two Paulison appearances: one to talk about his vision for a reorganized agency, and another to announce a new logo for the National Emergency Management Association, an organization of the top emergency officials from the 50 states.

FEMA? NEMA? Let's call the whole thing off.

A Deputized FEMA Director?

On the bright side for Paulison, buzz at the agency is that he will be nominated by President Bush for promotion to the deputy secretary level. Congress recently passed legislation raising the status of the FEMA administrator, effective March 31, mandating that he report directly to the secretary of the Homeland Security Department and advise the president and the White House Homeland Security Council during disasters.

The Constant Campaigner

Sen.-elect Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has adopted President Bill Clinton's campaign theme: Fleetwood Mac's lyrics "don't stop thinking about tomorrow." On Nov. 8, the day after his election, even before heading to Walt Disney World, his office prepared papers to file with the Federal Election Commission changing his campaign's name from Bob Corker for Senate 2006 to Bob Corker for Senate 2012.

Well, at least he didn't change it to 2008, as most everyone else in the House and Senate is doing.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company