Happy Greetings of Some Sort!

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just in time for Christmas! The State Department is now allowing all ambassadors to use entertainment or "representation" funds to pay for what are called "seasonal cards," which some might call Christmas cards.

Even better, the government will pick up the tab for postage, too! But wait a minute. Before you rush out and buy hundreds of cards, remember "these cards should not be stock-piled," the cable last week from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice advises, so don't buy more than you need.

Also, your representational budget isn't going up, so the more cards you buy, the fewer hors d'oeuvres you can serve. And "any messages or images on the cards should be secular in nature (such as "season's greetings" or pictures of wreaths, wintry scenes, snowmen or Santa Claus) and should not convey religious themes or messages." Especially in parts of the Middle East.

If you have "questions concerning appropriate messages or images on cards marking religious holidays" -- such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan or Buddha Day -- please check with Paul Veidenheimer in the legal department.

The Night the Lights Went Out at Rumsfeld's

Sunday night, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's house in tony Kalorama appeared to be in party mode -- the narrow streets clogged with the usual black SUV's and attentive guys with earpieces. A Penske truck was seen loading up in the driveway.

Then on Monday, after his successor was sworn in, the man whom Vice President Dick Cheney called "the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had," turned into a pumpkin. By Monday night, a neighbor tells us, the house was dark, the security was gone and so, it appeared, were the Rumsfelds.

A sign on the side gate said: "NOTICE: If you have any mail or package deliveries please contact the security control room. . . . The security personnel will provide directions to their office on Connecticut Avenue to arrange for delivery/receipt of any mail or packages and any access, as requested. Thank you. Security."

So don't leave presents there. Pentagon public affairs guru Dorrance Smith, who writes letters to editors, often unpublished, demanding fairer treatment of his boss, can of course drop them off at the house. Ditto any subpoenas from the German government, which is looking to talk to Rumsfeld about the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hold On to Your Pencil

Ah, the end of the year. No supplemental budget authorizations. We know what that means: no pens, no paper clips, no paper towels.

We got this e-mail last week from Rachel Lee Krushinski of the International Trade Administration, office of the deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing, which is part of the Commerce Department.

"FYI,

"Nobody should be spending any money, that has not already been accounted/requested, over the next two weeks. (No taxi vouchers, no paper, no supplies, no equipment.) Please continue to update your weekly expenditure reports with travel voucher updates.

"We have nothing left of the money we were allocated. If you have any questions, please call me."

Maybe if all those senior staffers hadn't taken so many trips to see the world. . . .

Beats Michael Bolton, at Least

So outgoing Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) wouldn't vote to confirm John R. Bolton for another couple of years as ambassador to the United Nations. So what? Chafee likely won't be raking in anywhere near the bucks Bolton will be able to command as part of the Washington Speakers Bureau.

The liberal Center for American Progress got an e-mail from the WSB yesterday that touted Bolton's arrival. "Last week," the e-mail noted, "the Wall Street Journal described him as someone who 'saw the world as it really was' and spoke 'moral clarity about it.' " They listed various successes at the United Nations, though they glossed over the fact that the building still has 38 stories, despite Bolton's goal of lopping off 10.

It appears from the e-mail that Bolton's got a speech ready to go, entitled "America: Worth Standing Up For."

But it's unclear -- and WSB wasn't responding to calls -- how much Bolton could command on the rubber chicken circuit. The international market, especially for administration folks, "probably isn't what it used to be," one of WSB's speakers noted. But by some guesstimates, ideological groups and annual conventions of business folks could pay somewhere around $25,000, maybe more, at least for now. A book always helps, though it's not clear if he's writing. Then there are those corporate boards of directors.


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