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Tracing the Footsteps Before the Foot Taps

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig continues to work against his own Sept. 30 deadline -- he might want to give himself some wiggle room on that -- for having his guilty plea to disorderly conduct revoked.

His lawyers and supporters insist that he's got a solid case to show his innocence and that he was coerced into pleading guilty to behaving badly in a Minneapolis airport men's room.

But his Senate colleagues have abandoned him, and the blogosphere has pronounced him guilty. For example, there were scurrilous reports that Craig went out of his way to reach the bathroom where he encountered the waiting police Sgt. Dave Karsnia.

In fact, a Loop investigation so far indicates that is not the case.

Sources say Craig's incoming flight from Boise, Northwest Flight 1276, most always uses the G14 to G16 gate area. His connecting flight to Washington, the one Craig worried about missing, Northwest Flight 672, leaves at 1:05 p.m., usually from around Gate C3.

Assuming that the Boise flight arrived on time at 11:44 a.m., Craig would have had to move smartly to get to his rendezvous with Karsnia by 12:13 p.m. It's about a three-quarter-mile hike through the sprawling airport up to that bathroom, which is, assuming no gate changes, right on the way to his departure gate.

But there's a minor problem: Craig apparently passed not one, not two, not three but four bathrooms along the way before choosing the very one that an airport official called "the biggest hotspot" for sexual encounters. Still, he didn't go out of his way to get there.

If Craig does get his guilty plea waived, the good news is he can get back the $575 he paid in fines and costs. The bad news is he would still have to stand trial on the original charges.

If that happens, there is a glimmer of good news for Craig: Cameras are not permitted in the county courts, a court spokeswoman said yesterday.

Quit Job, Keep Government House

Federal pay may not be great, but, hey, those benefits can go a long way. Just ask Cristina V. Beato.

She's the former high-ranking political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services who helped tone down the department's 2004 breast-feeding awareness campaign after the baby formula industry complained about it.

For years, Beato enjoyed a special federal perk -- government-subsidized housing on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda -- while holding a variety of positions at HHS, including acting assistant secretary for health, principal deputy assistant secretary for health and special adviser to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

The NIH houses are for the surgeon general, institute directors and other senior people, so some longtime HHS officials privately grumbled about Beato's presence there -- especially after her nomination for the assistant secretary's job died in the Senate in 2004 amid allegations that she had padded her r?sum?.

Beato left federal employment this year and was sworn in as deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization on April 27. But she continued to reside at the NIH. More grumbling followed.

Beato is still living there, HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson said in an e-mail yesterday to our colleague Christopher Lee. She said Beato's eligibility for the subsidized housing expired when her federal service did. But the NIH has given her "a transition period" to move. "My understanding is that Dr. Beato is making arrangements to close on a house at the end of this month," Pearson wrote.

She's paying $1,795 a month, the NIH reports, for a four-bedroom duplex on the grounds of the NIH campus. She has been there since at least 2001.

You Seen That Manuscript? (Wink)

Remember the good old days when Douglas Feith, one of the Pentagon's leading Iraq hawks, would edit every comma in his subordinates' memoranda, provoking one subordinate to label his office the worst-managed she'd ever seen?

Well, they sure remember Feith's endless blue pencil antics over at the Pentagon. And turnabout is fair play, it seems.

Five months ago, the former undersecretary of defense for policy submitted for security review the first 10 parts of his Churchillian memoirs about leading America to victory in Iraq. He was doing so voluntarily -- unlike the CIA, the Pentagon doesn't require pre-publication review of books by former officials.

But the Pentagon review, being conducted by a couple of security squirrels, dragged on in the dungeons of the department. Concurrent reviews by the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council had been completed.

"I bent over backwards to keep it in regular channels and not call higher-up people," Feith told us yesterday. But time went on, and he couldn't get a response from the Pentagon. "It was from someone in my former office," Feith said -- surprise, surprise -- "but I don't know who."

So he made a call up the chain -- he won't say to whom -- and sure enough, the skies promptly cleared, and the problems -- apparently none of major import -- suddenly disappeared. One argument, we were told, developed over supporting documents for about five footnotes out of several hundred in the manuscript.

"The idea that this would take five months is a little astonishing," a Pentagon official aware of the security review told our colleague Tom Ricks. The official asked not to be identified because the public affairs people told her not to speak on the record, she said. "We have been slow. . . . We are certainly going to be more responsive and more timely." You betcha.

Feith said he recently sent over the final six chapters of "War and Decision," and he's hoping the clearance process this time will be only a few weeks. Meanwhile, Feith is beavering away, doing what he called "all the work that you have to do" on a book "after you think you're done," and looking to a January publication date.

January? Not pre-Christmas or the spring? "I'm told by my publisher that this is one of the best times for serious nonfiction," he said.

My Pal Dick

Speaking of the Pentagon, here's a telling snippet from former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's interview in the latest issue of GQ.

Do you think your old buddy W. hopes he's Harry Truman in 50 years?

"I. Don't. Know."

Do you miss him?

"Um, no."

A wry Rummy smile.

How about Colin Powell? Are you still close?

"No! We're not close. Never were."

Cheney?

"I still see Cheney."

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