Politics 101: Pose With Young People

By Al Kamen
Friday, February 15, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been tarring Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) as creatures of the bad old, really old, ways of Washington.

And Clinton and McCain have been trying their best to help him make that case. Clinton pitched in first, after losing the Iowa presidential caucuses, by having former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and retired Gen. Wesley Clark next to her onstage for her concession speech, along with former president Bill Clinton.

But Hillary Clinton, a quick learner, never repeated that image and makes sure cheering fans surround her, especially when she doesn't talk about losing eight straight contests.

Then McCain, who probably didn't pay any attention to Clinton's error, pops up in Alexandria to celebrate his Potomac trifecta on Tuesday. And he stands with retiring Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) on his immediate right and retiring Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) on his left.

At this rate, why would Obama need any more contributions?

Time Is Short, People

Speaking of McCain, remember, the deadline is midnight tonight for entries to the In the Loop contest to predict whom he will choose as his running mate this fall. Send entries -- only one entry per person -- to mccainveep@washpost.com. You must include a cell, work or home telephone number.

The first 10 correct guessers will win, in addition to bragging rights, an official In the Loop T-shirt. Don't delay.

Despise Us Constructively

After a tumultuous beginning a couple of weeks ago, things have calmed down on the Transportation Security Administration's new blog, Evolution of Security.

When it first appeared, hundreds of furious fliers bombarded the blog ( http://www.tsa.gov/blog) with, as TSA spokesman Christopher White put it, "rants, vents and stream-of-consciousness diatribes" about the usual stuff -- shoes, liquids, delays, and on and on -- calling screeners unprintable names.

But after a while, everyone calmed down, White said, and there has been a "great shift to legitimate questions." It's not useful to post or to respond to comments such as "I hate you with every fiber of my being" or "you are idiots," he said, but if posters write "you are idiots and here's why," TSA will respond and "we'll run that all day" on the blog.

The blog, in addition to providing an outlet for frustrated passengers, has even been helpful, White said.

Several passengers posted comments the morning of Feb. 4 saying that security personnel at some airports -- turned out to be 10, including Cincinnati's, were ordering "passengers to remove all electronics, including cellphones, iPods, BlackBerrys" from their bags, White said.

"We checked with the airports and found out some had started doing pilot exercises on their own," he said. By that afternoon, the practice stopped.

"We never would have known it was going on" but for the comments, he said. "It's an example of the system working."

Cape Wanted. Will Trade Black Robe.

Supreme Court observers often talk of how the life experiences of the justices inform their views of the law. Might be time to add viewing habits as a factor.

Many of us were horrified by the images of that nuclear bomb in 2007 just outside Los Angeles that killed hundreds people on the hit show "24." Justice Antonin Scalia seems especially supportive of Agent Jack Bauer's heroic efforts to save the big city, which included frequent torture of terrorist types.

At a symposium in Canada in June, Scalia responded to a Canadian jurist's cheap shot at Bauer. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles," Scalia said, according to the Globe and Mail. "He saved hundreds of thousands of lives. . . . Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? . . . Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer?"

"I don't think so," Scalia said. "So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes."

And on Tuesday he opined to BBC Radio: "Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited under the Constitution?"

Well, they already hit L.A., so that's not really likely.

Can't Make Him Talk

The dispute simmers between New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell over what McConnell meant when he said waterboarding, "for me, would be torture."

On Feb. 5, McConnell told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that his remarks had been taken "out of context." Wright told us absolutely not, and urged McConnell to release their transcript of the interview.

When we called for a copy, a DNI spokesman said it was "not something we do for an interview with a given reporter."

Now Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has written McConnell, noting the "now public disagreement over your comments" and asking "that you provide the transcript to . . . clarify."

No response as of yesterday.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

Chatham House, the prestigious British variant of the Council on Foreign Relations, has announced its four finalists for the 2008 Chatham House Prize, which is "awarded to the statesperson who is deemed by Chatham House members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year."

The winner gets a "crystal award and a scroll signed by our Patron, Her Majesty The Queen." If you're lucky, Helen Mirren also will sign it.

And the candidates are: the Aga Khan, founder and longtime head of his own worldwide development program; two-term Ghanaian President John Kufuor, a major democratic leader and peacemaker in Africa; German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who headed both the G-8 and the European Union and survived a shoulder massage from President Bush; and Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who most recently brokered a nuclear deal with North Korea.

Wait a minute. Don't they still have nukes? Maybe Chatham needed an American candidate and found slim pickings.

This is an online election. We tried to vote, but you have to be a member. Unclear whether there are campaign finance limits.

Not to Mention . . .

The Pentagon e-mails us that Wednesday's column about U.S. aid to China after recent winter storms omitted mention of the Defense Department dispatching about $800,000 worth of winter coats, blankets, sleeping bags, gloves and those yummy MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, to help recovery from the disaster that killed 80 and destroyed 300,000 homes.

Also, President Bush has nominated Navy Reserve Rear Adm. Julius S. Caesar, now reserve deputy commander at the Naval Installations Command here, for a second star. Just in time for the Ides of March.

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