By Al Kamen
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The presidential transfer of power may be going swimmingly, but things are not so smooth in Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District. That's where Rep. Phil English, a Republican who has represented the Erie area since 1994, lost his reelection bid to Democratic challenger Kathy Dahlkemper. And he seems to be taking it hard.
This week, English shuttered his offices and has been turning away constituent work, even though he and his staff remain on the federal payroll until January. English closed up shop before he could finish one of his most important December constituent duties: interviewing and recommending candidates for the military service academies.
Anxious and angry parents of high school seniors have been calling Dahlkemper's campaign office asking for help getting their children's applications processed. The families "were in a bit of a panic because evidently Congressman English's office sent back their applications," said Tina Mengine, Dahlkemper's campaign manager. "For these kids, this is their future."
English spokeswoman Julia Wanzco said her boss has "ceased all casework because we're going to have limited access to federal resources." Beginning Dec. 1, English will work out of a "cubbyhole" with access to just one computer, phone line and printer, Wanzco said, adding that other departing lawmakers will have similar accommodations during the transition.
It's unclear how much communication English has had with Dahlkemper, but it's safe to say they've talked less than President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, who appeared chummy in their meeting in Chicago this month. Wanzco said she thinks English may have called Dahlkemper on election night.A Blow, but No Punch
It's always a problem when your 401(k) takes a massive hit and the stock market drops a few thousand points and unemployment ratchets up. All those things certainly signal a rough patch economically.
But when the Pentagon cancels a holiday party because of the tough times, then you know things are really serious.
We got this note the other day from Joints Chief Chairman Michael G. Mullen:
"The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Mrs. Michael G. Mullen wish to inform you that in these trying financial times they have decided to forego their holiday reception this year.
"Instead, they will host a small gathering for wounded service members, their families and the families of the fallen.
"Therefore, please disregard your December 7th Holiday Reception invitation. We sincerely regret any inconvenience and greatly appreciate your understanding."
Well, at least the people who truly deserve a reception are getting one.Line of Succession
Buzz yesterday was that the next Congressional Budget Office director may be Douglas Elmendorf, who would replace Peter Orszag, the president-elect's pick to head the Office of Management and Budget.
That would only be proper. Elmendorf, who has worked at the CBO, the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Council of Economic Advisers, is now the director of the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, which works on policies to achieve shared economic growth.
Now, let's see. The first Hamilton director was Orszag; the second was Jason Furman, a top Obama adviser; and the third is Elmendorf.
No vacancy posting at Brookings yet.Moving In
Vice President-elect Joe Biden continued to fill top positions in his office yesterday, adding three senior staff members with broad portfolios.
Mike Donilon, a Biden adviser since 1981 who traveled with him during the general-election campaign and helped him prepare for the debate with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will be counselor to the vice president. Donilon, a longtime Democratic political adviser, worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and more recently for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Terrell McSweeny, deputy chief of staff and policy director in Biden's Senate office, is to be domestic policy adviser to the vice president.
Evan Ryan, deputy manager of Biden's presidential primary campaign and before that deputy communications director for the presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and White House aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, will be Biden's assistant for intergovernmental affairs and public liaison.Moving Out
Jim Shinn, formerly at the National Intelligence Council and more recently assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, is heading off to teach at Princeton and work on a documentary on Afghanistan.
Brian Turmail, formerly the acting director of public affairs for the Transportation Security Administration and more recently the director of public affairs for the Transportation Department, has signed up to be senior director of public affairs at the Associated General Contractors of America.With Philip Rucker
Sketch artists have found themselves on the bad side of at least one judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The artists play a critical role in federal court proceedings because cameras and video recorders are prohibited. Their illustrations are the only visual images that emerge from federal courtrooms.
Artist William J. Hennessy Jr. has never been banned from a courtroom in his 30 years on the job, unless proceedings were closed to all media. So he was shocked Monday to be told he would not be allowed to sketch oral arguments in an appeal involving 17 Chinese Muslims held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, our colleague Del Quentin Wilber reports.
Marilyn R. Sargent, chief deputy clerk of the appeals court, told Hennessy that the three-judge panel was not going to allow sketching, he said. Another sketch artist, after being told he would not be allowed to work, decided not to attend.
Thinking the ban was probably directed at his cumbersome sketch pad in a packed courtroom, Hennessy returned with a small notebook and pen (like the reporters). He sketched and took notes -- it's important to remember the color of a judge's hair, for example, if you don't have your colored pencils. When he got back to the press room, Hennessy, using his notes and memory, sketched an illustration of the hearing, which apparently aired on the Fox News channel.
That mightily displeased at least one of the judges on the panel, which was made up of Judith W. Rogers, Karen LeCraft Henderson and A. Raymond Randolph. Sargent called Hennessy yesterday morning and told the artist that "the court is very upset" about the illustration, said Hennessy, who noted that artists routinely sketch events at military proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. In this instance, the detainees were not even present at Monday's hearing.
Sargent declined to say which of the judges was offended or why the panel attempted to ban sketching in the courtroom.
One reason they were "upset," of course, may be that Hennessy was seated on the left side of the courtroom, to the judges' right, and maybe that's their bad side. Or perhaps they hadn't had time to be appropriately coiffed that morning. Or it could be that they've got nothing better to do than issue odd orders about sketching in the courtroom.