By Al Kamen
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
There's only six weeks left in the Bush administration, but Loop Fans know that political appointees are not about to collect their paychecks and just kick back in local bars. Au contraire! They're going hyperspeed to fulfill their duties before the inauguration.
Take Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy, formerly the academic director and associate professor at the London Law Program for Pepperdine University School of Law. She received international fame of a sort in 2006 when she was quoted saying that the suicides of three Guantanamo Bay detainees were a "good PR move."
Graffy is overseas as we speak, working to spread the word of America's fine foreign policy. And the State Department, aware of your short attention span, has a simple way to make sure you know how she's earning her keep. Here's the note on the official blog, DipNote.
"Do you twitter? You can follow a diplomat in real-time and learn more about America's public diplomacy by catching the 'tweets' of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy." Tweets are very brief messages, 140 characters max, letting people know what you're doing.
"She is tweeting now," the Friday night DipNote said, "as she prepares this weekend to depart for Iceland, Croatia and Armenia. She will chat with bloggers, meet with the spokesperson at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, compare notes with journalists, talk with university students, hear about the Fulbright program, have pizza with representatives of the youth wings of political parties and more."
Her first tweets:
· "it's official -- Dipnote announces I'm twittering my trip to Iceland, Croatia and Armenia. Now to pack! http://tiny.cc/CGDipnote1"
· "Dashing in to State Dept to pick up tickets, briefing books -- white knuckle time -- gotta catch that flight!"
· "in Boston now boarding flight to Iceland! forgot gym clothes, forgot bathing suit (possible Blue Lagoon visit). advice: don't pack in 30 min"
· "Arrived at Reflavik airport -- beautiful! Clever -- u can buy duty free AFTER landing -- big shop open while u wait for luggage. quel marketing!" (She probably meant Keflavik airport, or maybe Reykjavik.)
· "met by PAO [public affairs officer] Kathy Eagen at airport. checking into hotel. Photos here: http://tiny.cc/CGflkrIS Click on them to get description"
· "on the 'Blue Lagoon Express' it is only light between 11am and 3pm here in Iceland so better make the most of it -- sleep later"
· "Renting a bathing suit and getting ready to take the plunge into the geothermal hot springs and smear silica mud on my face"
· "Small world -- ran into DCM [deputy chief of mission] Neil Klopfenstein just before plunge into Blue Lagoon. Bathing suit not my sartorial choice for first meet! Ack!"
Seems everyone who's anyone meets at the lagoon?Amba$$ador Opponents
Speaking of matters diplomatic, the American Foreign Service Association, the career officers' union, is once again trying to get more qualified people into ambassadorial jobs. The union sent the Obama transition team a letter Monday noting that a federal law says ambassadorial nominees "should possess clearly demonstrated competence to perform the duties of a chief of mission, including . . . useful knowledge of the language . . . and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country. . . . Contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor."
Given President-elect Barack Obama's "commitment to change instead of business as usual, now is the time to end the spoils system," the union argues.
About 30 percent of ambassadorships -- the ones to posh posts -- traditionally go to pals and fat-cat contributors. AFSA wants to cut it down "to a maximum of 10 percent," which would go a long way toward "ending the unchecked spoils system under which scores" of political hacks and others are picked for jobs "for which they are unqualified."
A noble thought. Fat chance.Condi's Choice
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was interviewed yesterday on CBS Radio, where she made a long statement about how great it is to have a black president.
"May I take it," she's asked, "that you actually preferred a victory for Senator Obama rather than John McCain?"
"I have constantly told people," she said, "that I was secretary of state and I was not going to get into a partisan debate and I would vote by -- vote by ballot in a secret way, as all Americans do. But I just want to acknowledge that when the election took place and after the election took place, it was a special time for Americans."
So that's a yes?It's Gotta Be Brangelina
Buzz is that President-elect Barack Obama may announce, maybe even as early as today, that Clinton administration Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner, now a principal at the Albright Group, will hold a new White House position as head of environment, energy, climate and related matters.
Unclear if any of the related agency chiefs within her portfolio are going to be named. Chatter intensified yesterday that a big-name "knock your socks off" pick was on tap to take over the Energy Department -- touching off speculation that it had to be Brangelina or California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) or former secretary of state Colin Powell. But several sources insisted it was not Schwarzenegger. His office maintained yesterday that he's staying in California. "He plans to stay in office until the end of his term," Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said. A Powell confidant said most unlikely. No comment so far from Brangelina.Say Hi to Gov. Ryan for Us!
For a short time yesterday, Obama's Senate seat was available for sale on eBay. Bids started at 99 cents. "From the mouth of Blago himself, 'It's a (bleeping) valuable thing. You just don't give it away for nothing.' Happy bidding!" the listing reportedly said.
The seller self-identified as "a poor student journalist in need of grocery money," according to reports. Just hours later, the listing was stripped from eBay.
At Amazon.com, meanwhile, a "wish list" was created for the soon-to-be-former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D), featuring such titles as "How to Open Locks With Improvised Tools" and "Who Moved My Soap?: The CEO's Guide to Surviving in Prison," as well as the DVDs of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Prison Break: Season One."Quote of the Week . . .
We have a winner. It is, of course, the outgoing Illinois governor, quoted in Chicago newspapers yesterday morning. "I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me," the governor said Monday. Got a tad cloudier at 6 a.m. Tuesday, with a chance of incarceration.With Philip Rucker