Redecorating Time in Foggy Bottom

By Al Kamen
Friday, January 30, 2009

It was, of course, sadly inevitable. The smell of fresh paint wafting last week through the hall heading to the State Department cafeteria signaled the demise of the Bush Diplomatic Hall of Glory -- that series of lovely photographs that touted the 43rd president's world leadership and diplomatic victories.

Loop Fans will recall that the exhibit of about 20 large color photos caused a bit of a stir back in 2003 when it replaced the long-standing array of black-and-white shots of historic moments. That included an original political cartoon from the Jefferson era and Woodrow Wilson at Versailles and Roosevelt and Churchill signing the Atlantic Charter and so forth.

The George W. Bush exhibit, the old-timers complained, was hardly more than a family travel album, showing him and Laura Bush traveling about the world, hanging out with foreigners, not exactly making history. There were also a few pics of the secretary of state, first Colin L. Powell and then Condoleezza Rice, usually with the president in the picture.

Well, the photos were pretty, at least, and they came from the White House in an effort, we were told at the time, to "spruce up the building" and "liven up the halls."

The question now being asked, of course, is: What's going to replace them? Photos of the new first couple, Barack and Michelle Obama? Or photos of Bill and Hillary Clinton? Perhaps there could be a photo array of all the special envoys? (Most all envoys are, by definition, "special" -- otherwise they wouldn't be envoys.) Or maybe they'll bring back the old exhibit.

Not So Scary After All?

There's buzz that Samantha Power, an early supporter of Obama who advised him on foreign policy, may be reunited with Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Power famously called "a monster" during the Democratic primary campaign.

Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard University professor, worked on Obama's transition team and has been rumored to have landed a top job in the administration. The Associated Press reported last night that Power will become senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, a White House post that may require close contact and travel with now-Secretary of State Clinton.

Power was a foreign policy adviser on Obama's campaign but was forced to resign after her remarks to a Scottish newspaper last March set off a firestorm. "She is a monster," Power was quoted as saying of Clinton. Power later apologized to Clinton and was spotted chatting with Madam Secretary at a State Department ceremony last week.

Nominee for Deputy Dogged

Former Raytheon lobbyist William J. Lynn, nominated to be deputy secretary of defense in an exception to Obama's blanket rule against hiring Washington lobbyists, is shoveling hard to get out of a public relations hole. But so far he seems to have dug himself a bit deeper.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, asked Lynn on Monday to describe in advance the policy matters on which he will be recused, since Raytheon's Pentagon business interests are so extensive. Lynn replied Wednesday, saying he will become involved in matters that affect Raytheon only if the Pentagon's general counsel approves.

"It is not possible to catalogue the specific matters" on which he will be recused, Lynn wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by our colleague R. Jeffrey Smith.

McCain called that response vague and disappointing and demanded in a new letter yesterday that he try again. "Your letter refers to a screening process run by lawyers," McCain wrote, saying he wants to see a list of the issues on which Lynn lobbied the Pentagon for Raytheon "that would raise concern with the American public if you took action on them." He said he could not support the nomination without knowing the answer.

Another Republican senator, Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), chimed in, denouncing the ethics exemption as a bad signal to others and demanding in a letter to new Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag to know exactly what criteria the administration used to decide the nomination was "in the public interest."

In a separate letter to Lynn, Grassley also accused him of presiding over two disastrous financial policy decisions while serving as the Pentagon's comptroller in the Clinton administration: He said one known as "Pay and Chase" involved writing checks to pay the Pentagon's bills without seeking receipts until later; the other, known as "Straight Pay," allowed bills up to half a million dollars to be paid without checking documentation.

"Your policy left the barn door wide open to fraud and mismanagement," Grassley wrote, citing the case of an Air Force sergeant who stole a million dollars to give to his mother and girlfriend.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in response that he "will not revisit" Lynn's career but that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "still strongly supports Bill Lynn's nomination and looks forward to" his approval by the committee. He noted that Lynn is divesting all his defense holdings, and that the review process envisioned has been used with others, including former Northrop Grumman executive Donald C. Winter, who is now the secretary of the Navy. It "works and is fair," Morrell said.

Moving About

Call it the Dingell Diaspora -- the exodus of top aides on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who have moved to new jobs in the weeks since Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) lost the chairman's gavel to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

John F. Sopko, who was Dingell's senior adviser and chief counsel for oversight, has left to become a partner at the Washington law firm Akin Gump. Sopko oversaw the committee's investigative hearings on food and drug safety, energy pricing, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and Hurricane Katrina. Now he's going to help clients navigate congressional and other investigations.

Gregg Rothschild, who had been Dingell's chief counsel on the committee, is now at Glover Park Group as managing director of its government relations practice. John Arlington, who had been Sopko's deputy, moved to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where he will be chief counsel to the committee chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).

Christine Blackwood, another Dingell investigator, is becoming chief counsel for the Senate Special Committee on Aging, while Dingell's communications director, Jodi Seth, is communications director for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

Moving In

Jody Freeman, a Harvard Law School professor, is the counselor for energy and climate change in the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change, which is what they call Energy and Environment Empress Carol M. Browner's shop.

Ivan K. Fong, former deputy associate attorney general in the Justice Department, is to be nominated as general counsel in the Department of Homeland Security.

A Tear-Jerker

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who introduced the legislation to overturn the Supreme Court's Ledbetter decision that limited the amount of time people have to sue for pay discrimination, was overcome at yesterday's White House signing ceremony for the bill.

The feisty Mikulski told aides yesterday that when Obama handed her the first pen he used to sign the first major bill of his presidency, there were tears in her eyes.

Who knew?

With Philip Rucker

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