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Our Man in Dublin, by Way of Pittsburgh?

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By Al Kamen
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Steelers pulled off yet another immaculate reception to win the Super Bowl. That's great news for Pittsburgh fans. But the buzz in Washington is that the team's legendary owner, Dan Rooney, may score the ambassadorship to Ireland.

Lady Luck is smiling upon Rooney, 76, a titan of professional sports who has led the Steelers to six national championships. A lifelong Republican, Rooney was so inspired by Barack Obama that he endorsed him and stumped with him, helping Obama carry the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin also supported Obama's campaign.

Now, news is churning from Dublin to Pittsburgh that Rooney may be Obama's pick to become ambassador. The Irish Times reported that Rooney tops the president's shortlist and that an appointment is expected to be announced on or near St. Patrick's Day (March 17).

Obama has long had a soft spot for the Steelers. While he often calls members of Congress by their first names, Obama refers to Rooney as "Mr. Rooney."

"Other than the Bears, the Steelers are the team that's closest to my heart," the man who moved from Chicago to the White House told reporters last week.

Asked recently by a Pittsburgh television station whether he would like the job, Rooney said, "It would be interesting, I must admit."

"I have the credentials," Rooney told KDKA. "There's no doubt about that."

Rooney co-founded the Ireland Funds, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support education and the arts in Ireland. In 1976, he established the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, awarded to young Irish writers.

Rooney said he is not expecting a job as payback for endorsing Obama.

"I did not do this with the idea of getting anything," he told KDKA, adding: "If he calls me, obviously, I'm going to say that I'll do anything I can for you, and I would."

Ex-Lobbyist Closer to Job

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Senate Armed Services Committee's top Republican, had stalled the nomination of former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn to be deputy secretary of defense, but now he has decided to let the nomination go forward.

The move makes Lynn's confirmation more likely -- though there are still obstacles, particularly one named Sen. Charles E. Grassley, who criticized Lynn's work as the Pentagon's chief financial officer during the Clinton administration.


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