The Not-Quite-Man Act

(Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The House passed a bill yesterday to ban the transportation of primates -- such as the chimpanzee that last week mauled a woman in Connecticut -- across state lines for the purpose of selling them as pets.

The vote came just eight days after Travis, a 200-pound chimp, attacked a woman who was a friend of his owner. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the bill's sponsor, has been promoting the measure for more than a year. He noted last week that the attack "shows what can happen when primates are treated like pets rather than a wild animal."

But the legislation, which failed to pass in the Senate last year, may face opposition again, especially from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who derailed the bill last year as part of a protest against measures he considered unworthy of the Senate's attention at a time of national crisis.

The primate-transport ban was part of a package Coburn put together of bills he objected to -- it was called the "Tomnibus" bill or "S.Chimp" -- and Senate Democrats refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. Twenty states and the District have laws banning primates as pets.

"This legislation would have done nothing to prevent the attack," Coburn spokesman John Hart said yesterday. "It is not an issue of interstate commerce. People who keep 200-pound chimpanzees as pets have issues that can't be resolved by any act of Congress."


As expected, longtime envoy extraordinaire Dennis Ross was not named special envoy to Iran for good and various reasons, not the least of which is our lack of a diplomatic relationship with Tehran. What was unexpected was his appointment as "special adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia," announced Monday in the news equivalent of the dead of night, around 9 p.m.

Spokesman Robert Wood deflected media suggestions yesterday that State was trying to play down the appointment. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton "wanted that announcement to go out at some point yesterday, and it did," he said. Takes a while to type up a couple of paragraphs.

Wood also tried to define Southwest Asia. The State Department has a bureau of South and Central Asia, which includes the various 'stans -- Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and so on, plus Pakistan and India. So Southwest Asia would have to be west of Pakistan and India up to the Persian Gulf. You might be inclined to call that place Iran, but the State Department prefers Southwest Asia.

Foggy Bottom gossip has it that the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, put the kibosh on the original "special envoy" plan for Ross in order to enlarge his own turf in the region. Ever since Holbrooke was reliably reported, first by the Washington Times, to have killed the designation of retired Gen. Anthony Zinni for ambassador to Iraq -- in order to have his longtime pal Christopher Hill installed in that job -- everyone at the department seems to be imputing all manner of Machiavellian shenanigans to Holbrooke. Please. We checked out one story just the other day and it was reliably denied, flat-out. So they're not all true.


We hope no Loop Fans took their pets near the Oval Office yesterday. Our buddy Mark Knoller, CBS News White House correspondent, spotted this curious note -- or warning -- in the daily guidance for reporters covering Vice President Biden. The guidance noted that Biden would be with President Obama in a meeting with Japan's prime minister.

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