For a Limited Time, Something Better Than a Slap Chop

By Al Kamen
Friday, April 10, 2009

You might have thought that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had retired her $6 million presidential campaign debt a long time ago. Apparently not, judging from an e-mail we got from Hillary Clinton for President announcing a lottery -- only $5 a ticket -- and offering as prizes a day with Bill Clinton in New York, a trip to the "American Idol" finale in Los Angeles or a flight here for you and a guest for a tour of D.C. with political operatives and commentators James Carville and Paul Begala.

In the e-mail, from Carville, he says he "knew it was going to take an extraordinary effort to help pay off Hillary Clinton's campaign debt." Especially after the economy sank and the job situation turned dreary.

So the idea would be "to have some fun" while settling her debt, Carville says. "These amazing prizes are only being offered online and are available only for a limited time," he says, "so please don't delay in acting today." Then you can "win one of three truly once in a lifetime opportunities." A day with Bill, a night at "American Idol" or, he says, you can "talk politics with me" -- and Begala.

At year's end, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, nearly $5.4 million was owed to her polling gurus at Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates.


Some people might think being elected the country's first African American president is a big deal. Officials at Arizona State University apparently don't think so.

President Obama is to give the commencement address May 13 at the university's Tempe campus. But he's not going to be given an honorary degree.

"It's our practice to recognize an individual for his body of work, somebody who's been in their position for a long time," Sharon Keeler, an ASU spokeswoman, told the Associated Press. "His body of work is yet to come. That's why we're not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency."

So spending more money than any American president ever dreamed of is not a big deal? Past recipients of the honor have included Barry Goldwater (before he ran for president), Sandra Day O'Connor (after only three years on the U.S. Supreme Court), former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, former Cornell University president Frank H.T. Rhodes, University of Michigan professor emeritus James J. Duderstadt and Wu Qidi, vice minister of education of the People's Republic of China.

"It's someone who's really outstanding, who has made outstanding contributions in their field," Keeler said. Like the Chicom vice minister of education?

So ASU's bottom line to Obama must be: Come back when you've accomplished something.

Good luck with that.


There's a new ambassadorial husband-and-wife team in the works at the State Department. Melanne Verveer was recently confirmed as ambassador at large for global women's issues. Now it appears her husband, highly regarded telecommunications lawyer Philip Verveer, is to be nominated to the top telecommunications post there, which also carries ambassadorial rank.

So they can help the environment by carpooling. Actually, in decent weather, they could walk to Foggy Bottom.


Speaking of foreign affairs, there had been chatter recently that Laura D'Andrea Tyson, economist and former head of the president's Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration, had been emerging as the leading contender to be ambassador to China. Tyson, former dean of the London School of Economics and now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and adviser to President Obama, had long been expected to land a top job, perhaps at the Cabinet level, in the Obama administration.

Though she is not seen necessarily as a China hand, Beijing's critical role on the world economic stage may make her a fit for the post. And she would be the first woman to be U.S. ambassador to the Middle Kingdom.

Latest word yesterday, however, was that this was not going to happen.


We've been hearing grumbling in Mexican government circles about the expected nomination of former Clinton administration National Security Council aide Carlos Pascual, former ambassador to Ukraine and a well-regarded Brookings Institution expert on peacekeeping matters and countries, to be ambassador to Mexico.

The move apparently has prompted not a small amount of head-scratching about why someone with solid credentials -- but with scant experience in Latin America or Mexico -- would be selected to be Washington's man down there. On the other hand, we were assured there's no way the Mexican government is going to reject Obama's pick.


Dennis Fitzgibbons, most recently chief of staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee under Rep. John D. Dingell, and before that director of public policy at DaimlerChrysler and before that head of communications and deputy chief of staff for 12 years for the same House committee, is moving on to be vice president for federal affairs at First Solar, a solar energy company. He'll oversee legislative, regulatory and public policy activities to boost support for solar energy.

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