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The Transition Lingers On

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By Al Kamen
Friday, April 24, 2009

Everyone thought they had boxed up their belongings, popped open the champagne and choppered out of town on Inauguration Day. Democrats celebrated the incoming administration.

But the Bushies are still here.

Yes, about half a dozen aides to the former president are holding down the fort in an unmarked, nondescript four-story townhouse at 736 Jackson Pl. NW, overlooking Lafayette Square and just steps from President Obama's White House.

The aides, part of the former president's "transition-out," are beavering away, sifting through letters, responding to invitations, and processing photographs that George W. Bush took with hundreds of friends, donors and staffers at holiday parties and celebrations. They will remain there until July 20, a Bush aide said. About a dozen other staffers work for Bush in his Dallas office, headed up by Michael E. Meece, a native Texan and former White House aide who is working as Bush's chief of staff.

To be sure, this is nothing new. The no-longer-president Bill Clinton had a small coterie of aides, headed by longtime secretary Betty Currie, working on Jackson Place until July 2001. The operation is funded by the federal government according to the Presidential Transition Act.

So if you're wondering where those loud noises are coming from, it's most likely that gigantic document shredder on the second floor. (All right, we made that up.)

ARNIE'S ARMY?

Retired Marine Gen. Arnold Punaro, executive vice president of SAIC, overseeing the huge McLean defense contractor's lobbying shop, apparently is setting up some visits to the Hill next week to chat up key senators -- folks like the Senate Armed Services Committee's ranking Republican, John McCain (Ariz.), and committee colleague Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) come to mind -- about his expected nomination to be secretary of the Army.

Punaro, former staff director of the Armed Services Committee, is said to have strong support in the White House for the Army job from a fellow Marine, National Security Council chief James L. Jones.

There may be some questions about giving the Army job to a Marine. But there could be even more queries about why the administration -- after bringing in former industry lobbyist Bill Lynn as deputy secretary of defense in a move that raised a bit of a ruckus -- now wants to bring in another major industry type from a major player in the overrun-plagued Army modernization project.

LOW INTEREST

No one ever said that being the point man in the White House on efforts to turn the economy around would be easy. And no one said President Obama's meeting yesterday with credit card executives would be an exciting event. But the combination quickly proved too much for Lawrence H. Summers, who runs the National Economic Council.

Summers appeared to be nodding off near the beginning of Obama's remarks, according to a press pool report. And then he did nod off, "doing the head on the hand and then head falling off the hand thing." The clicking of all the cameras apparently roused him. We're told all the other officials in the room appeared fully awake.

BORDER DISPUTE

The Department of Homeland Security is trying to save a few bucks by dropping some newspaper and magazine subscriptions and having people share or read online. One paper that's sure to be among the first to go will be the National Post in Canada. The paper -- like most of Canada's press -- blasted Secretary Janet Napolitano for calling for tighter border security up north and saying that terrorists, including some involved in 9/11, arrived from there. (None of the hijackers came from there.)

"The Border for Dummies," read the headline on an editorial, which opined that Napolitano "appears to be about as knowledgeable about border issues as a late-night radio call-in yahoo." Other outlets were even harsher.

GREEN TYPES SEE RED

The enviros went ballistic yesterday after the watchdog Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) reported that President Obama has asked Bush holdover Glenda Owens, deputy director of the troubled Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), to remain in charge. "Glenda Owens has a long record of defending mountain top removal, a controversial form of coal mining," and practices including filling in mountain streams, PEER said, calling the choice "somewhat surprising." (Must be enviro-speak for "bizarre.")

No, no, no, said a spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "She is someone who is being considered," spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff told our colleague Juliet Eilperin, adding that Salazar "has cast a very wide net for candidates, and no final decisions have been made."

With Philip Rucker


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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