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In the Loop: Cheney and Tenet, Like Strangers on a Train

For Dick Cheney, what once might have been a West Wing strategy session is now just small talk.
For Dick Cheney, what once might have been a West Wing strategy session is now just small talk. (By Karin Cooper -- Cbs News Via Associated Press)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spotted Monday on the 10 a.m. Acela, sitting in first class, were ex-colleagues Dick Cheney and George Tenet.

The former CIA director was probably heading back up to work at his investment firm in Manhattan. It's unclear why the former vice president was aboard, although it may have been related to his busy schedule of public speaking and media appearances these days. He seems more visible than ever.

He and Tenet were at opposite ends of the car, our source tells us, and did not interact until Cheney got up to stretch his legs as the train neared New York. They exchanged friendly greetings and engaged in some chitchat, under the watchful eye of a "rather menacing security detail," we were told. Well, those guys are supposed to be menacing, but Tenet was hardly a threat.

While Cheney had many disagreements with the CIA, perhaps for withholding evidence on those strong links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and those nukes Hussein was hiding, he and Tenet generally agreed that the Iraqi leader had weapons of mass destruction and that information gained from "enhanced interrogation" was "extremely valuable," as Tenet put it in his memoir.

And Cheney wasn't likely to sic the team on Tenet. With Cheney it's never personal, always business -- except if you mess with family stuff or start joking about shooting friends.

H1N1, A.K.A. . . .

Don't forget! Midnight tonight's the deadline for entries in the Loop Name the Flu contest. The panic appears to be subsiding a bit, but China, Indonesia, Russia and other countries recently banned pork imports from the United States. Pork producers here face much-reduced demand.

So we need to come up with a better name -- more accurate than "swine flu," less wonky than "H1N1" -- for the virus. Something catchy, that people can remember, that would remind them to wash their hands regularly.

The 10 winners will receive one of those coveted, fine-quality In the Loop T-shirts. Send your entries via e-mail to nametheflu@washpost.com or mail them to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.You must include a phone number -- home, work or cell -- to be eligible. Good luck!

MILEAGE MATTERS

Just over a month ago, President Obama tapped Charles Hurley, chief executive of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a leading figure for decades on highway safety matters, to run the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. His record on safety issues -- seat belts, air bags and such -- was impressive.

But on the second part of his job, administering standards for automobile fuel economy, enviros found him truly wanting. When the White House announced the pick in April, Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, noted: "It would be awkward to have an administrator of NHTSA who's spent much of his career attacking the fuel economy standards that NHTSA administers."

White House officials, who never formally sent up his nomination papers, had told enviros they would look for a strong deputy on fuel economy, but it may have been just too awkward. Acting NHTSA chief Ronald Medford sent around an e-mail yesterday saying, "Secretary LaHood did tell me that this means that the process for looking for an Administrator will need to start over again." Send résumés.

Meanwhile, there had been some serious eyebrow-lifting among the enviro crowd about the administration's impending, and yesterday official, announcement of Ignacia Moreno as its pick to be assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division. The concern seems to be that she has recently worked for General Electric, which environmentalists rank high on their enemies list, claiming GE has attacked environmental laws, challenged the constitutionality of key environmental legislation and constantly warred over cleaning up the Hudson River.

NEW PROTOCOLS

The long-expected nomination of Capricia Marshall, social secretary in the Clinton White House, to be the new chief of protocol looks to be happening shortly. The job, which carries the rank of ambassador and is a Senate-confirmed position, is to handle official visits of dignitaries at the White House, Blair House and Foggy Bottom. The protocol chief is housed at the State Department.

By custom, the head of protocol also may travel with either the secretary of state or the president, but that is not going to be the case in this administration. We're hearing the White House may create a new position for someone who will direct all protocol matters for President Obama and will travel with him as well. The thinking apparently is that Obama would want someone he knows and who he is comfortable with to be with him on these trips.

TAP, TAP

Obama yesterday tapped Maria Otero, president and chief executive of Accion International, to be undersecretary of state for global affairs. As expected, Georgetown professor Arturo Valenzuela, formerly on the Clinton White House National Security Council, is the pick for assistant secretary of state for Latin America.

Nicole Lurie, now at the Rand Corp., is to be nominated as assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, and retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy was tapped to be assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.


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