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In the Loop: Gorbachev Sings!

Mikhail Gorbachev takes the microphone and knows it's on.
Mikhail Gorbachev takes the microphone and knows it's on. (By Dave M. Benett -- Getty Images)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Step aside, Paul McCartney. Move over, Alicia Keys. And The Jonas who? The latest megastar on the music scene -- and surely the only one who gets $165,000 (per CD!) -- is Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union.

"Songs for Raisa," dedicated to his late wife, sold for that sum at a private gala auction in London a couple of weeks ago for the benefit of the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation, the British newspaper the Guardian reported Monday. Raisa Gorbachev died 10 years ago.

"There are seven ballads, which Raisa Maksimovna [Gorbachev] loved," her widower said at a news conference last week, according to Pravda. He added, "I performed them myself, with Andrey Makarevich accompanying me." Pravda noted that Makarevich, a major star in Russia, "is the front man of Russia's legendary Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine) rock band."

The CD was bought by an "anonymous British philanthropist," who paid that enormous sum for the only copy that is said to exist. Gorby himself, however, gave the crowd a sampling, apparently bringing down the house with his rendition of a song called "Old Letters." It's really not bad at all. Take a listen and remember, this is live. If the foundation, which is dedicated to fighting childhood cancer, needs cash, there's always the possibility of releasing a cut or two every now and again. Then the worldwide tour . . . film rights . . . T-shirts . . .


Speaking of T-shirts, midnight tonight is the deadline for the contest to guess how many senators will vote in favor of the nomination of appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the Supreme Court. (Tiebreaker is to guess what day the vote will be held.)

Send your prediction -- only one per entrant -- to guessthevote@washpost.com, or In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Winners will receive one of those fabulous Loop T-shirts and the bragging rights that go with them. Remember to include a daytime or cell telephone number. Good luck!


Remember when the Washington Institute for Near East Policy announced Jan. 7 how happy it was that Dennis B. Ross, a senior official in the pro-Israel think tank, was going to get some kind of uber-job, "designed especially for him," that would make him the Obama administration's top adviser on a "wide range of Middle East issues, from the Arab-Israel peace process to Iran"?

That announcement was so premature that it nearly killed Ross's chances of getting any job in the administration, and he ended up at the State Department with a rather vague title having to do with Iran.

But eventually everything becomes true in Washington. It has been rumored that Ross is headed to the White House National Security Council, but now the picture of his duties seems to be getting clearer. It does indeed appear to be a big job -- a very big job. His duties will include not only Iran but also Iraq and the Middle East peace process -- a move that has gotten lots of folks at the NSC very upset, not to mention special Middle East peace envoy George J. Mitchell.

The most controversial aspect is that Ross will take over the Iraq portfolio from Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, a three-star general who was overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Lute will just do Afghanistan, where he'll be working closely with envoy Richard C. Holbrooke, while Iraq will be part of Ross's duties.

Interestingly, Ross has about as much experience with Iraq (virtually zero) as the new U.S. ambassador there, Christopher R. Hill. And both were key players in some of the greatest diplomatic flops of the last 20 years. Hill was point man for North Korea nuke negotiations during President George W. Bush's administration. Ross, an early and ardent Obama backer, has lots of experience in Middle East peace efforts, having been a key player in the failure of President Bill Clinton's administration to broker a deal.

As for Iran, there's no special envoy, at least just yet. That designation apparently will await some diplomatic thawing.


A lot of Obama campaign folks, people who were in the trenches with him early on during the Iowa Winter of 2008, are said to be grumbling about not getting jobs in the administration while people who backed other Democrats and then shifted late to The One, are happily ensconced on the federal payroll.

Well, that big tent seems to be enormous indeed. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has asked a former Bush political appointee, Farah Pandith, most recently a senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, to stay on and be a representative to the Muslim community for the Obama administration.

Just before that, from 2004 to 2007, she was at President George W. Bush's National Security Council, where, according to her State Department bio, she was "coordinating U.S. policy on Muslim world outreach" and "reported directly," according to her Web site, to the deputy national security adviser for global democratic strategy. That would be Elliott Abrams.

During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, she worked from 1990 to 1993 at the Agency for International Development helping on projects for Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. Could be those projects were a lot more successful than the media have reported.

Down with the Bush office photos! Up with the Obama pics.


Monday's column should have mentioned that Senate candidate Jim Risch (R) is already in the Senate, having moved from Idaho lieutenant governor to win a race to replace Loop Favorite Sen. Larry Craig.

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