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The Vagaries of Vetting: Goose vs. Gander Edition

Lael Brainard's Treasury nomination has stalled, though her husband, Kurt Campbell, was confirmed for a State post.
Lael Brainard's Treasury nomination has stalled, though her husband, Kurt Campbell, was confirmed for a State post. (By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
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By Al Kamen
Monday, August 17, 2009

Back during the transition, Lael Brainard, former Clinton White House deputy national economic adviser, was penciled in to be undersecretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs at the State Department. But, with the Treasury Department looking shorthanded, she was nominated in March to be undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs.

She's still awaiting a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, which, we're told, is still vetting her. Oddly enough, her husband, Kurt Campbell, was nominated in April to be assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and had his hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early June. The Senate confirmed him a few weeks later, and he's happily ensconced in his office in Foggy Bottom.

The difference in how Brainard and Campbell have fared, furious administration officials will tell you once they stop sputtering, is the Finance Committee's tax vetting operation, which includes one aide who once worked at the Internal Revenue Service. The committee says it is following its standard operating procedure, unchanged for years.

Might be a good idea to have that job filled sometime soon, you'd think, but there's no indication that any hearing is happening quickly.

Meanwhile, with all the constant chatter these days about raising taxes to pay for health-care reform or other needs, it might not be a bad idea to have the tax operation at Treasury fully staffed. In fact, the top three spots are open. There is no assistant secretary for tax policy. There's no deputy assistant secretary for tax policy, and there's no deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis. No one's even been nominated. Apply now.

All by Himself

T he gift continues to give. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose wife and four sons recently moved out of the governor's mansion, told a call-in radio show in Columbia last week that being alone in the mansion was "hard."

"Look, I fell in love with one woman I should not have fallen in love with," Sanford said, according to the Gannett News Service. "And we all get that, and everybody's been trying to move on." Well, maybe not everyone.

"There are consequences for any mess-up we have in life, and that's one of them," said Sanford, who went missing in Argentina in June, "and that's probably the most bitter part of it." He said the move was based in part on "what's right for the boys."

Lonely, bitter Sanford labored on, saying he had done a "thorough job of discrediting himself" but thinks folks are ready to move on and he has more to do before his term expires next year.

GOP state Sen. David Thomas followed Sanford on the radio show and predicted that the legislature would try to impeach him by next spring.

"All by myself/Don't wanna be/All by myself/Anymore . . ." (By Eric Carmen and, yes, Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1975.)

Meet the Old Boss

Some habits die hard. Folks invited via e-mail to the secretary of state's Monday morning senior staff meeting were taken aback by the person doing the inviting. It was signed: "Secretary Rice."


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