In the Loop: A guide to grudges for holiday hosts in official Washington

The president and the former president patched things up, but plenty of Washington feuds still smolder.
The president and the former president patched things up, but plenty of Washington feuds still smolder. (Charles Dharapak/associated Press)
By Al Kamen
Monday, November 23, 2009

Washington is a town where lots of folks have a "history" with one another -- a history that's not always the most pleasant. That makes the task of holiday dinner-party seating an especially exacting science, since there's always the risk of a food fight.

For example, let's say you've got the Obamas coming over. That's a great start, but then things get tricky. You like the Patersons of New York, but best not to seat them near the Obamas, not after that White House mission to force the governor not to run to keep his job.

Leon and Sylvia Panetta are always great company, but they surely can't sit near the Blairs, not after Denny's big-footing Leon over naming station chiefs abroad. You've already invited the Emanuels, but they absolutely can't sit anywhere near the Craigs -- not now, not ever.

Always good in these days of two wars to have senior military folks, but best to keep the McChrystals outside mortar range of the Eikenberrys, given the ambassador's smackdown of his fellow general over Afghanistan strategy. Now you'll have to invite the Gateses to keep the generals from going at each other.

The Clintons accepted, which should be okay now that Bill and Barack have sort of made amends. But there's no way the Richardsons, after Gov. Bill's campaign treason, can be anywhere near them. The Holders also probably need to keep some distance, what with Hillary's folks having threatened Eric's job prospects when he defected to the Obama camp.

It would be churlish not to invite some Hill folks, starting with the leadership. Nancy and Paul Pelosi are always good company, but best to keep them at a little distance from the Reids. Not that there's a big problem, but we recall the look she shot Harry when he put his arm around her shoulder in the driveway after that White House meeting.

On the House side, the Waxmans said they could make it, but you can't put them anywhere close to John and Debbie Dingell -- not after Henry pushed John out of his rightful committee chairmanship.

Now you want a little extra bipartisanship, so invite Joe and Hadassah Lieberman. If they say yes, best to uninvite former labor secretary Bob Reich, who took an editorial pop at Joe last week over including the public option in the health-care reform bill. The Hagels will help keep the Democrats from clawing at each other, and Olympia Snowe needs to be seated next to Barack, for obvious reasons.

On second thought, maybe you want to get out that big tent and a bunch of small bridge tables.

But not an hour

Speaking of the holidays, couldn't find anyone Friday afternoon over at the Missile Defense Agency? After that recent survey showing a disastrously low morale level over there, maybe people had taken to sneaking out early? Not at all.

An e-mail Thursday from the boss, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, says folks at the agency been working feverishly of late. (Probably they're anticipating sanctions won't forestall a nuclear Iran run by some seriously dangerous guys.) So O'Reilly gave them 59 minutes off on Friday afternoon, so they could, among other things, maybe get a jump on shopping -- and stimulate the economy.

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