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Is the Missile Defense Agency's logo Obama-meets-Islam?

By Al Kamen
Friday, February 26, 2010; A22

The blogosphere is abuzz over conservatives' charges that a logo being used by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency looks very much like a fusion of the Muslim crescent moon and star and the Obama campaign logo. Some folks even detected a similarity to the Iranian Space Agency logo.

"New Missile Defense Agency Logo Causes Online Commotion," said the headline on Drudge. Indeed it did. Our pal Frank Gaffney, writing on his blog, expressed alarm. "The Obama administration's determined effort to reduce America's missile defense capabilities initially seemed to be just standard Leftist fare," wrote Gaffney, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration. But "a just-unveiled symbolic action suggests, however, that something even more nefarious is afoot."

Lefty bloggers insisted that the logo meant nothing of the sort, suggesting the right-wingers must have found some particularly high-grade hallucinogens. Well, we thought the conservatives had the better of the argument.

Turns out, however, the "new" logo is not so new. "This was a logo that was developed three years ago for our recruiting materials and our public Web site," MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told our colleague Ed O'Keefe. "It did not replace our official MDA logo, and of course it has no ties to any political campaign. It was done one year before the 2008 elections. So the whole thing is pretty ridiculous." Lehner said the insignia was chosen because it was "cheaper, because it's three colors as opposed to the five colors on the official logo."

What a minute. Did he say one year before the election? During the George W. Bush administration? Can we get some subpoenas out on this?

Is anybody listening?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton huddled with her messaging team this week to figure out what she was going to say on her five-country swing through Latin America. If all else fails, she could always use the famous phrase President George H.W. Bush read from a cue card during the 1992 New Hampshire primary campaign. ("Message," he said, "I care.")

The well-traveled Clinton fell short in the most-traveled-in-first-year sweepstakes because she broke her elbow and missed some trips, according to our colleague Glenn Kessler, who tracks these matters. As a result of that mishap, Condoleezza Rice maintains the gold, with 19 trips totaling 81 days overseas in her first year as secretary of state. Rice edges out Madeleine K. Albright, who tallied 14 trips and 79 days overseas.

Clinton gets the bronze with 16 trips and 77 days out of the country, missing the top of the podium because the injury forced her to cancel trips that would have added perhaps five or six days to her total.

Former secretaries James A. Baker III (12 trips, 59 days), Colin Powell (13 trips, 54 days) and Warren Christopher (nine trips, 50 days) were never in medal contention.

Whatever message the team produces, there's no guarantee it will carry much weight. On Wednesday, for example, Clinton called on Syria to "begin to move away from the relationship with Iran" and to stop backing Hezbollah.

On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Damascus and signed a deal to remove travel visas for movement between the two countries.

Assad, supposedly the saner of the two, even needled Clinton. "We must have understood Clinton wrong because of bad translation or our limited understanding," he said, "so we signed the agreement to cancel the visas."

Ahmadinejad piped in that Clinton "said we should maintain a distance. I say there is no distance between Iran and Syria."

Time to go over there and read them the riot act?

Going, going . . .

Don't forget to enter the first Loop "Outta There" Contest, to guess which top Obama official will be the first to leave -- or be pushed out. Send your entry to outtathere@washpost.com or In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Deadline for entries is the end of the day Wednesday, March 10.

To be eligible, you must include a phone number -- work, home or cell -- so we can contact you. (Administration and government officials may, if they wish, submit entries "on background." If they win, no names will be used.)

Of the Cabinet members (you know them, right?) and the officials listed below, which will be the first to go? Tiebreaker: When will they leave?

Cabinet-rank officials: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Christina D. Romer.

Wild cards: Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, press secretary Robert Gibbs, National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers, Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Carol M. Browner, adviser David Axelrod, adviser Valerie Jarrett, adviser Pete Rouse.

Pasta and policy

Spotted Monday evening having dinner at Tosca in downtown Washington: presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. No glass ceilings there. Napolitano was on crutches, having injured herself playing tennis -- she hopes to be in a walking boot soon and back on the court by summer. May be too late for the U.S. Open.

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