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Our 'Outta There' winner is ... a secret

Somebody we can't identify predicted, correctly, that DNI Dennis Blair would lose his job.
Somebody we can't identify predicted, correctly, that DNI Dennis Blair would lose his job. (Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We have a winner in the Loop "Outta There" contest to predict which Cabinet member or top official would be the first to leave, voluntarily or otherwise. (Social secretary Desiree Rogers was excluded because she was already looking for a new post by the time we announced the contest in February.)

The entry, unfortunately submitted on deep background by a "government employee," predicted on Feb. 25 that the director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, would be the first to leave. "Expected departure: 14 May 2010."

Blair, whose last day was Friday, submitted his "resignation" -- actually, he was bounced -- on May 21, so that was an extraordinary guess. (Or maybe it wasn't really a guess?) The person who submitted it gets an official In the Loop T-shirt -- even if maybe he or she can't wear it outside the house.

There had been rumblings for some time, even before that whole underwear-bomber thing last Christmas, that the administration was unhappy with Blair, but only one other entrant, Matan Chorev, who heads the Future of National Security Project at Harvard's Kennedy School, predicted Blair would be the first to go. Chorev's guess was that he'd be gone by the end of March.

So now the hunt is on for the fourth DNI in five years. Sounds like a no-win job.

Meanwhile, most contest entries clustered around people who were in the hot seat in late February -- White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. There were some scattered late entries for Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle as word circulated that she wanted out, but President Obama apparently prevailed on her to stay at least till Labor Day. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also got some entries, but he's not leaving anytime soon. (Must have been wishful thinking from reporters who don't like him.)

When copters attack

Boeing has been thinking of offering the controversial Marine Osprey, which can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a plane, for the presidential helicopter. We joked last month that, despite the aircraft's rocky development over 27 years -- $54 billion spent and 30 deaths incurred -- the Obama administration would be sorely tempted to order a few because of one major benefit.

Seems the Osprey's propellers, when landing, create fierce winds that send high-speed clumps of sod and other debris flying in all directions. That means it will scatter the waiting White House press corps and bring an end to those shouted-out questions as the president alights, we wrote.

Turns out the problem is much worse than we thought. An Osprey landing at a Memorial Day event on Staten Island injured a number of spectators when its gusts knocked some people over and brought tree limbs down on others. Dozens of people were sent running, according to media accounts. Seven people were treated at a hospital for cuts and bruises.

A Marine spokesman said the Marines on board saw what was happening, lowered the hatch and quickly ran out to aid the injured. The White House press office would doubtless respond the same way if reporters were in a similar situation. Well . . .

Blame the doors

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels's decision Friday to save money and wait until November to replace Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who resigned from Congress over that affair with a part-time staffer, also affords a bit of time to reflect on what to do when abstinence doesn't work -- especially for members of Congress.

One interesting suggestion came from Concerned Women for America chief executive Penny Nance. The liberal mainstream media made much of her statement at the time blaming Washington's "frat house environment" for Souder's long infidelity. But scant attention was given to her admonition that members observe the "common rules of etiquette that even major corporations follow," such as having office doors with windows.

Of course, chopping up hundreds of beautiful doors to install windows may not be such a good idea. Besides, wayward members can use low-tech blinds or shades to thwart the effort. Nance also called for "careful examination of employee-boss interaction."

Maybe there's something to that. Perhaps we could install video surveillance cameras? In offices here and in the home districts, in their cars, local parks, and so on.

Elbows to rub

"Tickets available!" says the e-mail about the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation's black-tie gala Thursday night to raise money for military personnel and their families. Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is in town to give the keynote speech. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar, presents Gen. Michael Hayden, former National Security Agency and CIA director, with the American Hero Award. A thousand bucks per person, up to $100,000 for "event underwriter."

For Rice fans who can't make the event, remember that you can still spend several days with her aboard a luxury ship late this summer on a 17-day Black Sea cruise. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former defense secretary William Perry are among the keynote speakers on the cruise, sponsored by the Harvard Alumni Association and others. Cheap suites run you only $48,000 a couple; roomier ones cost $80,000.

If you're not a Rice fan, you can spend New Year's Eve with former secretary of state James A. Baker III, former top Pentagon official and most recently ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, television reporter Bill Moyers and others who will talk about the Middle East in a sea-land-air trip around the region. Same low fares.


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