There's more to how the salmon sausage is made

By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 27, 2011; 10:51 PM

Hardly surprising that the thing viewers remember most from President Obama's State of the Union speech is his joke about how many federal agencies have jurisdiction over salmon - with Interior in charge in fresh water and Commerce in salt water.

We had expected, at least from early chatter about the speech, that Obama might capitalize on the moment when he had everyone's attention to unveil a proposal to streamline U.S. efforts to boost exports and also to attract foreign investment in this country.

The idea would be to combine the functions of the U.S. Trade Representative's Office, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the Export-Import Bank, and parts of the Commerce Department and numerous other agencies - from the Agriculture Department to the State Department - to better coordinate efforts.

The idea probably hasn't been shelved, but, given some sleep- inducing portions already in the address, cooler heads probably decided that listeners couldn't handle more wonkiness.

The congressional audience laughed heartily at the salmon joke. Congress, after all, loves to slam inefficiency and duplication in the executive branch - even though Congress is oft responsible for it.

"There's some notion that all of these overlapping, contradictory programs happened by accident," said New York University professor Paul Light. "That is absolutely not true. They got that way because a member or group of members wanted to retain control of this or that program to satisfy some of their constituents.

"In terms of overlapping and wasteful programs," he said, "every stream leads back to Capitol Hill."

Going once, going twice

Freshman Republican Rep. Billy Long, the Missouri auctioneer and tea party favorite, was among those who took a chance but failed to get a flight out of Dulles during Wednesday night's snowstorm.

He tweeted of his plight, our colleague Philip Rucker reports. "Stranded at Dulles with Reps. Michele Bachmann & Dr. Phil Gingrey & his Wife Billie plus everyone else in the free world - no more flights," he typed.

Then: "Dulles PA 'Don't accept ground transportation offers from anyone - REALLY? They could charge $200 if they could get to the terminal!!!"

Three hours later, Long tweeted: "Midnight at the Oasis - and we're stuck in a for real Cul-De-Sac, we surrender after 9 hours of this Dulles/Subdivision adventure."

Thursday morning brought better news for our hardy travelers. "We dug out in light of day - crashed at a Rep. Bachmann's staffer's house - like Willie Nelson put on my cleanest dirty shirt - Dulles bound."

A neckline scoop

Those who think Iran is covering up its nuclear ambitions can point to the national penchant for hiding the truth - or in this case, some cleavage.

Seems the European Union's foreign policy chief, Lady Catherine Ashton, a.k.a. the Baroness Ashton of Upholland, was in Istanbul last weekend talking nukes with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili. The Iranian media featured pictures of the two walking together.

But an Iranian Web site,, reported that some newspapers in Iran decided to raise the black top of Lady Ashton's outfit substantially higher than it was, according to a BBC News account. A BBC journalist said Iranian media often do things like this, "just to avoid trouble" with the mullahs and possibly being shut down.

Musical chairs

Big news Friday for people looking to get top jobs in the Obama administration as people start leaving: It's move-out day for Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina. Every single Senate-confirmable job in government had to go through Messina and those Tuesday and Thursday meetings he ran where potential nominees' vetting and other matters were reviewed.

Messina was also Rahm Emanuel's "enforcer," a job he handled with alacrity. And, if one senior White House aide can be believed, Messina was "the unsung hero of much of the administration's legislative success."

Some of his portfolio is likely to be picked up by David Plouffe and other parts parceled out to the new deputy chiefs of staff.

Rebuilding bridges

Speaking of the State of the Union speech, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who hasn't attended the event since 1974, tells us it was "great to sit with my good friends" Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), "who I have known since he was young. We had fun and enjoyed ourselves."

"As far as the speech," he opined, "I thought it started out well, but ended flat." As might be expected, he found Obama's "remarks on oil [subsidies] and earmarks were very disappointing."

Asked how it compared with his last one, Young said he didn't think it was "a fair question, because the last one I went to [in 1974] was also my first State of the Union and that's a whole new feeling. I think I sat up front for that one."

Unclear whether he'll go again.

Lead feats

Seems that Tommy Thompson, former secretary of health and human services, enjoys life in the too-fast lane. He's been charged in Alexandria for reckless driving after police picked him up going 68 in a 40-mph zone, the Alexandria Gazette Packet reported.

The former Wisconsin governor was fined $104 in 2003 for going 44 in a 25-mph zone. And in 2008 he paid $161 for failure to obey a signal, the paper reported. His lawyer was in General District Court last week to schedule a February court date, hoping things can be worked out.

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