The speaker speaks

By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 22, 2011; 8:25 PM

Seems House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been told by his press aides to stop chatting and answering questions with reporters or random visitors he doesn't know in the hallways in the Capitol.

Pretty good precaution against Boehner's saying something that could be blogged about, be taken out of context and cause a general ruckus.

So last week, during the frenzied days leading up to the House passage of the GOP budget-cut package, a somewhat apologetic Boehner would deflect approaching reporters in the halls by saying, "No, I can't talk, I can't talk."

Just after 9 p.m. Friday, on the eve of the final House vote, Boehner approached our colleague Paul Kane and Politico's John Bresnahan, who mocked him for his "can't talk" policy and then pointed out that they were not walking the hallways but rather standing in the speaker's lobby, just off the chamber floor.

Boehner looked around and saw the coast was indeed clear. No staff in sight. Thus began a 25-minute unplanned news conference eventually joined by at least 15 other reporters, during which the speaker stayed perfectly on message, never wavering.

He called the open debate process an example of "democracy in action" and said he was "proud of this vote." He talked about how "fascinating" things were going to be "over the next few weeks and months as we work our way through this," so on and so forth.

Boehner even offered clothing advice to several of the reporters. Then, perhaps channeling an old Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band song, Boehner explained one of his rules for success:

"The first rule of being successful is you have to look like you know what you're doing, so you failed," he said, joking with the reporters.

Reporters may soon be demonstrating in front of his office under a rallying cry: "Let the speaker speak!"

Voice of . . . somebody

Hackers, apparently Iranian, hit the Voice of America Web site on Monday afternoon, replacing pages with a statement saying in Persian and English, "We have proven that we can," and asking Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton if she wanted to "hear the voice of oppressed nations will from heart of USA" [sic].

The flag on the screen is that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, suggesting that the hacking came from that country or from supporters of the regime there.

"'s primary domain, along with numerous related domains registered with Network Solutions, were hacked by an unknown party," the VOA said in a statement Tuesday. "This enabled the hacker to redirect VOA URLs to a site claiming to be run by a group called the 'Iranian Cyber Army.' "

A source not authorized to speak publicly said the "army" is believed to be an adjunct of the Iranian regime's Revolutionary Guards. The hackers, the source added, have apparently struck at other sites in the past, but this is the first time the VOA has been affected.

"This was not a breach of our internal systems or services," the agency statement said, and "most sites should be returning to normal." In addition, it said, "no data was lost or compromised as a result of this event."

Performance goals unmet

Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at the Atlantic who was trolling the Web site for material on Libya, came across this eye-popping brief note from Donald Rumsfeld, then the secretary of defense, to his undersecretary Doug Feith.

The date is April 7, 2003, two days before Baghdad fell.

To: Doug Feith

From: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Issues w/Various Countries

We need more coercive diplomacy with respect to Syria and Libya, and we need it fast.

If they mess up Iraq, it will delay bringing our troops home.

We also need to solve the Pakistan problem.

And Korea doesn't seem to be going well.

Are you coming up with proposals for me to send around?


Well, someone sure messed up Iraq.

Pakistan? Seems more "solved" than ever.

Korea? Just about there, boss.

Next year in Tel Aviv?

Looks like a longtime Loop Favorite, our pal Moammar Gaddafi, is a goner. Who can forget the 30 virgin female bodyguards, trying to pitch a tent in New York, that voluptuous Ukrainian "nurse." We will surely miss him.

But despite all the protestations about his dying in Libya, he's got to start thinking about getting out pretty quick. The problem is, it'll be hard to find anyone who'll take him, maybe with the exception of, yes, Israel.

Seems Gaddafi's grandmother, the mother of his mother, was Jewish, according to an account broadcast on Israeli TV news last year. Two Israeli women, who claimed to be his distant relatives, said his grandmother ran away from an abusive Jewish husband, married a Muslim sheik and converted.

But under Jewish religious law, Grandma and her daughter, who is Gaddafi's mom, are still considered Jewish and therefore, as the monthly magazine Israel Today reports in its current issue, so is Gaddafi.

If the story they told is true, the weekly said, then "Gaddafi is entitled to immigrate to Israel as a Jew under Israel's Law of Return. Even if every other country on earth refused him entry, Israel would be obligated by its own laws to take Gaddafi in."

Should be some nice plots left near Petah Tikva.

Moves of note

Speaking of Israel, word is that the White House plans to nominate Dan Shapiro, who handled Jewish outreach for President Obama during the campaign and now is National Security Council senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, to be ambassador to Israel. We're told the planned move, first reported by Politico, will mean that the Adas Israel synagogue will have as members both Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, and now Washington's envoy to Israel.

Staff writer Tara Bahrampour contributed to this report.

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