The Hillary Lobby

The folks at the Agency for International Development really, really like first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. And why not? She's traveled about the Third World to support issues such as small-business development, disaster relief and improving the lot of poor people, especially women.

The agency likes her so much that it has dedicated a virtual shrine to her in the lobby of its headquarters in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

Visitors will see no fewer than a dozen large photographs of Clinton (there's one without her), some as large as 3 feet by 5. The pictures show her comforting babies, talking to blind kids and chatting with women in marketplaces, with South Africa's Nelson Mandela, with daughter Chelsea in Africa, with folks in ceremonial dress in Mongolia, and so forth.

But the truly impressive part of the display is the bronze plaque affixed to a wall. It is fully 6 feet wide by about 9 feet high, and bears an excerpt from a speech by Clinton about "expanding the circle of human dignity to encompass all human beings -- men and women, boys and girls . . ."

Below that is this elevating thought from former AID administrator J. Brian Atwood: "May all who pass through these portals recognize the invaluable contribution to worldwide development made by the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton." Never mind that the portal through which one must pass is an airport-style metal detector.

Perhaps it is fitting that this exhibit, put up several months ago, is at AID. And it seems only right to have a plaque commemorating Hillary Clinton in a huge building named after the federal worker's best friend, Ronald Reagan.

But now that she seems to be running for the U.S. Senate in New York, maybe simple fairness would dictate that a similar shrine be erected to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

How about something at the Reagan Building's Pennsylvania Avenue entrance, lauding his efforts to deal with Haitian boat people when he was in the Justice Department? Or maybe a little something at the Statue of Liberty, talking about his cleaning up New York and cracking down on criminals (and the occasional noncriminal)?

End of Discussion

There are teensy hints of internal strife at the two-year-old National Patient Safety Foundation at the American Medical Association, which, on its Web site, says it is "creating a culture of trust" and "is committed to open dialogue."

How else to read this July 8 memo sent to staff by Nancy W. Dickey, chair of the NPSF board of directors?

SUBJECT: Staff Communications

The National Patient Safety Foundation has been undergoing rapid change and both internal and external confusion and turmoil. We, however, remain strong and programming is moving effectively ahead. For your contributions to these forward steps, I thank you.

However, there have been developing some very dysfunctional behaviors at the NPSF which threaten our viability.

Each of you, as staff, need to understand that rumors, manipulative communications, gossip and use of "favorite" Board members outside normal channels of communication will NOT be tolerated. Such activities will be considered grounds for dismissal. If you are unsure about who to talk to or whether you should transmit a bit of information, ask for advice from your Executive Director or from me. If you have been asked not to discuss an issue DO NOT DISCUSS it even with others who you think know. DO NOT DISCUSS means DO NOT DISCUSS.

If you have questions about this policy, please feel free to contact me.

The memo sure worked. Several staffers we contacted refused to talk. And Dickey heeded her own advice: "I don't want to contribute to the gossip," she said.

Well, as the Web site says: "Learning from errors is crucial, but can be hindered by silence, blame, and fear."

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Please include home and work phone numbers.