Winter is fast upon us and a chill is in the air. And Loop Fans working on the Hill know that means one sure thing: It's time to plan for some freebie getaways to warmer climes.
Once again, our old friend U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brian Nutt has come through with some of those fine Navy excursions, each one "a unique, professional education opportunity," as he puts it in this year's "Dear Chief of Staff" letter to congressional offices.
In Washington code, that means you don't have to take vacation days to go on the trips. Nutt, deputy director of the Navy's congressional liaison office, is offering two trips this month -- one, unfortunately, is already underway -- and two in December.
The first trip, running now, includes an "overnight embark onboard USS Abraham Lincoln [a nuclear aircraft carrier] and an orientation tour of various . . . facilities in the San Diego area," including the Navy SEAL Training Facility.
Two other trips are far too brief, though certainly worth doing if you're pressed for time. One is a November 19 overnight cruise on an Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine out of King's Bay, Ga. The second, another overnighter, on December 7, is out of Norfolk on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington.
But the fourth one gets the Loop Four-Star Recommendation for several reasons. First, it's in Hawaii. Second, it's a five-day jaunt -- starting Monday, December 6, and returning Saturday, December 11. As guests of the Navy, you'll have an "overnight embark onboard [a] Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine" plus a tour of Pearl Harbor and then various briefings and presentations.
"Hopefully you can fit one of these trips into your busy schedule," Nutt writes. That shouldn't be a problem what with Congress's recess schedule. "If not, please extend this invitation to your legislative director or military legislative assistant," he suggests.
But hurry. "Space is limited, so please respond as soon as possible," Nutt writes.
State Department spokesman James P. Rubin sent us a personal note the other day. "Dear Madam or Sir," the note began. "Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright addressed an Institute for International Education audience in New York last evening on the importance of freedom of the press worldwide.
"Knowing of your interest in this issue," the note continued, "I am forwarding a copy of her speech to you. Please feel free to share it with others throughout your organization." Since the copiers are often busy, this might be a problem. But not to worry. Rubin anticipated this concern: "The speech has also been posted on our Web site:
Error! Reference source not found."
Is that .gov or .com?
We noticed an item in our copy of Iceland Explorer last month, a small (circulation 3,500) magazine distributed mostly to tourists and personnel at the Keflavik Naval Air Station, which reported that the White House had "made a request to the SAS Radisson Hotel Saga to clear all 216 rooms" for a recent visit by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Conference on Women and Democracy in Reykjavik.
"That has been done," the item said, "and all guests were moved to and rebooked in other area hotels." Apparently not an easy thing to do, given the scarcity of hotel rooms in Iceland.
The entourage seemed a bit excessive, a Loop Fan in Iceland felt, wondering whether U.S. taxpayers were paying for all this. A spokesman for Clinton's office said her traveling party booked around 20 rooms at the hotel, and that the larger number may have been booked by the conference itself.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush's campaign announced a newly designed Web page last month at www.georgewbush.com/youth/ game.html. It includes a kids' section titled: "Running for
President Is a Lot Like Playing Baseball."
If you read down to the section that compares the general election to the World Series, you'll find the following: "The candidate with the most votes on Election Day wins. The winner becomes President of the United States in January 2001."
Tell that to Samuel Tilden (1876) and Grover Cleveland (1888) -- both of whom won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote. Bet they wished they were playing under the Bush rules!
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 Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.