This holiday season we once again found Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and his wife, Joan, a former Philadelphia City Council member, touring Europe and the Middle East, a jaunt that had military and diplomatic folks scrambling to accommodate the incoming chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Every powerful lawmaker -- Specter is also likely to chair the Appropriations Committee's labor, health and human services, education, and related agencies subcommittee -- has different needs on these always work-driven, hectic, even grueling trips on behalf of America's taxpayers.
So, for example, the planners, according to numerous e-mails among those involved, were to tell the embassies to "please have a case or two of Evian water for us to take with us at each embassy" and to schedule "no evening events, including dinner with the ambassador or at the embassy. The Specters like to do their own thing at night."
Sen. Specter, in general, wants to "meet with the head of state . . . or highest ranking official they can muster during the holiday season," so chats were scheduled with folks like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Syria's Bashar Assad and others.
As for Mrs. Specter, she "will want an escort at each country and will likely be interested in sightseeing or shopping," apparently in furtherance of U.S. foreign policy goals. "(Mrs. Specter is interested in local cultural products and discerning about unique marketplaces/bazaars, she is not interested in clones of Western stores, i.e., skip the Tel Aviv Gucci or Prada branch etc.)" No exceptions? No matter how big the sale?
Just remember to "bring blankets for each of the Specters on the flight, Boca Burgers [veggie burgers] for in-flight meals, no flights more than three or four hours, no evening flights [and] no really early flights."
Each embassy should find an English-speaking driver "familiar with the city," and of course baggage handlers and "customs expeditors." The senator "will want driver/escort for dinner but no official function."
There are also the obligatory squash matches -- he's a true squash fanatic, Loop Fans may recall -- to be scheduled every day at 5 p.m. except when noted otherwise.
The Specters, with a military escort officer and Senate aide, arrived in London Dec. 23. A planning e-mail said Specter "wants official meetings while there; re his request for Queen [Elizabeth] and her unavailability (he said he would go to Scotland if the Queen wants) it does not have to be at the highest level. May discuss how the EU is working or issues regarding Iraq. . . . Squash at 4:30 p.m. on the 26th so he can make the theatre that night. He will require a driver for that event."
As for Lithuania, that "looks good," an update report said. "He does want to attend the opera and dinner on the 28th. Driver required. Squash at 3:30 to make the opera times." As for Berlin for New Year's, Specter "wants some type of meeting on the 31st. Just one."
In Israel, planners were told "he will want a driver and escort even for visit with his sister."
Harried planners were advised in an early e-mail to follow this simple advice: "The key to success here is to note that they are world travelers and like nice accommodations," such as Claridge's in London or the Hotel Adlon in Berlin.
Nicer than those fine motels in Breezewood, Pa.?
Senate's Top Sergeant
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has asked retired Army Maj. Gen. Alfonso Lenhardt to stay on as Senate sergeant of arms. Lenhardt is the Senate's first African American sergeant at arms.
Among those on tap for top positions in Frist's leadership office are chief of staff Emily Reynolds as secretary of the Senate, Mitch Bainwol, who worked under Frist at the Republican senatorial campaign committee, as chief of staff, and longtime Lott staffer David J. Schiappa as secretary of the GOP majority.
Outgoing House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) is setting up shop as senior policy adviser at Piper Rudnick, working in the law firm's Washington and Dallas offices. Armey may be the firm's marquee Republican here, should former Senate majority leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), who's mulling things over, decide to move on.
Talking About Heads
Former Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr., formerly head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and now director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, is being talked about as head of the intelligence office at the new Department of Homeland Security. John Gannon, former CIA deputy director, has also been mentioned for the job.
Star Trek: The Wrath of Hughes
Where's Karen? Former White House counselor Karen Hughes, much less visible since her move home to Austin and job as Republican National Committee consultant, is said to be in the delegation traveling with Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky to Afghanistan this week for a meeting of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council. Pick Hughes in any one-on-one with Herat warlord Ismail Khan.