The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to meet today to approve foreign policy veteran Zalmay Khalilzad, most recently ambassador to Afghanistan, as ambassador to Iraq. Full Senate confirmation is said to be possible as early as this week.
Not a moment too soon. Khalilzad, who zipped back to Afghanistan for a little wrap-up goodbye tour after his testimony last week before the committee -- he was still in Kabul yesterday -- has but two months in beautiful downtown Baghdad to help the Iraqis meet their deadline for drafting a new constitution. Two months after that is done, the document is to be submitted for ratification by a national referendum.
Khalilzad better start typing fast.
Also on the committee agenda, longtime Republican fundraiser Julie Finley, whose nomination to be ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe appeared jeopardized by her pro-choice views.
Finley's nomination had been opposed by anti-abortion groups, and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) had placed a hold on it. But, after a chat with Finley, who has been active on issues such as NATO expansion and human rights in the former Soviet Union, Brownback lifted his hold.
A Goss by Any Other Name
Don't forget: Midnight tonight is the deadline for the In the Loop CIA Title Contest. This is to help come up with a new title for CIA Director Porter J. Goss, who's been thinking that, since John Negroponte is the director of central intelligence, maybe another moniker would befit the head of the CIA.
James Bond, Maxwell Smart and George Smiley fans are just beginning to weigh in. Send your entry -- and rationale -- via e-mail to email@example.com or mail it to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.
Given the nature of this contest, entries on background or even deep background -- as in "government official" -- will be permitted. But all entries must include telephone contact numbers to be eligible. Coveted In the Loop T-shirts for the winners.
For Those Keeping Score
When last we checked, folks at the National Park Service were upset by associate director Jan Matthews's move to abolish alternative work schedules or flex schedules for senior officials. They recalled she seemed to always be taking off on Thursdays or Fridays to go home to Florida.
But, through a spokesman, Matthews said she does not now and has not worked an alternate or flex-time schedule. So the staffers, perhaps, are misremembering?
Well, a sampling of internal NPS documents -- as well as some of her time sheets -- may help clarify matters.
Turns out that Matthews is on a schedule she devised for herself: Rather than take off a couple of weeks in August or around Christmas, she uses vacation time or sick leave to do long weekends back home.
Based on our sampling, in the past 45 weeks ending early April, Matthews was out-of-pocket for all or part of 15 Fridays, and six Thursdays, mostly afternoons. Easy to see why some folks thought her schedule looked fairly alternative or flexible.
Even though Matthews is not eligible for comp time, she keeps meticulous track on her time sheets of "actual hours worked," including fractions -- "11.75" or "13.16" or "13.66" -- and weekly totals.
Pinning Down a Likely Story
There is a story floating around the Pentagon of a recent exchange in Brussels between Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Ivanov. Ivanov, by this account, had some time ago given Rumsfeld a tie pin in the form of a Kalashnikov rifle, and in Brussels asked Rumsfeld what happened to it.
"I must have given it to Venezuela," Rumsfeld responded, a reference to the hundreds of millions of dollars of guns, planes and other military equipment the Russians are selling to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, much to Washington's dismay.
Of course, Rumsfeld couldn't have given a tie pin to Chavez, because he has taken to not wearing ties, opting instead for Fidel Castro's favorite olive-drab line of formal wear.
A Failure to Communicate
Speaking of Donald Rumsfeld, he's joined the chorus of administration officials decrying the inability of the United States to communicate its policies to the rest of the world. Negative, unbalanced coverage from stations such as al-Jazeera causes folks to think "gee, that must not be a very good country," he told the BBC's Sir David Frost.
"I think the U.S. is notably unskillful in our communications and our public diplomacy," Rumsfeld said.
To clarify, that undiplomatic fellow who kept disparaging "Old Europe" for not signing on to the Iraq invasion, alienating many longtime allies while praising "New Europe," must have been the "unskilled" Fred Rumsfeld, his evil twin.
Their Bags Are Packed
On the delegation to U.S. National Day at the World Exposition 2005 in Aichi, Japan, on June 20, is none other than "Mr. Tommy Lasorda, special advisor to the chairman of the board of the Los Angeles Dodgers."
Veteran Clintonites are also on the move . . . Kay Casstevens, former deputy legislative director in the Clinton White House and most recently chief of staff to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is heading home to Texas to care for her ailing parents. She is being replaced by another Clinton veteran, Karen Robb, who also worked in the legislative affairs office and was chief of staff to former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.)