Looks as though Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has not quite gotten full control of goings-on at the State Department.
Just a few hours after President Bush's speech Tuesday night on "significant progress" in Iraq -- notwithstanding that more work is to be done -- the department issued a new warning for folks thinking of traveling to Iraq. Bottom line: DON'T GO.
Listening to Bush, you might have thought it was time to invest in Iraqi tourism opportunities. But the State Department "continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, which remains very dangerous," said the advisory, which was virtually identical to one issued eight months ago.
"Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists and criminal elements remain active," we were told. "Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or 'Green') Zone."
Hmmmm. Last year that zone was considered fairly safe. Government officials recall being able to jog in the Green Zone a while back. Recently, they were strongly advised that this would not be such a great idea.
This does not sound promising for tour groups. Well, if they just stayed on the charter buses?
No, "all vehicular travel in Iraq is extremely dangerous. There have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous."
"Travel in or through Ramadi and Fallujah, travel between al-Hillah and Baghdad, and travel between the International Zone and Baghdad International Airport is particularly dangerous," we're told.
Okay. Maybe a nifty tour by air then? No, the warning says "there is credible information that terrorists are targeting civil aviation," and planes using Baghdad International "have been subjected to small arms and missiles." Civilian aircraft do not have systems "capable of defeating man-portable, surface-to-air missiles," the advisory says, so use military or government planes or, if you go commercially, Royal Jordanian Airlines.
Well, remember, Bush specifically said progress was "uneven."
Pediatrician Picked for Top Health Post
Bush has nominated John O. Agwunobi, formerly a pediatrician here and now Florida's secretary of health, to fill the long-standing vacancy of assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Back in February 2003, then-Assistant Secretary for Health Eve Slater stepped down after losing an ideological battle with then-Deputy Assistant Secretary Cristina V. Beato and other conservatives at the department and the White House.
Beato was later nominated to replace Slater, but that move foundered a year ago amid allegations of resume embellishment by Beato.
PACing It In at Enron
Let's have a Loop Toast to one of our favorite PACs, the Enron Corp. Political Action Committee Inc., which closed its doors a while back and has just filed its last report on disbursements.
But there was no wining and dining lawmakers and government officials and no "educational" trips to fine places.
No, the last disclosure report shows $348,000 in six large contributions ranging from $41,000 to $100,000 to health and cultural and arts institutions in Houston and a final gift of $3,579.36 to a Houston food bank.
As for the former shareholders and employees . . .
Executive Officers Seep Into State
Speaking of the State Department, Jendayi Frazer, now ambassador to South Africa and formerly head of African affairs at the department, is part of the exodus of White House types to Foggy Bottom. She's been tapped to be assistant secretary for Africa.
As long anticipated, former Washington Times managing editor Josette Sheeran Shiner, more recently deputy U.S. trade representative, has been named to be undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs.
John Hillen, an Army Bronze Star recipient from Desert Storm action, former think-tanker on international matters and now president of an information technology company, is to be nominated to be assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.
And Kristen Silverberg, a rising star in the administration who is an adviser to White Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., has been nominated to be assistant secretary for international organization affairs. (This, according to some, would mean she would be John R. Bolton's boss should he become ambassador to the United Nations.) Silverberg, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had been on the White House domestic policy staff and worked for a while as a senior adviser to Viceroy L. Paul Bremer in Baghdad.
Her foreign policy credentials seemed to some a bit slim for this job. Not at all. One source, responding via e-mail to our query on this, noted that "Silverberg was one of the young lawyers on [Office of Management and Budget Director] Josh Bolten's policy staff in the 2000 campaign, and she was dispatched to Florida" for the Battle of the Chads.
"What else do you need to know?" he said.