A sunny congressional delegation
By Al Kamen,
Feeling the cold these days? Then hurry on down to sign up for House Majority Leader John Boehner’s week-long fact-finding trip to Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, taking off Jan. 8.
The Ohio Republican is scheduled to escape the chill with Democratic Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.) and Republican Reps. Dave Camp (Mich.), John Kline (Minn.), Doc Hastings (Wash.), Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Greg Walden (Ore.). Nunes is the only one on this congressional delegation (codel) with a chance of decent weather back home this time of year.
The lawmakers are apparently going to be talking to government officials down there about drugs, trade and other issues. No word from Boehner’s folks about the specifics of the itinerary. (We’ll check in later to see whether the Brazil leg included stops in Salvador or Rio.)
Worried about leaving your spouse back in the cold? Bring him or her along. It’s no problem — the other spouses are coming. And there’ll be three or four staff members to help out. Remember, this is pretty much the ultimate in luxury travel, business class on a government jet, with pampering by military aides.
Speaking of codels, we’re hearing that Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) is taking a very, very small delegation to the Holy Land, arriving Dec. 26 with his wife, Hadassah, via commercial jet. She’ll stay behind as the lame-duck senator and two staffers continue on, perhaps by military jet, to four other countries in the Middle East. It’s a codel of one, since no other senators signed on.
Something for the counter
Desperate for a gift for that special someone who has everything? Bet he or she doesn’t have the 2012 Counterterrorism Calendar, produced by the National Counterterrorism Center.
The calendars are given out as a resource guide for law enforcement and intelligence officials and folks in the anti-terror biz, especially for those working in the field. That’s why there are pages on ways to spot and deal with biological and chemical attacks, “suspicious financial activity indicators,” or people using false passports.
A downloadable, interactive version is on the NCTC Web site, www.nctc.gov, but you can’t buy the 5-by-9-inch spiral version anywhere. Got to know someone. That’s what makes it special. In addition, the NCTC, trying to reduce costs, printed 25 percent fewer calendars this year, so they’re even harder to get.
And don’t throw out the 2011 calendar. It’s the last one featuring the cool $25 million reward for Osama bin Laden, who’s no longer on the wanted list. (No tipster was deemed worthy of the award.)
And it’s the only calendar ever to feature Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen who allegedly orchestrated the failed Christmas 2009 underwear bombing of a Detroit-bound jet. That was his last appearance — he was killed by a missile strike in Yemen in September.
Sins of the son?
You never call, you never write, you never come around to see us any more. An old pal, Equatorial Guinea “President” Teodoro Obiang Nguema , now (with Gaddafi gone) Africa’s longest-serving dictator, was in town last week to receive the Beacon for Africa award at the 2011 Sullivan Honors dinner and didn’t even drop us a note.
Obiang, Loop Fans may recall, created a bit of a fuss the last couple of years trying to get a U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) award — which he endowed for five years with a $3 million gift — until the human rights crowd went ballistic.
Seems Obiang, in power since 1979 and once winner of 95 percent of the vote, keeps getting slammed by State Department reports of “arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention” and judicial corruption and so on. (Well, nobody’s perfect.) So UNESCO backed down.
The award is named for Leon H. Sullivan, a minister, civil rights leader and longtime General Motors board member who authored the Sullivan Principles for businesses operating in South Africa during the apartheid era. Past winners include Presidents Bill Clinton and Bush II and Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice .
Maybe Obiang didn’t call because he was worried about his 44-year-old son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang? Seems the Justice Department recently went to court to seize $70 million of his assets. The department recounted purchases he made in the last decade or so, such as: a $10 million fleet of cars that included eight Ferraris, seven Rolls-Royces, two Lamborghinis, a Porsche, an Aston Martin and a Maserati.
Then there was the $38 million Gulfstream and the Malibu villa overlooking the Pacific for $30 million, which he decorated last year with Michael Jackson memorabilia bought at auctions.
The Justice Department said all that was “inconsistent with his salary” of $81,000 a year and came from plundering the tiny country’s large reserves of natural gas and oil.
But wait a minute. If you live really, really frugally . . .
Pols gone wild
We wonder whether former congressman Anthony Weiner would find any consolation in the fact that even though his political career is toast, he’s still a winner . . . of the Loop’s title of biggest political scandal of 2011.
We asked Loop blog readers to pick the year’s worst headline-making naughtiness, and they voted for the New York Democrat’s Twit-pic controversy over a slate of others. Coming in second was the allegations of sexual harassment and an affair against former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain.
You can see the rest of the results on our blog at washingtonpost.com/intheloop. We’re not sure what to make of the fact that Loopers think that Weiner’s sexless sex scandal (which some thought he could have weathered if he’d handled it better) was worse than the allegations of sexual assault on a teenage girl by former congressman David Wu (D-Ore.) — that scandal came in last place.
But it probably comes down to simple notoriety: Weiner’s controversial pics were shared on Twitter, which is a new frontier for political scandals. And then there’s his unfortunate, made-for-tabloid-headlines name — and the fact that those pictures will live on in Internet eternity.
So let’s take a moment and thank good old 2011 for bringing us such a rich array of poorly behaving pols. Here’s the Loop’s wish for 2012: May they never learn their lessons. (Hey, we need the fodder!)
With Emily Heil