U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius at the Foreign Ministry in Paris on Feb. 27, 2013. (JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

This just in from our colleague Anne Gearan, who’s playing the role of foreign correspondent as she covers Secretary of State John Kerry’s first official overseas jaunt:

During his failed 2004 presidential run, Kerry may have been ridiculed as a French-speaking, windsurfing East Coast aristocrat, but he was in his element in Paris on Wednesday. He spoke in effortless French, with a good accent to boot, to open a news conference with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Gearan reports.

“We just finished one of those wonderful French lunches that have been drawing Americans to Paris for centuries,” Kerry said en français. He praised France as America’s oldest ally, among other niceties. Then, with a wry smile, he said it was time to switch to English, “because otherwise I would not be allowed to return back home.”

A day earlier, Kerry tried out his German in Berlin. Pretty good was the verdict of an unscientific sampling of German reporters. On Thursday, Kerry gets a chance to show off his Italian in Rome.

Of course, when he arrives in the Eternal City, he can always rely on his old Yale roommate, U.S. Ambassador David Thorne, if he needs any translation help.

Weather, or not

Way back in 2001, a bipartisan group of House members formed the Climate Change Caucus, with a goal that at the time didn’t sound so radical: tackling the threat of global warming.

Flash forward nearly 12 years and the politics are very different. In a sign of just how things have changed, this month, another group formed. Its name is the rather euphemistic “Safe Climate Caucus,” and its membership doesn’t include a single Republican.

Members of the new group, spearheaded by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), have promised to take the bold step of . . . talking about climate change every day on the House floor.

The name seems a bit of clever branding. After all, it’s practically mainstream to deny “climate change,” but who doesn’t want a “safe climate”? We hear Waxman picked the moniker to focus on the “heart of the issue.”

The now-defunct Climate Change Caucus was led by former Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) and John Olver (D-Mass.), and the enterprise petered out after Gilchrest was defeated in 2008.

Gilchrest, now director of Maryland’s Sassafras Environmental Education Center, wasn’t surprised to hear that the Climate Change Caucus had disbanded, or that no Republicans had joined the new group. But he’s unimpressed with any rebranding efforts. “It’s a little silly to call it anything but what it is,” he said.

Guess it will take more than that for the GOP to warm to the effort.

Nice while it lasted

House Speaker John Boehner, citing the impending sequester cuts to the federal budget, Wednesday canceled all House codel (congressional delegation) travel on military jets, our colleague Paul Kane reported, citing GOP sources in the room.

Members may still be able to fly commercially, however.

Of course, as we noted the other day, that spectacular perk — full-service, business-class-only travel — was apt to be a sequester casualty anyway, for both the House and the Senate.

Team Chuck

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel can now start moving in. We’re hearing the new crew he’s expected to keep close includes Marcel Lettre, who had been outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta’s deputy chief of staff and is now acting chief of staff to the new SecDef. Word is that he’ll get the “acting” removed very shortly.

Also, Aaron Dowd, a former Hagel Senate staffer and his top aide at Georgetown University/Atlantic Council, is roaming the Pentagon these days and will likely get a staff job in the E-Ring.

Eric Rosenbach, another former Hagel Senate staffer, has been deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy since September 2011. Best bet is he’ll get a promotion, or at least will move closer to Hagel’s office. And Liz King, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs is also expected to stay on.

Meanwhile, chatter has it that the Pentagon will get a new press secretary, but that’s not been decided. George Little is now dual-hatted as assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs. He’ll keep the longer title and oversee the Pentagon’s vast PR ops, but it may be the White House will want to handpick someone to be press secretary.

Step by step

The U.S. footprint in Afghanistan is scheduled to wind down considerably over the next couple of years, but anti-Taliban efforts are proceeding apace.

In fact, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan is looking for fast delivery of “150 lightweight assault ladders,” to be at Bagram Air Field just 30 days after a contract is signed “for immediate deployment for current missions.”

And the contract process won’t take long because it’s a no-bid, sole-source contract to Allred and Associates in Elbridge, N.Y. (They also make carbon reinforcements and tools for luthiers — people who fix lutes and other stringed instruments — but that’s another division.)

The 12-foot ladders, to come in three sections, can’t weigh more than 10.8 pounds. But they have to be strong enough to hold 350 pounds. And they must fit in a duffel bag “wearable like a backpack.”

These might be expensive items.

Well, the Army says the “total estimated value” of the contract is only $[deleted].

Maybe they keep the cost a secret lest the Taliban find out?

From CAP, a dud

Looks as though someone at the Center for American Progress has an itchy trigger finger.

The think tank released a statement Wednesday congratulating Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for air and radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, on her nomination to lead the agency. We hadn’t heard a peep from the White House, but CAP has close ties to the Obama administration, so we figured we must have missed something.

But wait.

Turns out, there had been no nomination. CAP later sent a second message retracting the first. “The statement . . . was sent from us in error. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

One can imagine why they jumped the gun. After all, McCarthy’s selection for the post is a near-certainty — and even the Loop thought the announcement from the White House would come sooner.

Consider it a practice run.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.