The Washington Post

Dining and diplomacy — a menu for our times

Was someone in the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria keeping a keen eye on the crisis in Syria — and the very deep hole President Obama was in after drawing those squiggly red lines on Syria’s use of chemical weapons?

Just as things were looking bleak — a major political embarrassment loomed as Obama’s call to arms looked certain to fail in the House — up popped Obama’s new BFF, Russian president and former KGB-er Vladimir Putin.

The great Russian democrat’s proposal of a negotiated deal to have Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad give up his arsenal of poison gas not only pulled Obama from the political abyss but also even gave him an opening to claim that his saber rattling somehow contributed to a possible deal.

The Longworth cafeteria, like many others, often features a bit of foreign food at its counters for those who might like something besides burgers. And the featured country on Wednesday? Russia!

Yes, the “Global” food counter featured “Beef Stroganoff, Thyme Egg Noodles, Roast Root Vegetable” and “Sweet and Sour Cabbage.” Yummy. Just 55 cents an ounce.

Far as we can tell, there doesn’t appear to be a political motivation at work here, though. The weekly menus are planned in advance. (Thursday’s featured food was from Argentina. Tuesday was the Philippines.)

Meanwhile, some Loop Fans have wondered why Congress didn’t engage in cafeteria retaliation against the British for not backing Obama’s threatened use of force against Damascus.

After all, outraged lawmakers wisely demanded that government cafeterias drop mentions of French cuisine — french fries were renamed “freedom fries” — when Paris didn’t back George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

There’s been no menu action this time, perhaps because Congress was on vacation — and understandably confused by Obama’s constant shifts.

The greater problem in this instance may have been that no one particularly likes English food, so there weren’t many options. Fish and chips to “fish and fries”? English muffins to “cowardly crumpets”?

In any event, Obama should be grateful that the Great Sloucher has stepped in. Beats eating crow.

Bueller? . . . Anyone?

Former D.C. police chief Isaac Fulwood Jr., who’s now chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission at the Justice Department, was struck by President Obama’s speech in July offering reflections on race in the wake of the jury verdict in the Trayvon Martin killing.

So he sent a letter to Obama, whom he’s never really talked to, shortly after that, suggesting that the Justice Department “lead a dialogue with law enforcement about racial profiling.”

He got no response. Not even a robo-signed “thanks for your letter.”

Fulwood wrote a similar letter to Attorney General Eric Holder via Deputy Attorney General James Cole (his point person at Justice) with a similar suggestion, adding: “I look forward to discussing this issue in more depth.”

Same non-response.

He wrote another letter Aug. 21 to Cole, amplifying his proposal and adding that he had “reached out to police chiefs around the country” and listed 10 “who have shown a keen interest in a meeting,” including Raymond Kelly in New York, Robert White in Denver, Washington’s Cathy Lanier and Philadelphia’s Charles Ramsey, Lanier’s predecessor.

Still nothing — though Obama and Holder met two weeks ago with mayors and police chiefs at the White House to discuss relations between black youths and law enforcement.

No, not Stoli

First lady Michelle Obama was at Watertown High School in Watertown, Wis., on Thursday talking to kids about the importance of drinking lots of water.

“We’re here to kick off this amazing campaign called “Drink Up.”

Catchy slogan, but we worry that high school kids may start applying it to things besides water. Still, it’s better than other options that come to mind, such as: “Knock Back a Few,” “Last Call,” “One for the Road,” “Hair of the Dog,” “Tie One On” or “Bottoms Up.”

Shanksville remembered

A number of Loop Fans have called and written about Thursday’s column item on efforts to raise funds to finish the memorial near Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001.

The heroic actions of the plane’s 40 passengers and crew members, who brought down the jet before it could crash into its potential target, the Capitol, saved the lives of many people that morning.

Here’s the address for donations: Honor Flight 93, National Park Foundation, 1201 I St. NW, Suite 550B, Washington, D.C. 20005.

The Web site is

No secrets here

The Edward Snowden revelations and the subsequent uproar over government suveillance programs capturing huge amounts of private information, e-mails and such, have put the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in the spotlight these days.

The PCLOB is an independent federal agency charged with ensuring that government actions taken to stop terrorism are balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties.

So we were delighted to get an invitation to the board’s Oct. 4 public hearing at the Mayflower Hotel, where officials from the executive and judicial branches are to discuss changes to federal intelligence surveillance programs in order to adequately “protect privacy and civil liberties.”

Even better to see that the ­
e-mailed invite displayed the
e-mail addresses of the hundred or so recipients. Of course, most addresses were those of media colleagues and, by definition, pretty useless.

But there were some we were happy to have, especially those for staff members at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Council, the FBI, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department and the Pentagon. Sure saves time.

Well, transparency is also important.

With Emily Heil

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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