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Holder’s travel companions


So that’s the bored-schoolboy-in-the-back-of-the-classroom Putin slouch that Obama was talking about. (Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS)
Columnist

The Justice Department has coughed up the names of the aides who accompanied Attorney General Eric Holder on his fine jaunt to New Zealand in May.

Loop fans may recall that we wondered why, in the midst of the Great Sequester, a week-long trip (with a stop in Hawaii) was really essential. The trip was to give a speech at a one-day meeting with attorneys general from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Britain.

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

Holder, as we have written, had a busy travel schedule in the summer of 2012, visiting, among other places, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, Denmark, Germany, Guam, Malaysia, and Singapore. We suspected a New Zealand visit would surely include a stop at the Hobbit Shire. So we asked how many aides he took with him.

But the acting head of public affairs at the time, Nanda Chitre, who was on the trip, rebuffed e-mails asking what other Justice staffers were aboard the attorney general’s comfy jet.

“Going to decline on providing a list,” she e-mailed twice, and she didn’t respond to a request to give any reason for declining.

So, as promised, we filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request to the department, which is the government’s designated enforcement agency for FOIA matters, asking for the list and prompt review.

That expedited review was granted, and we’re happy to be able to report that Holder took seven aides along (not counting his security detail and FBI advance folks).

In addition to Chitre, they were: Holder’s chief of staff, Margaret Richardson, and three legal counselors — Denise Cheung, Molly Moran and Jenny Mosier. So he had lots of legal advice. As would be expected, two lawyers from the criminal division’s office of international affairs, Bruce Swartz and Lystra Blake, also went along. Doesn’t appear there were empty seats.

Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth around here.

A slouching smoking gun

When President Obama last week claimed that Russian President Vladmir Putin carried himself with a “slouch” that made him resemble a truculent schoolboy, the Loop begged to differ.

Slouch? We had never noticed that the former KGB operative had bad posture. If anything, he frequently appears in photos shirtless, with a carriage that’s more strut than stoop.

But we asked Loop fans to send us photographic evidence to the contrary.

We got a few that showed Putin in various poses, but we maintained that none quite constituted a proper slouch.

Ah, but what about the ones snapped of the two leaders meeting while attending the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland in June? Some reports called the confab “almost comically awkward.”

We had to admit the Russian prez looks pretty slouchy. And our colleague Max Fisher agrees. He finds significance in Putin’s body language, which he sees as a product of careful “cost-benefit calculations” by the foreign leader.

So, we stand corrected. Putin is, in fact, an occasional sloucher, though not a habitual one. In either case, perhaps he should practice the old trick of balancing a book on his head to improve his posture.

Might we suggest “The Audacity of Hope”?

Care good, Obama bad?

Conservatives are in a twist over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comment (it’s officially the Loop quote of the week! ) that there are aspects of Obamacare that are maybe, possibly not entirely godawful.

“There are a handful of things in the 2,700-page bill that probably are okay,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview with a Kentucky television station.

That, of course, steps on the GOP party line, which is that everything in the health-care law will set the country on a course to certain death and destruction. Also, socialism.

But here’s an out for McConnell that might get the critics to put away their pitchforks: He can claim that he was just talking about the articles and conjunctions! Those little words — “a,” “an,” “and,” “the” — that couldn’t possibly offend anyone.

The bill includes 1,473 instances of “the” and 849 of “and.” That surely counts as a handful.

You’re welcome, Senator.

Maybe even Leibovich

It would be so very “This Town” of us to tell you about the boldfacers who have already entered the Loop’s latest contest, in which we asked you to finish this sentence “You are so ‘This Town’ if . . . ”

We aren’t saying, though — some of them might be winners.

(The theme was inspired by the Nashville Scene, which has a long-running “You are so Nashville if” contest, as well as by Mark Leibovich’s new book, “This Town.”)

And unlike the kind of exclusive cocktail parties that Leibovich chronicles, the Loop contest is open to one and all.

The entry deadline is midnight Aug. 20. Send your best ideas to intheloop@
washpost.com
. Please include your name, profession, mailing address and phone number.

Remember, winners score highly coveted Loop T-shirts, so please also include your size (M, L or XL).

With Emily Heil

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

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