The Washington Post

Inside the Beltway, being sanctioned by Putin has its benefits; Hillary Clinton’s good taste

House Speaker John Boehner’s office says he’s “proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against [Vladimir] Putin’s aggression.” (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Like getting picked last for the playground kickball game, U.S. officials who were not chosen for Russian sanctions must be feeling pretty slighted. After all, if Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, then getting on the list is like being named one of People magazine’s “most beautiful.”

Many of the nine who were sanctioned quickly sent out responses, as did some Russians on President Obama’s sanctioned list, who tweeted that they weren’t affected because they don’t have assets abroad.

House Speaker John Boehner’s office quickly sent word that he’s “proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against [Vladimir] Putin’s aggression.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lamented, “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen.”

Curiously, White House aides, including deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, are on the list, but not national security adviser Susan Rice. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is on the list but not his equally worthy House counterpart Ed Royce (R-Calif.). Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is on the list, which is probably worth a five-point uptick in the polls in her reelection battle.

Can’t help but wonder whether the exclusions are creating a bit of “sanctions envy” on the Potomac.

At first glance, the Obama and Putin lists of aides and lawmakers might seem parallel. Russian business oligarchs such as billionaires Mikhail Fridman and German Khan are not listed on ours, U.S. executives such as Google chief executive Larry Page or hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer are not on theirs.

Still, although the lists may appear roughly proportional in focusing on government officials, let’s not forget that neo-Soviet Russia is a kleptocracy. Washington has nothing even close to comparable.

Name that memoir

It’s confirmed. Hillary Rodham Clinton is an official Loop fan.

The former secretary of state opened a speech Wednesday to the Association of American Publishers by sharing her favorite submissions from a Loop contest that asked readers to help her name her forthcoming memoir, reports our on-the-ground colleague Philip Rucker.

Clinton told the publishers group meeting in New York that she was still mulling over a title, and has turned to the Loop for guidance.

“Helpfully, about a year ago, The Washington Post asked readers to send in suggestions. For example, one possibility was, ‘It Takes a World,’ a fitting sequel to, ‘It Takes a Village.’ Another plays off my love of all things Tina Fey: “Bossy Pantsuit,” although we can no longer say one of those words. ‘The Scrunchie Chronicles: 112 Countries and It’s Still All About My Hair.’ That actually is a keeper; that’s on the shortlist,” she said.

We suspect Clinton will be making many more speeches and will need more laugh lines, so we’re re-opening the contest!

Send your suggestions to: Subject line: Hillarycontest. The top five winners will receive an official — and highly coveted — “In the Loop” T-shirt.

Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner. You must also include a phone number — home, work or, preferably, cell — to be eligible. Deadline is April 4.

Act now on Obamacare

Reminder: Don’t forget to enter the Loop Obamacare Enrollment Contest! Simply guess how many people who will enroll by the March 31 deadline. The 10 entries closest to the number will win a Loop T-shirt.

The White House originally had hoped for 7 million enrollees. On Monday, it said there were more than 5 million. And officials are making a last push.

Send your entry — one prediction per person — by noon March 28 to Subject line: Obamacare.

Include your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL) as well as a phone number — home, work or, preferably, cell — to be eligible.

(Obama administration and congressional employees may enter “on background.”)

Marathon, not a sprint

Among the thousands who will run the Boston Marathon for the first time next month in honor of last year’s bombing victims will be Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States.

His challenge, he said in a recent speech, is to keep the United States interested in Iraq’s welfare.

“What you have here in the United States, which some people have been calling the Iraq fatigue-ness, does not apply in Iraq,” Faily said during a talk at American University in February. “We don’t have U.S. fatigue-ness in Iraq.” Iraqis want “a strong and long-term healthy relationship with the United States.”

“The ambassador was keen to run a marathon this year and given Iraq’s experience with terrorism, the Boston Marathon was seen as a timely opportunity to show solidarity with victims from both our countries,” embassy spokesman Ali Al-Mawlawi told us.

Faily ran two marathons in Tokyo when he was ambassador there. Boston on April 21 will be his first in this country since he arrived about nine months ago.

Spring break

Springtime is apparently strike time for Israel’s foreign service.

As they did around this time last year, Israeli embassies worldwide went on strike over an ongoing (and apparently going nowhere) labor dispute in Israel. Diplomats contend, among other things, that they are not paid enough.

So, since March 3, diplomats have ceased most consular operations.

If you’re an Israeli visiting the United States and have lost your passport, you’re not going home anytime soon.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to pay the White House another visit, he won’t have his embassy to help facilitate.

Embassy strikes are fairly unusual, although the Israelis struck for several months last year. And the Canadians also shut down their foreign operations over wages a year ago.

A Jerusalem Post editorial this week, citing security risks facing Israelis abroad, urged the government to treat its foreign service folks more fairly.

With Colby Itkowitz

The blog:


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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