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Patriotism conquers true love


It’s said that true love conquers all. But it’s becoming clear that love can’t stand up to true patriotism.

Earlier this month, former House speaker and likely presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said that his exhaustion from working so hard for America eventually led him to cheat on his second wife.

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

This week, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said he and his wife, Sandra Torres, are divorcing as a “real sacrifice” for the good of their country.

Seems Torres wants to run to succeed her husband, and Guatemala’s constitution bars relatives of the president from running for that office. So Colom, 59, and Torres, 51, who’ve been married eight years, filed for divorce by “mutual agreement” on March 11 and their union could be over by the end of this month, CNN reported.

“We are making a real sacrifice,” Colom told Mexico’s Televisa this week, “and it will be a real divorce, with physical separation.” (No, we’re not going there.)

Torres reportedly said that the couple’s relationship is “excellent,” but that she is running “for the people, for my country, for the elderly, children, disabled, abandoned, orphaned, for all the needy of Guatemala.”

Well, if you put it that way, guess it would be selfish not to divorce him.

Naturally, the opposition promptly denounced the divorce as a ploy, a fraud, an insult to the institution of marriage, etc., noting that the two could remarry after September’s elections. But maybe not. If she loses, he could move on. If she wins, she might consider her options.

Asked about a post-electoral reunion, Colom said: “Only God knows.”

And as former presidential candidate John Edwards showed, presidential campaigns can be exhausting, even mind-numbing.

Pounds foolish?

The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, not exactly flush with cash these days, have come under fire of late for what looks like extending a helping hand to the beleaguered BBC, which is facing a cut of about 16 percent under the British government’s budget-slashing initiative.

USAID, for example, has given the BBC a $4.5 million grant over three years for media training in Nigeria.

Seemed a most curious move to folks on this side of the pond — and probably to some in Nigeria as well, because Voice of America has a fine training program over there and a listenership comparable to the BBC’s.

(And, although it may be churlish to do so, we can’t help but note that there’s plenty of lingering unhappiness in Lagos about the “colonial legacy” there, meaning the bad effects of 60 years of British rule — an unhappiness not directed at Washington.)

A USAID spokesman says there’s more to the deal than critics allege, noting that the aim is for the agency to “leverage its resources to get more bang for the buck,” by joining that $4.5 million with $10.7 million from the BBC in media-strengthening efforts.

There also had been some talk recently of a $300,000 State Department grant to the BBC for broadcasting efforts in Burma — although that may have not gone through. Also, the Guardian newspaper reported over the weekend on a State Department move to give the BBC some money, in “the low six figures,” to fight television and Internet jamming in places such as Iran and China.

So why not give the money to U.S. organizations? Is it that fancy accent?

Group may get new voice

Speaking of broadcasting matters, when last we checked in on David Ensor, in December 2009, the longtime national security correspondent for CNN was in London working as an executive vice president for communications at Mercuria Energy Group in London. He was getting ready to move to Kabul to run the public affairs operation at the embassy.

Ensor had also worked for National Public Radio and covered the White House and the State Department for ABC News before heading to CNN.

The buzz now is that he may be coming back to Washington for a safer — although perhaps only marginally so — job as head of the Voice of America.

Hey! Maybe with those British connections he could get some funding from London for VOA operations overseas?

Missile misery

The Missile Defense Agency has been abuzz of late over rumors that the agency’s director, Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, might be announcing his departure after 21 / 2 years in the top job and a deputyship before that.

This round of such rumors — they pop up from time to time — was sparked by a March 10 e-mail invitation to a “mandatory All-Hands meeting” Monday afternoon to “discuss our accomplishments” and to update on unspecified “organizational leadership changes.”

Only natural that folks at the MDA — ranked 223 out of 224 smaller federal government operations in a “Best Places to Work” survey last fall by the Partnership for Public Service — might jump to conclusions. (The ratings of MDA senior leadership also were pretty dismal.)

But we’re told that the “organizational changes” refer to lower-ranking personnel. Also, folks at the Pentagon say they understand that O’Reilly may be “demanding,” but the senior folks think he’s doing a “very good job,” one official there said.

O’Reilly’s tour as director will end this year, the official said, but it’s “quite likely he will be extended” as the search for a successor proceeds.

Well, things could be worse. The Office of Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education came in 224th in the survey.


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