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Senators send John Kerry some love


If he does say so himself, Sen. John Kerry has an impressive record.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved an over-the-top resolution honoring the Massachusetts Democrat. It also voted out of committee his nomination to be secretary of state, and just hours later the full Senate voted to confirm Kerry.

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

The resolution describes Kerry in glowing terms, praising “everything but his strong jawline,” as one amused reader put it (though perhaps a follow-up resolution could take care of that omission).

In an odd wrinkle, the resolution was touted in a news release from the committee, which Kerry still technically chaired at the time (New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez is taking over the gavel).

A sample of the resolution’s effusive prose: “honor, conviction and a sense of civility,” “great skill,” “patience, fair-mindedness and tenacity.” And let’s not forget: “a voice of courage and conscience” and “uncommon passion and commitment.”

On official business: a look at Secretary of State travel

It places him, too, in no less august company than John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Sherman.

Vatican, too

A recent Loop item noted that outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, despite a record number of countries visited, was one of only two secretaries since Richard Nixon’s administration not to visit the Vatican — along with Warren Christopher .

We were relying on the official records compiled by the State Department historian’s office.

But some former top aides to Christopher insist the records are wrong, and they are pretty sure they were at the Vatican with Pope John Paul II, President Bill Clinton and Christopher.

Well, let’s see.

The historian’s records say Christopher “accompanied President Clinton to meetings with Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Scalfaro, and senior Italian officials.” He was in Rome and the resort town of Nettuno in June 1994, the record says.

No mention of the Vatican or the pope.

We asked The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, about this. He unearthed a briefing transcript in which Ray Flynn, as Clinton’s ambassador to the Vatican, introduces Christopher by saying that “if only he looked like Gregory Peck, he’d be the greatest public official in America” and notes that they met on that June 2 with the Vatican’s secretary of state.

Flynn told us via e-mail that Christopher was at the Vatican. In addition, Flynn has a picture on Page 110 of his 2001 book on John Paul II of a gathering at the Vatican with John Paul II, Clinton, Flynn and, yes, Christopher.

So the column should have said that Clinton is the only secretary of state since Nixon’s first secretary of state, William Rogers, to bypass the Holy See.

Exterior department

An Interior Department official whose official travel and other conduct was being investigated has resigned.

Tony Babauta , the assistant secretary for insular affairs, is leaving the agency Feb. 1, a spokesman tells the Loop, though Babauta has been on administrative leave since Nov. 17 while the investigation was pending.

President Obama named Babauta, a native of Guam, to the position in 2009. He was tasked with overseeing U.S. territories including Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Interior’s inspector general reportedly was looking into Babauta’s travels as well as grants awarded by his office.

His attorney responded to the Loop’s request for comment by sending his client’s resignation letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in which Babauta defended his record, saying that he thought he had “improved” the office he ran and that his work had “benefitted my island brothers and sisters.”

He also urged Salazar to maintain the practice of having a presidential appointee serve in the position he was vacating. Before he was named to the job, a “lower-level” official had run the office of insular affairs, he noted.

Babauta’s job is being filled by Eileen Sobeck, the acting deputy assistant secretary.

In transit

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, an Obama favorite and, at least for now, the only Republican in the Cabinet, said Tuesday that he will leave the administration as soon as a successor is confirmed.

The news was not unexpected. LaHood has always been uncertain about what he wanted to do. He indicated in 2011 that he was leaving at the end of the first term but then seemed to hedge.

Earlier this month, when a White House official listed some of the Cabinet members who were staying, LaHood, a former seven-term member of Congress, was not on the list.

With Emily Heil

The blog: Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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