- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Mouths of babes

Nathan Mailliard and Kristina Myers, both of Sharon, Pa., hoped to witness the historic ratification of presidential electoral votes by the House and Senate over the weekend.

Unfortunately, the 7-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl were denied entry into the press gallery that overlooked the proceedings. They were told by congressional officials it was "a working-press gallery" that couldn't be disturbed.

Young Nathan then peered through the glass doors where the reporters were seated and responded with all the candor only a youngster could muster: "I don't see anyone working."

Calling on Colin

Headquarters staff at the State Department has been handed a two-page "SOS" by fellow "concerned professionals" of the department.

"The unfortunate reality," reads the SOS, "is that the Department of State is ill-equipped and ill-prepared to meet the foreign-policy challenges of the 21st century. Outdated procedures and chronic resource shortages have taken their toll. The organizational structure is dysfunctional, its staff is overextended and many of its embassy buildings are crumbling."

In fact, this column previously revealed that being U.S. ambassador to some far-off exotic country isn't the plum post most might dream about.

"Let me put a human face on this," Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, said during a debate in the 105th Congress to earmark federal dollars for repair of U.S. embassies around the world.

Mr. Hastings cited one "leaking and dilapidated" U.S. embassy after another, from China to Angola, where "morale is low" and hot water and electricity "is off more than it is on."

Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, said he'd led one congressional delegation to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where they found a leaking roof and poor plumbing and electricity "a woefully inadequate facility."

That's nothing, added Mr. Hastings, who accompanied one congressional delegation to Angola, only to discover a body left to rot outside of the U.S. Embassy.

"Here we have a dilapidated structure, again, with our ambassador living in it," said the congressman, "with potable water being a difficulty."

Which can lead to?

"That ambassador having had malaria seven times," Mr. Hastings disclosed.

The SOS distributed at headquarters last week, in advance of the arrival of Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, warns that "armed conflict often begins when diplomacy fails."

"Our embassies, in fact, constitute the country's first line of defense," the SOS reads.

New posts

Speaking of ambassadors, we're told Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is soon to become counselor at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. He'll write for the independent think tank on the relationship between the United States and the United Nations.

And a former ambassador in the Reagan administration, Kenneth Adelman has joined Edelman Public Relations Worldwide in Washington, where he teams up with former Reagan Deputy Chief of Staff Michael K. Deaver, currently Edelman's vice chairman.

Ritzy rattlesnake

Washington waitresses serving rattlesnake nachos? Hotel doormen wearing Stetson hats?

Step aside, Bubba. Make way for George W. Bush.

Inside the Beltway has ducked into one of this city's premier hotels, the new Ritz-Carlton Washington, to check on preparations for the 2001 Inaugural.

"We have been sold out for Inauguration 2001 long before anyone ever heard of butterfly ballots or dangling chads," says General Manager James McBride. "Our waiting list numbers over 100 and is growing longer every day."

Mr. McBride is busy putting the final touches on some very special purchases, including $65,000 in prime Texas beef, $36,000 worth of Maine lobster and $10,000 worth of imported caviar.

In addition, 35 cases of Dom Perignon and Cristal Champagne have been ordered for private parties celebrating the Republican Party's return to the White House. And nightly turndown amenities will include gourmet peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, the president-elect's favorite snack.

And yes, you'll find Ritz doormen clad in Stetson hats, showing the way to a Lone Star State bar menu that includes Texas chili and cornbread, and nachos made with genuine rattlesnake.

What about yellow roses?

"More than $10,000 worth of roses, [the] symbol of Texas, are being flown in," we're told, plus "as guests come in … they will enjoy live piano music in the lobby, with a repertoire of songs including 'The Yellow Rose of Texas,' 'Don't Fence Me In,' 'Streets of Laredo'and 'Happy Days are Here Again.' "

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