The Cable

Secretaries of state defend Berman against Sherman

Secretaries of state from both political parties weighed in today on the heated congressional race between Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA), defending Berman's overseas travel while he was the chairman and now ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"During Howard Berman's 30 years in Congress, he has taken 163 junkets and missed 1 out of every 12 votes cast," reads a mailer Sherman sent out to residents of the newly created congressional district that he and Berman are competing to represent following a June open primary when they finished first and second, respectively. "Howard Berman has one of the worst attendance records in Congress."

Another flier says that Berman missed 1,380 votes over those years and lists some of the votes his missed. A third flier criticizes Berman for using taxpayer money to upgrade plane tickets to first class and using taxpayer money to pay to lease and fuel up a personal car.

"Just about no one in Congress takes more luxury junkets than Howard Berman," one mailer reads.

The Sherman campaign is playing upon a popular theme this year of criticizing lawmakers who have senior foreign-policy posts for devoting time and effort to that responsibility, allegedly at the expense of their own constituents. The tactic was used earlier this year in the primary defeat of Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN).

But according to Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and George Shultz, Sherman is not being honest with Californians about the trips.

"As former Secretaries of State for Presidents Reagan and Clinton, we want to set the record straight on Congressman Howard Berman's overseas travel during his service in the U.S. House of Representatives," they wrote in a letter Thursday. "In so doing, we urge you to reject Rep. Brad Sherman's misleading campaign tactics around this subject and hope that voters in the 30th Congressional district will instead appreciate, as we do, the tremendous service that Howard Berman has done for his constituents and for all Americans during his public career."

Sherman is underestimating the voters by demonizing the trips, which are necessary and in the national interest, they wrote:

"When Rep. Berman has traveled, he has done so in service to our nation's security and best interests. As Chairman and now the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he has worked closely with both Republican and Democratic colleagues and administrations to keep America strong and the American people safe," wrote Albright and Shultz. "And take it from us -- to do that effectively, international travel is required.... Nothing could be more misleading, in this global era, than to suggest that members of Congress should not travel when there is important work to be accomplished."

Sherman has only taken three overseas trips during his 16 years in Congress, according to his campaign's literature. Sherman's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Albright-Shultz letter.

The Cable

State Dept. names new top diplomat in Libya

The State Department sent Laurence Pope to be the new chargé d'affairs in Libya following the death of Amb. Chris Stevens on Sept. 11. Pope arrived in Tripoli today, the State Department announced.

"Mr. Pope's selection as Chargé d' Affairs emphasizes the commitment of the United States to the relationship between our two countries and to the people of Libya as they move forward in their transition to a democratic government. We will continue to assist as Libya builds democratic institutions and broad respect for the rule of law -- the goals that Ambassador Stevens worked hard to achieve," State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

"Chargé Pope looks forward to working with the Libyan government and the Libyan people during this historic and challenging time, as we build strong economic, social, political, and educational bridges between our two people."

Pope served as a Foreign Service officer from 1969-2000, retiring at the rank of minister counselor after having held a number of senior posts in the State Department. He was the director for Northern Gulf affairs (1987-1990), associate director counterterrorism (1991-1993), U.S. ambassador to Chad (1993-1996), and political advisor to the head of United States Central Command (1997-2000).

In 2000, President Bill Clinton nominated Pope as ambassador to Kuwait, but as the Diplopundit blog pointed out today, his confirmation was derailed by then-senator Jesse Helms. Pope wrote about the controversy a year later, and placed the blame on Helms staffer Danielle Pletka, now the vice president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Pletka was angry at Gen. Anthony Zinni for opposing the arming of the Iraqi opposition in the 1990s, after Zinni warned about a "Bay of Goats" in congressional testimony. Pope, who was Zinni's top civilian advisor at the time, wrote that Pletka wanted him to disavow Zinni's comments, which he refused to do. The Senate never acted on his nomination and he resigned from the Foreign Service.

"I don't believe for a second that career officers should be given an automatic pass when they come up for [Senate] confirmation," Pope wrote. "But it's clearly wrong to reject a nominee without giving him or her the opportunity to rebut a whispering campaign, and it is particularly damaging in an institutional sense to hold career officers to account for loyal service."