'Crash babe' Hersman eyed for Transportation

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Deborah Hersman, the National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman dubbed by some insiders as the "crash babe" for her stylish appearance at press conferences like the ones following the fatal Metrorail collision in 2009, is on the list of those President Obama is considering as his next transportation secretary, according to sources.

With a savvy eye for communications and investigations, Hersman has pushed herself onto a list that was led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa until he recently withdrew his name.

Hersman, who would help the president fight charges his Cabinet is too male, has the support of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which will confirm the replacement for outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Administration officials said Hersman is actively seeking the position, irking some inside the White House. "That might backfire," said one insider.

Hersman's spokesperson, Kelly Nantel, however, said, "Chairman Hersman's full attention is focused on the important work of running the NTSB."

She's an obvious choice for the post because she shares many of her initiatives with LaHood, such as her focus on distracted driving. She is currently leading the probe into battery fires on the new Boeing 787.

Hersman has made a name for herself and her agency at press conferences called to address major transportation disasters, such as plane crashes. Always fashionable, she has also projected an image of toughness. The Daily Beast dubbed her "Aviation's Iron Lady."

Pakistan calls drone strikes 'red line' US can't cross

Pakistan's ambassador to the United States on Tuesday blasted the President Obama's use of drone strikes against terror targets in her country, calling it a "red line" that the administration should not cross.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, said drone strikes are hampering relations between Washington and Islamabad and whipping up anti-Americanism, which "creates more potential terrorists on the ground and militants on the ground instead of taking them out." She added: "We need to drain the swamp, but instead it is radicalizing people."

Rehman also slapped down the Academy Award-nominated movie "Zero Dark Thirty," about the CIA's long search and killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as "very zero, very dark."

Her comments about drones come as President Obama is relying more and more on drones, especially as he continues a drawdown of U.S. troops in Pakistan's neighbor, Afghanistan. Obama wants troops out by the end of next year.

Rehman said Pakistan isn't talking out of both sides of its mouth on the drone issue: slamming them in public but in private encouraging U.S. strikes against targets her government can't find. "There is no question of any quiet complicity, no question of wink and nod," she said. This is a parliamentary red line."

During a media breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, she also praised incoming Secretary of State John Kerry as somebody who "brings experience and knowledge" of her country to the table.

Study: Network stories back gun control 8-to-1; CBS 22-to-1

There's no doubt where network news comes down on the gun control debate. A new study of stories pro- and anti-gun control since the December Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., the pro- stories have outnumbered the anti- by 8-to-1.

According to the study from the conservative Media Research Center provided to Secrets, CBS led the way, with a 22-to-1 ratio of stories favoring gun control over those that don't. At ABC, the ratio was 6-to-1; at NBC, it was 5-to-1.

The media watchdog analyzed 216 gun policy stories on the three networks since the Newtown shootings. The stories appeared on the network morning and evening news shows.

Paul Bedard, The Examiner's Washington Secrets columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears each weekday in the Politics section and on washingtonexaminer.com.