John McCaslin
Bill Clinton has reportedly told the Harry Walker Agency in New York, which represents the former president on the lecture circuit, that he won't accept questions from his audiences on the subject of presidential pardons. That said, the Walker Agency has informed one group interested in booking the former president for a speech that all questions they wish posed to Clinton be submitted 48 hours in advance. That's according to the head of one firm who inquired about hosting the embattled Clinton for his company's conference. On Tuesday, this column reached Don Walker, president of the Walker Agency. "He's a private citizen, and as such, all matters are private," Walker replied when asked about Clinton refusing to answer questions surrounding his controversial pardons, which are under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York and Congress. Asked about Clinton's frame of mind these days, Walker replied: "Again, since he's a private citizen, I want to keep these matters private." SUB RIDES A reader named Rob rented the World War II submarine thriller "U-571" from his local video store. Just before the feature began, right after the previews, Rob was surprised when a contest appeared on the screen in which lucky winners received rides on a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine. "I wonder if that contest is still valid?" Rob asks, referring to the fallout from last month's collision between the submarine USS Greeneville and a Japanese fishing boat that killed nine men and boys aboard the Japanese ship. The Navy this week convened a court of inquiry into the fatal collision off Pearl Harbor, during which it was revealed that the submarine was at sea only to take civilian visitors for a cruise. "U-571" director Jonathan Mostow told the Washington Times last year that while the U.S. Navy loved his script, it had no equipment to lend or sell for his production. Nor was he offered any free submarine rides, although he did duck into one sub dockside in Connecticut. "I saw this sign offering tours of a World War II American submarine for only $2," he says. "So I bought my ticket." NO CIGAR PEDDLER Unlike his predecessor, who enjoyed playing host at the White House, President Bush won't be spending a whole lot of his free time hanging out in the Oval Office. Rather, Bush will be a frequent visitor to the Maryland presidential retreat at Camp David, while spending other weekends at his ranch outside Crawford, Texas. "He goes up there to relax," says White House spokesman Ari Fleischer of Camp David, where Bush has escaped on two occasions of late. "He views it just as a good chance to get away for the weekend." During one recent visit to Camp David, Bush ran outdoors (he's usually confined to an indoor treadmill at the White House), watched movies and attended church services. "And he'll go to Crawford as often as he can, too," adds Fleischer. "I think you'll see on a regular basis a combination of going to Camp David and going to Crawford on weekends." What's there to do in Crawford? Like President Reagan before him, whose favorite pastime was escaping to his California ranch, Bush has plenty of chores piling up on his 1,550-acre ranch in central Texas, 40 miles west of Waco and 30 miles north of Fort Hood. As for other leisurely activities, the nearby town of Crawford (pop. 670) offers one convenience store, a craft shop, a barbershop and a garage. HEAR ME OUT Who says you can't be Republican and funny at the same time? GOP Rep. Anne M. Northup of Kentucky has just been selected "The Funniest Woman on the Hill," part of the Marshall's Women In Comedy Festival. Renowned comic Paula Poundstone helped select Northup's political joke as the wittiest of all entries from the nation's female lawmakers. A mother of six, Northup's winning joke goes like this: Two politicians are holding a debate when one suddenly shouts, "You're lying." To which the other responds, "I know, but hear me out." Thirteen second-place jokes were submitted by Sens. Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Maria Cantwell, Olympia J. Snowe and Blanche Lincoln; and by Reps. Louise M. Slaughter, Lois Capps, Carrie P. Meek, Deborah Pryce, Barbara Lee, Barbara Cubin, Ellen Tauscher and Constance A. Morella. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who knows the best political joke of them all, didn't enter. COLLECT $200 It's deeply troubling that the Bush White House is pressuring GOP leaders in Congress to back down in their investigations and hearings into President Clinton's pardons, says the Citizens' Investigative Commission (CIC), a branch of the Council of Volunteer Americans. "Especially when more evidence surfaces every day that there was a 'quid pro quo' with Marc Rich and dozens of other felons," points out CIC Executive Officer Scott Lauf. Who is busy this week distributing bright yellow, Monopolylike "Get Out of Jail Free" cards to virtually every congressional office on Capitol Hill, "to serve as a symbolic reminder of Bill Clinton's mocking of the rule of law and his blatant abuse of his presidential pardon power"? These yellow fabrications say: "Clinton Chest: Get Out of Jail Pardon -This card valid only if felon pays $$ to Bill & Hillary Clinton." FLORIDA WAKE A federal review of reported voting irregularities in connection with the Nov. 7 presidential election is the main agenda item of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when it meets at its Washington headquarters this Friday (March 9). In response to widespread accusations of "voter intimidation," the "refusal" of poll workers to provide assistance to voters, and "bungled handling" of voter registration applications and voter lists in Florida, the commission held three days of hearings in Tallahassee and Miami. In addition to taking sworn testimony from over 100 witnesses, including state and county officials and registered voters, the commission subpoenaed voluminous documents from Florida officials. Commission Chairman Mary Frances Berry is expected to issue a statement Friday on the commission's initial findings gleaned from the Tallahassee and Miami hearings. We're told the commission will release an interim report on the Florida voting probe early next month, with a final report due this summer. NICK AND MARY JANE The last time we wrote about Nicholas Thimmesch II, the then-communications director to Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK) was voicing bewilderment that a candlelight vigil was scheduled on the U.S. Capitol Lower Terrace, with the explicit instructions: "Note: NO candles." "What's a candlelight vigil with no candles?" he wondered. Now we're pleased (we think) to report that Thimmesch, son of the late Los Angeles Times Syndicate columnist Nick Thimmesch, has become communications director for NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. This is particularly intriguing, given he began his career in the Reagan White House, served on the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign, ditto on the 1996 Dole-Kemp campaign, and huddled with conservative moralist Bill Bennett at Empower America, among other duties in 15-plus years. And what would Ronald Reagan say if he knew Mr. Thimmesch was peddling marijuana decriminalization? "I think the Gipper was always for people following their hearts and voting with their feet, and by coming to NORML I'm adhering to the Reagan dictum of voting with my feet," says Thimmesch, who says he's delighted with the election victory of George W. Bush. "More than anything, I hope to open dialogue between traditional conservatives and the drug reform movement in this country," Thimmesch says, adding he could "no longer idly sit on the sidelines while the nearly 30-year so-called 'war on drugs' continues to devastate American freedoms and constitutionally guaranteed rights. "For too long it's been libertarian Republicans who've gone to bat on this issue. I think the more traditional conservatives and Republicans look at the cost effectiveness of the drug war, the damage to our civil rights, the essence of freedom that this is all about, the more they will be convinced they should change their policies."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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