John McCaslin
PEOPLE'S HOUSE? President Bush's White House is departing from tradition and severely cutting back on the number of visitors allowed on public tours of the White House. So charges Bill Appell, director of Annapolis-based Tech Tours, who adds that while closing the line early to the public, the White House opens the gates to preferred groups after hours. "Historically," he said, "and I've been going in as a tour guide since the Reagan administration, the White House public tour is from 10 a.m. to noon. As long as you were in line by noon you would be assured of a tour. Not so now." Starting this week, the ticket system in use during the peak visitor season begins. Historically, the White House has allowed 15 tour groups each day, with 300 tickets issued to each. "This year they are planning on having only nine," he said, doubting Bush has any idea this is happening. "Bush the elder's administration was the best for keeping the house open," he said, referring to former President George Bush. "He even introduced visiting heads of state to the tourists," adds Appell, showing us a photo of former President Bush introducing Appell's tour group to the president of Kazakhstan. "He never closed early. Hopefully, he will have a talk with his son the president." MAN OF HIS TIME J. Edgar Hoover has been "vilified and misrepresented" by detractors ever since his death, the retired head of the FBI's intelligence division, former Assistant Director Ray Wannall, writes in his new book, "The Real J. Edgar Hoover: For The Record." Responsible for FBI operations in intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, security and espionage during his 34 years with the bureau, Wannall tells this column he wrote the book for his son and daughter, who "admired and respected the director, as did their mother and father." "They have been much reassured about the real J. Edgar Hoover by the portrait I have been able to paint of him," says Wannall, who became a familiar face in Washington as the FBI's chief witness before congressional committees. His Turner Publishing Co. portrait of Hoover is a deeply intimate one, filled with anecdotes revealing Hoover's personal side, including on the issue of race. Valeria "Val" B. Stewart, the former head nurse in the FBI's health office, recalls when Hoover's bodyguard and chauffeur, agent James E. Crawford, remarked: "I'm so tired of people saying that Mr. Hoover discriminates against the blacks. "When we would stop for dinner at a restaurant, Mr. Hoover was frequently told they would not serve me," Crawford said. "He would say, 'We won't eat here either,' and he and whoever was with him would leave and eat at a place that would serve all of us." A far cry, Wannall says, from the writings of respected journalists such as Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, singled out in the book for carrying out "what might best be described as a personal vendetta against the director's reputation." "Since his death in 1972, the elite media of the United States have often sifted the facts regarding his stewardship of the FBI through their own ideological sieve and created a climate which has popularized the sport of vilifying him," Wannall writes, "with hardly an outcropping of truth, conscience or integrity." Another well-known retired FBI assistant director, Cartha D. "Deke" DeLoach, who spoke with the director almost every day, says in the book he never heard Hoover utter a single racial epithet or say anything that suggested he regarded any minority with contempt. "For a man of his time," says DeLoach, "he was remarkably free of such prejudices." BRING ON THE PORK The U.S. senator most often criticized for taking home more than his share of bacon to his impoverished constituents is making no apologies after the latest wave of congressional pork attacks. "I have no apologies to make for serving my people," says Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), just days after Citizens Against Government Waste issued its 2001 congressional pork list. "I know who sends me here," says Byrd. "I grew up in West Virginia when we had only four miles of divided four-lane highway in the whole state. This money, so called 'pork,' doesn't go overseas. It goes to help people in West Virginia - their schools, their highways on which to get to work or just to go to the grocery store or go to the schools or to the doctor or to the hospital. "Those highways I helped to build with that kind of 'pork' have saved a lot of lives. It is much safer to drive on those highways in West Virginia than down through the curves and hollows and along the deep ravines where one can't see up ahead beyond that next curve," says the one-time Senate majority leader. "I know West Virginia, and what is one man's pork is another man's job." TRAIN HAS SAILED The press has been fierce in its criticism of President Bush's occasional solecisms and grammatical misdemeanors, although those of us covering the president can be just as prone to such a lapse. Take MSNBC's David Gregory, hammering Bush Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan at a recent White House briefing: "What message do you think it sends that the president says he wants a campaign finance bill, but to get it, he's going to back another horse in the fight?" HILLARY BAN A bill has been introduced in Congress - among its co-sponsors Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin - that could one day be dubbed the "Hillary Ban." For now, the "Members-elect Gift Ban Application Act of 2001," referred to the Rules Committee, would impose gift rules on Senate and House members-elect before they take the oath of office. "The purpose of that is to stop a future Hillary Clinton from escaping the restrictions on giving gifts to members of Congress between the election and the time when members of Congress are sworn in," Sensenbrenner told The Washington Times. "I was appalled but not surprised at all the types of gifts that were showered on the new senator from New York before the restrictions kicked in, and that was using the loophole in the law for personal benefit," the congressman said. Ethics rules banning gifts are in place for sworn senators, each designed to protect the public from conflict of interest and influence-peddling by wealthy business interests. Now that she's a senator, the rules bar both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband from accepting individual gifts worth $50 or more, or a total value of $100 from a single source. The rules also preclude lavish dinners and expensive weekends with those wishing to curry favors. A far cry from last year, when Mr. and Mrs. Clinton set a record for accepting almost $200,000 in gifts, according to the couple's financial-disclosure statement released in January. By comparison, former President George Bush received $52,853 in gifts in 1992. To quell the swirl of impropriety charges, Mrs. Clinton last month agreed that she and her husband would pay for half -nearly $86,000 - of the gifts they chose to keep. Among the more controversial gifts to the Clintons: two coffee tables and two chairs worth almost $7,500 from Denise Rich, whose fugitive billionaire ex-husband won a last-minute pardon from former President Clinton. The most ironic gift of all, however, came from insurance magnate Walter Kaye, the man who recommended Monica Lewinsky for a White House job. Kaye presented the Clintons with, among other gifts, a cigar humidor. HARLEM GLOBETROTTER How did Bill Clinton weather his impeachment? He left Dodge. Like his scandalized predecessor, Richard Nixon, President Clinton reached the peak of his travel abroad during the year of his impeachment, according to a detailed review by the National Taxpayers Union. All told, in eight years in office, Clinton made more visits to more nations - a record 133 -than former Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon combined, and almost as many as former Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush combined. His biggest travel year was during his impeachment in 1998, including the infamous $43 million trek to Africa. The cost of all his travels is estimated to have exceeded half a billion dollars. The 229 days Clinton spent abroad is also a new high.

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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