John McCaslin
CHENEY, ET AL Regarding our lengthy item this week on the "worth" of U.S. vice presidents, reader Steve Hoffman of Mesa Communications Group noticed our quotes all came from vice presidents of 50 years ago or more. "Although the office languished in humorous obscurity for almost 175 years, the role of vice president has certainly changed in the last 30 years," Hoffman notes. "Ronald Reagan may have been the first modern president to really try to execute policy and foster American interests with the use of the vice president, George Bush Sr. Bush was by far more experienced in foreign affairs ... and Reagan used him in policy matters quite often in that historical setting. "Bill Clinton used Al Gore a lot, and there was a slight co-presidency, especially in Bill Clinton's first term. Heck, if not Gore, then Hillary Clinton made an interesting co-president." Today, he concludes, "there is little doubt that President George W. Bush received a lot of help from Dick Cheney. Whether that is good or bad is an opinion, but certainly it is obvious that the office of vice president has grown in influence and power since the early 1980s." Zach McEntyre, of the University of Georgia's political science and history departments, says we plain forgot about former President Jimmy Carter and "the first vice president to exercise real authority in the modern sense," Walter Mondale. "When Jimmy Carter was elected, he came to Washington with no prior experience as a national figure, in foreign policy or otherwise, and very little legislative background. He entrusted Mondale, the former senator, with vast responsibilities previously unthinkable for a vice president," McEntyre notes. "Such a departure from historic norms was especially notable in the wake of a string of unhappy relationships, i.e. Kennedy-Johnson, Johnson-Humphrey, Nixon-Agnew, Ford-Rockefeller. Since Carter, every succeeding president -- with the obvious exception of Bush Sr. with Quayle -- has treated his second-in-command as just that." SPY STUFF Former FBI and CIA Director William Webster was spotted huddling in Washington this week with one-time Soviet KGB chief Oleg Kalugin. Not to worry. Turns out the International Spy Museum's advisory board was holding its first official meeting; among its retired spooks are agents Webster and Kalugin. The one-of-a-kind museum opens next spring at 800 F St. NW, housing the largest permanent exhibition in the world dedicated to espionage. Read famous and infamous spies, master deceptions and intelligence operations that changed the course of history, and espionage artifacts that include the legendary German cipher machine Enigma, secret KGB cameras and OSS sabotage weapons. Even modern-day spies might like to "drop" by the museum. "This museum will address the history of the international intelligence community through an intellectual and exciting approach that former and current agents alike will find appealing," says Kalugin, the KGB's former chief of counterintelligence. The museum's founder is Milton Maltz, a former intelligence analyst attached to the National Security Agency. LOBBY WATCH Being a free-trader isn't easy, especially in the digital age. Corporate America's lobbyists gathered at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center to tout President Bush's plan to win the authority from Congress to negotiate new free-trade agreements. The problem: so did a youthful operative from the anti-globalization movement. The young man, whose name remains a mystery, forged his own press packet, which included e-mail addresses for all the lobbyists who have formed an ad hoc coalition dubbed "USTrade" to push for what the Bush administration is calling "trade-promotion authority." The result has been some unflattering missives aimed at such giants of the American economy as Eastman Kodak, Caterpillar, Proctor &Gamble and Ford Motor Co. "We are watching you, and will not stand by as you seek to manipulate all that is free and just about our world for your own greedy purposes," one protester wrote from Milwaukee. Bush wants trade-promotion authority by the end of the year. The lobbyists hope it happens before their in-boxes overflow. TITLE NOT WON More than 40 congressmen are co-sponsoring legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to a convicted draft evader. "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong," replied world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali after the Vietnam draft call was expanded and he was reclassified 1A, eligible for military service. Says Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.): "It may have been a spontaneous remark, but he stuck by his word with courage, conviction and stood out against the conflict in Vietnam." "Perhaps Ali's greatest testament," she adds, "was the only fight in which he declined to participate." Ali was convicted of draft evasion 34 years ago this month. He was recently ranked among the top 20 heroes and icons of the 20th century. SAY WHAT? Never trust a politician, warns one politician. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the senior West Virginia Democrat who counts "at least 10 different presidents" he's dealt with, remembers one presidential nominee trying to explain his way out of one mess: "I didn't say that I didn't say it; I said that I didn't say that I said it. Let me be clear. I didn't say that I didn't say it; I said that I didn't say that I said it.

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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