Un-apology

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 04, 2003 12:00 AM

An outraged member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, "I hesitate to even use the term journalist" when referring to Peter Arnett, the veteran war correspondent fired by NBC and National Geographic after he was interviewed on state-run Iraqi television.

"'Traitor' is a better word to describe Mr. Arnett," Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) declared Tuesday (April 1) on the Senate floor.

"Saddam Hussein couldn't have written his script any better," added the senator, recalling that Arnett - with a uniformed Iraqi anchor translating - told the Iraqi people this week that the first U.S. war plan has "failed because of Iraqi resistance."

Arnett, interviewed later on NBC, publicly apologized.

"Mr. Arnett can apologize all he likes for being a 'useful idiot' for Saddam and his barbaric regime," Bunning said, "but that's not enough for me and it's certainly not enough for our soldiers and many Americans."

Actually, Arnett has withdrawn his apology.

Writing for his new, tabloid employer - Britain's Daily Mirror, which opposes the war in Iraq - he said: "I report the truth of what is happening in Baghdad and will not apologize for it."

MEET TIM RUSSERT

On Tuesday (April 1) we recalled legendary Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield's unpoliticianlike penchant for one-word answers to questions - even when he appeared before millions of Americans on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Yep" ... "Nope" ... "Dunno" ... the unassuming Montana Democrat, who died Oct. 5, 2001, at the age of 98, would often reply to frustrated interviewers.

Politicians who followed Mansfield to Capitol Hill now appear before Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," and one way or another, the latter usually gets an answer to his question.

And how might Russert have handled somebody of Mansfield's caliber?

"What I would do in 2003," the no-nonsense Russert tells this column, "is I'd ask a question, and he'd say, 'Yep.'

"And I would say, 'Well, Senator, we asked you that question the last time you were on - and let me show you on our screen, here's a graphic - you said, 'Nope.'

"I would say, 'Is that a conflict in your answer, or is that still your answer?'

"And he'd say, 'Maybe.'"

Russert laughs at such a scenario, adding, "It would be a joy, it would be a wonderful joy" to at least attempt to pry an answer out of Mansfield.

More than 200 members of Congress, diplomats and scholars gathered Wednesday in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress to celebrate the centennial birthday of the former majority leader and U.S. ambassador to Japan.

WORTH TEACHING

Rich Carter is founding partner of Carter & Coleman law firm in suburban Washington. At one time, he was director and professor of the Georgetown University Law Center program D.C. Law Students in Court.

"I saw reference to two of my former law students in the last few weeks," Carter writes to this column. "One was representing a not-altogether-reputable client in a fairly dubious case making tons of money.

"The other was a student who graduated from Georgetown Law who did exceptionally well in my class," he said. "This kid had it all: ability, cool under pressure, charisma. Genuinely nice guy. He could be making a fortune now. When everybody was going to Wall Street firms for the big bucks, he followed his own path.

"I saw him on the news," Carter continued. "Lt. Col. John Ewers, USMC, sitting in Bethesda Naval Hospital, wounded in both arms and foot, itching to get back into a 'righteous' fight.

"Sometimes it is good to have been a teacher."

Ewers, 43, grew up in Bethesda, Md., not far from the National Naval Medical Center, where he's now recovering from three bullet wounds suffered while fighting in Iraq. The Humvee he was driving was ambushed in an attack by rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire. Despite being wounded in both arms, Ewers managed to steer to safety.

He is a military lawyer based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Ewers received a Purple Heart in a hospital ceremony Monday (March 31).

RAINBOW PEOPLE

In true Democratic presidential aspirant fashion, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut seems to be trying to appeal to every shape, size and color.

Although one of the Democratic Party's leading advocates for a strong military defense, Lieberman Wednesday called the Pentagon's request for wholesale exemptions from environmental laws unjustified and harmful.

"The truth is, we can protect our environment and protect our people at the very same time," Lieberman appealed to a Senate panel. "We can defend the red, white and blue - and be green at the same time."

GENEROUS DONATION

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) says he is "overwhelmed" as president of New School University in New York to have received the largest single gift - $7 million - in the 107-year history of the university's Parsons School of Design.

The donation comes from businesswoman, philanthropist and mother-of-two Sheila C. Johnson, of Middleburg, Va., co-founder with former husband Robert Johnson of Black Entertainment Television, sold to Viacom in 1997 for a reported $3 billion.