John McCaslin

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Actually, Arnett has withdrawn his apology.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."


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.


John McCaslin

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

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