John McCaslin

U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch is awfully proud of his Florida Marlins, so much so that he has stepped onto the floor of the House to observe that at the beginning of the 2003 baseball season his team was not expected to be a factor in the postseason, let alone batting against the New York Yankees in the World Series.

"Underestimated, overlooked and ignored, the Marlins proceeded through the dog days of summer and down the stretch with courage and grit, and finishing the season with the best record in Major League Baseball since May," boasts the Florida Democrat, who Yankees fans might be interested in knowing was born in the Bronx.


Top constitutional law scholars and political scientists will huddle in the Senate Judiciary Committee room all day next Monday to weigh the unfathomable: A nuclear device in Washington kills the president, vice president and everyone in the line of succession.

Along with members of Congress, the analysts will seek to determine whether the current system of presidential succession is adequate for the post-September 11 world - and if not investigate reforms to the system.

For example, one of the less pressing questions in the wake of any nightmare scenario, yet one to be considered by the scholars, is whether the presidency suddenly could switch parties if needed?

The Oct. 27 congressional panel was put together by the Continuity of Government Commission, its members including former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; former Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming; former Clinton White House officials Lloyd N. Cutler, Leon Panetta and Donna E. Shalala; former House Speakers Newt Gingrich and Thomas S. Foley; and Kweisi Mfume, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


We shook our heads in disbelief when Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Christopher Cox cited one reason he's calling for legislative improvements to the grant funding process to first responders in times of crisis.

The California Republican noted that today's grant procedure is outdated and too "cumbersome," resulting in funding for first responders "getting trapped in the pipeline," or else being funneled to the wrong places.

Can you provide an example?

"In Massachusetts, the Steamship Authority, which runs ferries to the resort island of Martha's Vineyard, and one of the vineyard's harbors were awarded $900,000 to upgrade port security," the chairman notes.

"Oak Bluff's harbor master told the Vineyard Gazette newspaper, 'Quite honestly, I don't know what we're going to do, but you don't turn down grant money.'"


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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