John McCaslin

We doubt it, given the record $374 billion deficit in fiscal 2003, and projected $480 billion deficit in fiscal 2004. Coming soon: more splashy introductions for the new $50 and $100 bills.


Apart from the popularity of the candidate himself, a Northern Virginia auto dealer is responsible for Howard Dean's tremendous fund-raising success.

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr., when not selling Volvos and Land Rovers, is busy traversing the nation as Dean's national campaign-finance chairman. During recent weeks alone, Beyer's efforts have helped generate $15 million for the campaign.

Beyer says he's known the former Vermont governor since both were lieutenant governors of their respective states. What impresses him most is Dean's ability to balance a budget, which he accomplished in his state for 11 consecutive years.


One U.S. senator finds it unacceptable that Osama bin Laden has not been captured.

Noting that bin Laden vowed again this week to launch suicide attacks against Americans, Sen. Kent Conrad says, "Frankly, it angered me to see these taped reports."

"It has now been 771 days since al Qaeda launched terrorist attacks on American targets on September 11, 2001," says the North Dakota Democrat. "Why is Osama bin Laden still able to threaten this country? Why have we not been able to find him and bring him to account?"

Newsweek magazine believes it has narrowed down bin Laden's likely hiding place to the Kunar province on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"So," says the senator, "why are we not flooding that area with American forces to take him out?"


A leading congressman wrote to CBS Television President Leslie Moonves Wednesday, expressing "serious concerns" about "The Reagans," and holding him responsible for the upcoming two-part miniseries on the lives of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

"I want to be assured that it is not, as the New York Times reported yesterday, a 'deconstruction of (Reagan's) presidency shot through a liberal lens, exaggerating his foibles and giving short shrift to his accomplishments,'" writes Chief Deputy Majority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor.

The Virginia Republican says he's "concerned that past political associations and ideology of CBS executives and actors have seeped into the production, creating a work that portrays Reagan inaccurately."


Rep. Lamar Smith doesn't like what he's watching or reading these days.

On the heels of President Bush complaining that "a lot of times there's 'opinion' mixed in with news," the Texas Republican is scolding this country's news organizations for "liberal bias."

"The three major television networks all carry more negative stories about President Bush than positive ones," he says. "Two of the country's largest dailies, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have not endorsed a Republican for president since the 1950s."

As for Bush's criticism that reporters often editorialize in their copy, Smith says, "The media should trust the American people with the facts, not tell them what to think."


Minutes after the small group of reporters traveling with President Bush from Bali to Australia boarded Air Force One Wednesday - still dripping sweat from the scorching tropical sun - Press Secretary Scott McClellan popped into the press pod with an urgent message.

"Get ready," he said. "There's going to be a special briefer."

Normally, during presidential junkets, the White House sends an "expert" to the rear of the plane to brief reporters. Yesterday was different. The press would be going to the "special briefer."

A White House staff member led the eight scribes to a spacious conference room in the middle of the jumbo 747. Minutes later the president of the United States walked in.

"How y'all doing?" Bush asked, taking a seat at the head of the table.

"Want something to drink?" he asked one reporter.

"How we feeling?" he turned and asked another.

"I'd like a bottle of water," he told a flight attendant.

"Want something?" he asked them for a second time.

"It's going to be very long," he reminded the journalists.

"Coffee?" he said.

Fetching caffeine and snacks for reporters is nothing new for Bush. His first job upon graduating Yale in 1967 was accompanying a handful of reporters aboard a propeller-driven press plane during the Senate campaign of Rep. Edward J. Gurney (R-Fla.)

Described as "very cordial with the press," the 21-year-old Bush herded reporters on and off airplanes, into their hotel rooms, and back up again at 6 a.m.

Assured that reporters on Air Force One were sufficiently hydrated, Bush launched into a rare airborne discussion on everything from Iraq to North Korea. As he spoke, he played a shell game with reporters' tape recorders, shuffling them about the table.


It was only a matter of time before a book was written by Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief.

The Iraqi lawyer, who sacrificed his home and risked his life to help save American POW Jessica Lynch, writes in "Because Each Life is Precious: Why an Iraqi Man Risked Everything for Private Jessica Lynch" (Harper Collins), that his courageous intervention was a no-brainer.

"Of all the cruelties I had witnessed in Iraq, I had intervened in a few, a handful. Most I had let pass, as there was little to be gained," he says. "But the POW was different. I had a chance to help, because Saddam's days on top of us were numbered. I could bring the Americans back to this girl before it was too late."

On April 2, 2003, U.S. Marines stormed Saddam Hospital and rescued Lynch.

And we now read for the first time that Odeh al-Rehaief was known as a "long tongue," or "wiseguy," growing up in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. When he was in first grade, he balked at clapping at a picture of Saddam, to the threat of a spanking with a wooden ruler across his palms.


He's not proud of today's Democratic Party - or so one gathers from the title of Georgia Sen. Zell Miller's new book, "A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat."

As Miller puts it, "No Democrat wants to tell the leaders of their party that they have halitosis."

But he does, fingering the breath and "axis" of four party leaders - Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle - for having "created an atmosphere so bad that it is almost impossible for Democrats to be heard."

He's not any prouder of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates, particularly their campaign rhetoric of late against the U.S. intervention in Iraq.

"My concern is that ... they are exacerbating the difficulties of a nation at war," says Miller, calling Howard Dean the worst offender of all who should take some "calm-me-down pills."

As for President Bush's style of governing?

"I like the fact that the Bush White House is not timid about making a decision and does not suffer from 'analysis paralysis,' the malady that is common to those learned people who know so much and can see all sides," says the senator, adding that despite his failures, Clinton "was the exception."

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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