Another first

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jan 08, 2004 12:00 AM

So many congressmen and senators have followed President Bush's lead and visited Iraq in recent weeks that the political novelty of such risky journeys has worn off.

So what are we to make of this week's Iraqi sojourn by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and a handful of other members, if not history?

They are among the first lawmakers to "slumber in Baghdad," touts the National Republican Congressional Committee. Once they awaken, the delegation is scheduled to peek inside Saddam Hussein's spider hole.

HEAD COUNT

National security will be "enhanced" by President Bush's proposed changes in U.S. immigration policy that would grant amnesty to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States.

So argues Cato Institute immigration analyst Daniel T. Griswold, who labels the current immigration system "dysfunctional."

National security would be enhanced, he says, because Bush's proposal "would begin to drain the swamp of smuggling and document fraud that facilitates illegal immigration, and would encourage millions of currently undocumented workers to make themselves known to authorities."

HUNK RETURN

The man who hopes to dethrone Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle by winning his South Dakota seat is no stranger to Capitol Hill.

Republican John Thune, who this week hired as his campaign manager GOP operative Dick Wadhams, is a former South Dakota congressman whom we quoted after Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont abandoned the Republican Party and catapulted Daschle into the majority leader's chair.

"Many people in South Dakota think Daschle is back in D.C. mowing Jim Jeffords' lawn," he quipped.

Another time we disclosed that Thune topped a list of 12 congressmen voted by female lawmakers as the "manliest" men on Capitol Hill. The dozen "hunks" were later pinup boys for a congressional calendar. (Sorry ladies, but Thune, 43, is married.)

Thune was unsuccessful in a 2002 bid against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.

NONPARTISAN ISSUE

The Catholic Church, specifically its Priests for Life organization, is launching "National Christian Voter Registration Sundays" in advance of the November presidential election.

The effort at Catholic parishes nationwide (registration dates are the Sundays of Jan. 18, March 7, May 2, July 4 and Sept. 5) is part of the church's antiabortion strategy for this election year. As for supporting a particular party or candidate?

"All our activities are totally nonpartisan," answers the Rev. Frank Pavone. "But nonpartisan doesn't mean timid or halfhearted." Priests for Life has a multimillion-dollar budget and staff of 40.

DICK'S DREAM

One knows the presidential primary season is in full swing when a politician has his lunch served at "Margie's Dream Truck Stop" - and that's where you'll find Democrat Richard A. Gephardt this Friday (Jan. 9), ordering up some New Hampshire votes.

CULTURAL WAR

In his new book, "The Enemy Within," best-selling author Michael Savage says the goal of the extreme left is to "redefine marriage to conform to their own perverse worldview."

The top-rated radio talk-show host goes so far as to say that al Qaeda is not America's worst enemy. Rather, "internal enemies" present a far greater threat to the nation's long-term survival.

Savage says the "enemies within" are busy undermining schools, faith, courts, military, media and law enforcement, whether through homosexual "marriage," the American Civil Liberties Union routinely suing to remove the Ten Commandments from public view, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending almost $2 billion each year on HIV - a largely preventable disease.

MUM ABOUT NOTHING

We learn of an "ongoing squabble" between the Washington press corps and press officers at the Office of Personnel Management, which has led to several reporters bowing out of an OPM teleconference.

At issue, says the Senior Executives Association, has been OPM's off-the-record qualification for the press, which asks that nothing discussed be quoted or even used. Which, to many reporters, makes the information useless.

Not that OPM officials reveal much when going on background.

"Some reporters have commented that even when speaking off-the-record, OPM officials consistently stick to the administration's line on policy," notes FedManager, a news summary for federal employees.

We can't help but recall this past fall when President Bush, after potentially damaging intelligence information was leaked by somebody high up in his administration, issued an order that henceforth White House officials were to identify themselves by name rather than solely a "senior White House official."

Or so revealed an unnamed "senior White House official."

PEN AND PAPER

A teleconference on new Homeland Security Department technology went terribly wrong Tuesday because of, well, bad technology.

One unidentified reporter's "tap-tap-tapping" on the typewriter effectively blocked out the sound of Border Transportation Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchison's entire opening statement and prompted this exchange between the reporter and a half-dozen angry scribes, in near unison.

"Stop typing."

"What am I supposed to do?"

"Write."