Behind every man

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jan 20, 2004 12:00 AM

When Vice President Dick Cheney was growing up in Lincoln, Neb., his father toiled for the Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service. Then Dwight D. Eisenhower got elected president, reorganized Agriculture, and Cheney's dad was transferred to windswept Casper, Wyo., where Cheney met his future bride, Lynne.

"We grew up together, went to high school together - and in August of this year, we'll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary," Cheney recalled this week, noting that were it not for Eisenhower's victory in 1952 he never would have moved to Casper and his wife would have married somebody else.

And when he mentioned this fact to Mrs. Cheney this week, she responded: "Right, and now he'd be vice president of the United States."

TEXAS SLANG

Fill out the "dadburn" survey.

Or so wrote Roddy Stinson of the San Antonio Express-News of the "Head Start Survey of Salaries and Other Compensation," which the Health and Human Services Department sent recently to Head Start grantees in light of revelations that some of its executives were receiving remarkably high salaries, perhaps in excess of $200,000 per year.

Understandably, the executives aren't rushing to complete the survey.

As for Stinson's choice of words in his newspaper article, a reporter at this newspaper notes: "They can only write like that in Texas."

AMATEUR FIGHT

Homeland security is too important to politicize, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., isn't pleased with the tone of the political rhetoric in a 17-page memo released by his own committee's minority on Friday.

"Substituting rhetoric for responsible oversight will ultimately harm America's security," warns Cox, who vows to work closely with Democrats and the Department of Homeland Security on solutions to remaining challenges.

"But backsliding from responsible oversight into one-page summaries of major initiatives and a laundry list of homeland security 'gaps' is unacceptable amateurism," scolds the chairman.

He applauds Democrats for recognizing in the memo that "the Bush administration is correct to claim that we are safer now than we were on Sept. 11," but adds that the minority's "pointed criticism of President Bush's leadership is as unnecessary as it is counterproductive."

HEALTH CARE, YOU SAY?

If it's media attention the health care sector wants, they've found two ways to get it: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill.

Yes, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson will address the 2004 World Health Care Congress when it convenes later this month in Washington, as will Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee (a physician in real life), and Dr. Mark McClellan, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

And if that all-star lineup doesn't stir your stethoscope, this column has learned that Clinton, the junior senator from New York, will be a "keynote speaker" for the conference. A supporter of government-run health care, the former first lady will deliver a Jan. 27 speech titled "Democratic Health Care Agenda."

Hmmm.

In addition, O'Neill, who we now know was more bitter than previously apparent after being fired by President Bush in December 2002, will also address the 900 or so leading health care constituency players - CEOs and CFOs of Fortune 100 companies to health providers, payers, physicians and patients.

We're not sure about the title of his speech, although one source tells us it will not touch on blind and deaf people.

FEAR MONGERS?

Just when we were getting over former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill blasting his old boss, a former Republican governor of Delaware has released a book widely critical of President Bush and the "radical, right-wing Republican intellectuals" who control him.

In "Patriots, Stand Up!" (Cedar Tree Books) former Gov. Russ Peterson, who among other posts led the Council on Environmental Policy under Presidents Nixon and Ford, blasts "extreme" Republicans in control at the White House, charging that "deception" has become the Bush administration's "hallmark."

Among other complaints, the onetime Republican governor says Bush is "using terrorism to frighten, threaten and exploit."

If it makes the White House feel any better, Peterson has officially left the Republican Party and become a Democrat.

MUTINY ON THE SIERRA

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance warns that "a man who flies the skull and crossbones on his sea vessel and has sunk nearly a dozen ships" in the name of animal rights has set his sights on one of the nation's largest environmental organizations.

Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace and founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is "advocating the takeover of the Sierra Club," charges the Alliance, which says Watson wants the organization to take a strong stance against hunting, fishing and other management of natural resources.

"Watson is known for his tactic of ramming and sinking whaling ships. Some of his actions have landed him in jail in foreign nations, but he claims he is not an eco-terrorist," the group notes. "He said at the 2002 Animal Rights Conference that activists 'should never feel like we're going too far in breaking the law.'"

Watson was elected to the Sierra Club's board of directors in April 2003, and critics contend he's now stacking the board with like-minded cronies.

FARAWAY LANDS

The last time we wrote about Dallas B. Lawrence, then-spokesman for Education Secretary Rod Paige, he'd embarked with his boss on a snow-sled trek across the Alaskan tundra to reach a one-room schoolhouse in the tiny village of Savoonga.

It was part of a four-day journey to Alaska, including travel by Black Hawk helicopter to tour a native Alaskan village and schoolhouse in Tuntutuliak, to see firsthand the unique education needs of rural America.

Mr. Lawrence has now departed Washington again, bound this time for Baghdad, where in recent days he's assumed the post of "press officer, Office of Strategic Communications, Coalition Provisional Authority - Baghdad."

His very first day on the job was almost his last.

"Obviously, the events of today have put a damper on spirits," Mr. Lawrence writes to Inside the Beltway, after a suicide bomber on Sunday detonated an estimated 1,000 pounds of explosives outside the U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Baghdad, killing 31 persons and wounding 123 others.

"'Welcome to Baghdad!' Those were the words uttered to me today by a stranger I passed in the hallway while trying to find my way to the 'attack shelter' in the early-morning hours," he continued. "It was 7:55 and I had just completed breakfast and had made my way to my office to start my first 'real' day. I decided to place a call home to let my mother know that I was doing well and that all was safe and sound in the 'Green Zone.'

"As we were saying our goodbyes an enormous blast shook the room I was sitting in and the entire building fell silent. It is hard to describe the sound an explosion of this magnitude makes. The explosion was felt almost as deeply as it was heard. . . . Until this moment it had been academic, something I had seen on TV in faraway lands."

TRUSTING BYRD

When it comes to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or lack thereof, it's too bad President Bush didn't read a page from the January issue of Military magazine when he delivers his crucial State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The magazine's military-minded editors, who know more about WMDs than the rest of us, have an intriguing item surrounding what certain politicians said in the not-so-distant past about former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's possession of these deadly weapons.

Let's start with critics who continue to charge that it was Mr. Bush who said Iraq's WMD program was an "imminent threat."

"Sorry, he never said that," says Military's editors. "He wanted to get them 'before they become an imminent threat.' It was instead Senator Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, now a Bush critic, who said, 'I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat.'"

It gets better, at least for defenders of Mr. Bush.

President Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, for instance, warned Feb. 18, 1998: "He (Saddam) will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983."

While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, added Dec. 16, 1998: "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons-inspection process."

Then there was Mr. Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright, stating Nov. 10, 1999: "Hussein has . . . chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."

Finally, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, declared with utmost certainty Oct. 3, 2002: "We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities."

ISRAEL IN IOWA

Wesley Clark wasn't the only no-show at Monday's Iowa caucuses.

"I can't believe I am not in Iowa today - it's killing me," says veteran Washington campaign consultant and pollster Jennifer Laszlo.

So where are you?

"This season I am biting my fingers since I am the founder and president of a new nonprofit, the Israel Project, which works to help promote an accurate image of Jews and Israel in the press and public," she tells us. "The nonprofit really took off, and to keep it 'kosher' with the (Internal Revenue Service), I am taking a pass on the political season."

While she herself has not been on the Democratic campaign trail, Mrs. Laszlo's nonprofit has been sending teams to Iowa and New Hampshire to educate candidates and the press about Israel.