Fishing with Cheney

John McCaslin
|
Posted: Mar 04, 2004 12:00 AM

One thing that has become apparent within the Bush White House is that not everybody agrees with everybody all the time.

Heck, even President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have their differences. Take the hot-button issue of same-sex "marriage."

Tuesday, on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports," Cheney was reminded of his previously stated position that such untraditional marriages should be regulated by the states rather than "federal policy."

"So you still believe that?" Blitzer asked.

"The president's made a decision, partly because of what's happened in Massachusetts and San Francisco, that the administration will support a constitutional amendment. And, uh, that's his decision to make," replied Cheney.

"And you support it?" the host tried again.

"I support the president," Cheney reiterated. "I never discuss the advice I provide him with anybody else. That's always private. He makes the decisions. He sets policy for the administration. And, uh, I support him and the administration."

BLOODY HILL

He serves on the post-Sept. 11 Homeland Security Committee, but it was a terrorist assault on Capitol Hill a half-century ago that Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, remembers today.

Fifty years ago this week - on March 1, 1954 - four Puerto Rican nationals armed to the hilt entered the House gallery.

"As then-Speaker Joseph W. Martin Jr. concluded tallying the 'aye' votes on a Mexican immigrant-labor program, (the) Puerto Rican nationalists stood up and began waving a Puerto Rican flag and firing at the floor," Camp recalls. "The terrorists eventually shot approximately 30 rounds before being apprehended."

The most severely injured was Rep. Alvin M. Bentley, who represented Michigan communities Camp represents today. Others injured included Congressmen George H. Fallon of Maryland, Ben F. Jensen of Iowa, Kenneth A. Roberts of Alabama, and Clifford Davis of Tennessee.

AMERICAN TOURISTS

More on our earlier item about the Democratic National Committee adding 3 million U.S. teachers to the State Department's list of foreign terrorists that includes al Qaeda and Hamas - doing so after Education Secretary Rod Paige described the National Education Association (NEA) as a "terrorist organization."

"How nice to see by the DNC publication of terrorist groups that the rhetorically restrained liberals no longer refer to the Hezbollah, Taliban or Fedayeen wings of the Republican Party," conservative pundit Christopher Horner writes to this column.

"Has President Bush succeeded in changing the tone in Washington?" he asks.

That's doubtful, given the newly updated DNC list lumping the NEA in with al Qaeda and Hamas. As for other terrorist groups, National Journal Managing Editor Jay Nordlinger noted that it was back in the early 1980s that liberals first learned the word "Hezbollah."

"They then started referring to Republican conservatives as Hezbollah," he wrote. "Sam Donaldson, on (ABC's David) Brinkley show, rejoiced in speaking of the 'Hezbollah wing of the Republican Party.'"

This column recalls when former CNN and NBC correspondent Charles Jaco went a step further, writing about "the rabid Hezbollah wing of the Republican Party."

By 2001, "liberals learned the world 'Taliban,'" Nordlinger continued. "They immediately started referring to the 'Republican Talibans,' or the 'Taliban Republicans,' or the 'Talibanic wing of the Republican Party.'

"Funny, but it was the 'Taliban Republicans' - George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld - who destroyed the real Taliban.'"

FOREIGN TERRORISTS

As for dealing with genuine al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, it's been a year ago this week that President Bush created the Department of Homeland Security.

In observing the anniversary, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) doesn't mind stating for the record: "Unequivocally, America is safer today from the threat of a terrorist attack than we were just one year ago."

Cox went so far as to say that America's terrorist enemies "have failed in their mission to destroy our economy and our way of life."

HOLY COW

The USO has gotten a bum rap from the General Accounting Office, United Service Organizations' Senior Vice President John Hanson tells this column.

"When I saw that 'USO' was in the title of the (GAO) report, I had one of those 'holy cow' moments," says Hanson, after the investigative arm of Congress highlighted roughly $433,000 in inappropriate expenses the USO purportedly charged to the Pentagon over a two-year period, including limousines, alcohol and first-class airplane tickets in conjunction with Jennifer Lopez and Kid Rock concerts.

"No one provided limousines for Jennifer Lopez," he tells this column. "As far as we can tell ... the limousines that (the Pentagon) paid for were really buses provided by a limousine service to take entertainers from a hotel to Andrews Air Force Base."

Furthermore, he says, no alcohol was provided to entertainers.

"For the record, a USO producer bought some 'thank you' gifts - $57 worth of brandy, apparently - for some volunteers who helped with some shows in Asia a few years back," says Hanson. "And, rest assured, once (the Pentagon) let us know we owed money for the upgrades in airfares for celebrities, we paid them."

But there's more to the story.

"The problem is that we did not charge any expenses to the Pentagon," Hanson tells this column. "In this case, and it's clear in the report, (the Pentagon) did not let us know the USO owed the money. Now they have, and we've paid."

Hanson says one thing that stands out in the GAO report is that "the USO has been, and will remain, a good steward of any federal funds in its control."

CRUCIAL CALLERS

One industry official predicts political fallout for the White House after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday sided with former Bell companies Verizon, Bell South, SBC and Qwest to give states more authority to determine which companies can offer local phone service.

During an interview with this column, Voices for Choices spokesman Peter Arnold recalled that Congress recognized in the 1996 Telecommunications Act that the nation's phone system had been built during decades of government-enforced monopoly.

"So it created a system enabling other companies to pay wholesale rates for access to the networks," he says. "But here's the interesting political fallout: The states most 'at risk' from (Tuesday's) decision read like the White House's 'must-win' list for this November."

He cites Michigan's 1.2 million phone users who have since shifted phone companies, 665,000 users in Pennsylvania, 584,000 in Ohio, 536,000 in Georgia, 217,000 in Missouri, and 262,000 in Minnesota.

"The Communications Workers of America (CWA) teamed with the Bells in suing the administration on this issue," says Arnold. "The president will be in a tough spot if he backs away from fighting this decision. When the effect starts to bite in states like Michigan, Ohio and Missouri, the White House shouldn't count on getting much support from Al Gore's campaign manager and the CWA."

He is referring to former Clinton commerce secretary and Gore campaign manager William Daley, who after the 2000 election was appointed president of industry giant SBC Communications, whose affiliates provide wire-line service to one-third of the United States.

SORRY TO SHOW

"I was supposed to be here a couple of months ago, and it was because of one of those telephone calls in the middle of the night that I didn't make it. That was one that told us that, in fact, we had gotten Saddam Hussein," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice recalled in her Reagan Lecture at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

"And Mrs. Reagan and I agreed that the only reason that I wouldn't make it this time was if somehow we'd gotten Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, I'm here."