Uncivil politics

John McCaslin
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Posted: Mar 16, 2004 12:00 AM

Regarding likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts calling President Bush and his crew "a crooked bunch of liars," Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) reasons: "Politics in general, in a republic like ours, is a substitute for civil war. It is a very important process."

GUESS WHO LOST?

"Other than to glorify an unnecessary death, we see absolutely no reason to celebrate such an occasion."

So writes the Hamilton National Genealogical Society regarding the upcoming 200th anniversary of the 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

"This was an infamous occasion, and is not really celebrated by any of the Hamiltons," the society informs fellow Hamiltons. "However, The Aaron Burr Association (ABA) is planning a reunion in July 2004 and wishes to invite the Alexander Hamilton descendants ... (but) our society will not endorse, nor will we participate in, an event such as this."

The Burr association, or so we're told, will re-enact the fateful duel during its annual meeting this summer. Burr, who was vice president of the United States, and Hamilton, a former secretary of the Treasury, were bitter political opponents.

GOD FORBID

A portion of author Tom Clancy's best-selling book "Debt of Honor" has been reprinted as the nightmare scenario of a new Cato Institute policy analysis study on the continuity of the U.S. government in event of a cataclysmic attack on Capitol Hill.

The terrorists who hijacked United Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, apparently had as their target the dome of the U.S. Capitol - when many senators and congressmen filled both chambers.

Here's how such a deadly impact is described by Clancy:

"Nearly 300 tons of aircraft and fuel struck the east face of the building at a top speed of 300 knots. The aircraft disintegrated on impact. No less fragile than a bird, its speed and mass had already fragmented the columns outside the walls. Next came the building itself. As soon as the wings broke up, the engines ... shot forward, one of them actually smashing beyond the House Chamber ... the real damage took a second or two more, barely time for the roof to start falling down on the 900 people in the chamber ... and an immense fireball engulfed everything inside and outside the building."

NOMAD'S LAND

Anybody for plopping onto a camel and taking a six-day trek through the Libyan desert?

Days after Secretary of State Colin Powell rescinded restrictions on travel to Libya - U.S. citizens for the first time in more than two decades can travel to Libya for tourism and academic research - an American adventure-travel guide says he'll lead the first American journey across the rehabilitated terrorist nation.

This column has learned that Richard Bangs, who in 1976 led the first U.S. tour to mainland China, will lead a camel-supported adventure from the border town of Ghat across Libya's huge sand dunes, past arguably the finest Roman ruins outside Italy, and spectacular archaeological sites like Leptis Magna and Sabratha, encountering nomadic tribes along the way.

Bangs is limiting this inaugural journey to 15 persons. The cost of each camel (land portion of the trip) is $4,150.

Powell dropped the travel restrictions after Libya's strongman, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, announced he was abandoning his program to build weapons of mass destruction.

NEW YORK PORK

It's been a tough year for the Franciscan-founded St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York, where this columnist bounced his way through Bob Lanier's basketball camp in 1972.

First, there was a wide-reaching scandal in the men's basketball program last year, which led to the ouster of university President Robert Wickenheiser. Now, the university is under the microscope again, thanks to the extreme generosity of a Republican congressman who graduated from St. Bonaventure in 1970.

New York Rep. James T. Walsh is spending taxpayer money - $4.5 million - to fund the renovation of the university's science building.

"The amount is 50 percent greater than the largest single private gift to the university," notes a spokesman for Citizens Against Government Waste. "While most private schools rely on alumni philanthropists for large donations, St. Bonaventure has the benefit of having a 'Cardinal' on the House Appropriations Committee who can donate tax dollars.

"With the amount of federal money Chairman Walsh has secured, the building will most likely soon carry his name."

This isn't the first government grant Walsh, who chairs an Appropriations subcommittee, has secured for St. Bonaventure: a $990,000 grant was awarded to the school in 2002 and $405,000 in 2003.

"I'm very proud to be able to give something back," Walsh said when announcing the first grant. "It's not mine to give, it's the American taxpayers'. But I know it will be spent wisely."

Most disturbing, the government watchdog group says, is that the money comes out of the NASA budget, which is overseen by Walsh's subcommittee.

PLAY 676

"I would like to ask everybody in the House to get a pencil and paper and take down this number," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). "Ready. Here it is. One, one, two, nine, two, five. That number again: one, one, two, nine, two, five.

"Now, here is another number - six, seven, six."

Lucky lottery numbers, congressman?

"The first number, $112,925, that is the average tax cut that millionaires will see in their 2003 return," he says. "The second number is $676. That is the average tax cut for the average American. This is the administration's new math."

PILLOW FIGHTS

"I do not want to take up my whole hour, so I am not going to go over the whole list," began Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).

That's a relief. Given the current boy scout in the White House, it would have been a boring hour.

Still, Pallone was the token Democrat tasked with taking to the House floor to decry President Bush's "revolving door" of overnight guests at the White House - the same election-year prop our current president rightfully used against the king of slumber parties, Bill Clinton.

We've all read reports in recent days that Bush opened the White House and Camp David to dozens of overnight guests during the past year, including nine of his biggest campaign fund-raisers. But that's about as exciting as it gets.

Unlike Clinton, for example, Bush hasn't tucked Barbra Streisand between the sheets of the Lincoln Bedroom. Nor was there a pillow fight with Jane Fonda, another overnight guest of the previous president.

Bush's guest list includes Mercer Reynolds, an Ohio financier leading the president's campaign fund-raising effort, and Brad Freeman, a venture capitalist who heads California fund-raising. How exciting those bedside conversations must have been.

POPPING PILLS

Doctors and patients beware: A major focus of President Bush's new comprehensive anti-drug strategy is the illegal diversion and abuse of addictive prescription drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration cites an "alarming" increase in prescription drug abuse over the past decade, particularly the type of opioid painkillers that Rush Limbaugh got hooked on. White House drug czar John Walters says nonmedical use of prescription drugs is so rampant it "calls for immediate action."

Nonmedical use of narcotic pain relievers and sedatives, says the DEA, now ranks just below marijuana among adults and youths who abuse drugs.