John McCaslin

He's been on Capitol Hill longer that any other lawmaker today, having cast his first vote in the House on Jan. 8, 1959. At the time, this columnist was 14 months old.

Late last week, 86-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) reached yet another milestone, casting his 17,000th vote in the Senate.

To mark the occasion, Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, a West Virginia Democrat who considers Byrd his "mentor," crossed the Capitol to appear with the senator for his historic vote.

"They say that records are made to be broken, but I believe this record will never be broken," Rahall said after the vote.

We're not so sure. Rahall has served in Congress for 27 years, and he'll be only 55 on May 20.

LAURA'S ROLE

First lady Laura Bush has received a stack of letters from a group of kindergarten students, whose teacher posed the question: "What do you think Mrs. Bush does all day?"

Shelby replied: "She helps the president with his paperwork and then helps him clean his office. She takes care of him when he's sick and puts cold cloths on his head."

Megan said: "She feeds the dogs and she plants the daffodils and she does the president's speeches when he isn't feeling well."

While Todd noted: "She wears pretty suits and she has to shovel the snow and feed the birds."

IMPERIAL PAIR?

So much for Richard M. Nixon's covert conduct in the Oval Office.

"George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have created the most secretive presidency in my lifetime," writes former Nixon White House Counsel John W. Dean in his new book, "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush" (Little, Brown)

"Because of Watergate, no president has been so foolhardy as to openly initiate a program like Nixon's to screw those with whom he or his top aides are unhappy and to blatantly help friends - that is, until the Bush II administration," Dean writes.

The former Watergate figure cites the president's efforts to shield actions of his executive branch; the White House "outing" of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife, a covert CIA agent; what he considers the assault on the environment; and one of the most "appalling" examples - protecting the beef industry by withholding relevant information on mad cow disease, discovered in the United States on Dec. 24, 2003.

"Not only does this secrecy far exceed anything at the Nixon White House, but much of the Bush-Cheney secrecy deals with activities similar to Nixon's," warns Dean, who says the clock has been turned back to "pre-Watergate years - a time of unaccountable and imperial presidency."

BETTER SAFE


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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