One of the more frightening post-Sept. 11 reports is handed to us by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, detailing how an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could disrupt electronic systems across the entire continental United States for years on end.
As Bartlett describes such a catastrophic scenario, one would be able to communicate only with those within earshot and travel only by walking or riding a bike. There would be no heat or light for houses, no running water and, after a few days, no food.
"Millions of Americans could die from starvation and disease as an indirect consequence of an EMP attack that disrupts the infrastructures for transportation, medical services, food and water," the congressman writes to colleagues, who earlier were warned by the September 11 commission that the United States is vulnerable and virtually unprotected against such an attack.
Ironically, the Clinton administration dismissed the EMP threat. But concerns were underscored in 1999 when, in the wake of so-called U.S. military "aggression" in the Balkans, Russia's chairman on the Duma International Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lukin, warned a U.S. congressional delegation in Vienna, Austria:
"If we really wanted to hurt you . we would launch (a submarine-launched ballistic missile) and detonate a single nuclear warhead device at high altitude over the United States and shut down your power grid and communications for six months or so."
The 9/11 commission states that even a low-yield nuclear weapon, purchased by terrorists on the black market or delivered to them by a rogue state, "can be employed to generate potentially catastrophic EMP effects over wide geographic areas."
Editors of the Wall Street Journal wrote recently of the EMP potential: "All we can say is, we hope someone in Washington is paying attention." Actually, Bartlett was paying attention before Sept. 11, 2001, introducing legislation in 2000 to analyze the threat from EMP.
He says steps must be taken by the United States now, more than ever, to alleviate that threat.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Political pundit Tom Adkins received the following birth announcement from his client, Chris Tate:
"Just wanted to let you know that Jill and I are filling up our house. Jill gave birth to Lauren Elizabeth Tate (on Election Day), and she weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and measured 19.5 inches. Needless to say, we are very proud and excited. . By the way, Jill's water broke at 5 a.m., but we waited to cast our votes for W. before going to the hospital."
SACRIFICE AND SUPPORT
In front of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, six female soldiers were seen standing at attention and saluting as President Bush's limousine passed by on its way to Veterans Day observances.
It wasn't often that newly resigned Attorney General John Ashcroft received favorable press, as the following statement, issued by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, suggests:
Attorney General John Ashcroft's retirement... comes after four of the most difficult years any former attorney general has ever served. The attack on our home front put him, as the nation's chief law-enforcement officer, in the critical position of having to draw a balance between intense law enforcement and respect for our civil liberties. He experienced one of the nastiest and contentious nomination reviews in recent history. Through it all, John Ashcroft maintained his integrity, and we say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'
MUM'S THE WORD
The Arlington, Va.-based Leadership Institute aims to ride President Bush's coattails onto college campuses, dispatching 20 field representatives to institutions of higher learning nationwide to launch independent conservative student organizations.
The institute says its Campus Leadership Program representatives face a recruiting hurdle in that, "predictably, leftists prefer campuses to be conservative-free zones."
The institute notes that Valparaiso University's administration granted CLP field representative Michael Sweeney permission to set up a recruiting table on the condition that he speak to students only if spoken to.
POUR YOU A PINT?
Why all the secrecy at the British Embassy on Saturday night?
British Prime Minister Tony Blair had already departed for home after meetings at the White House, but that didn't stop President Bush and first lady Laura Bush from dressing in tuxedo and evening gown and making an unannounced two-plus-hour visit to U.K. soil on Massachusetts Avenue.
"Closed event. No coverage," reads the official White House pool report, which did confirm an "unusually secretive" event.
"We were not told where we were going until we got there, and we were not told what kind of event it was," says David Jackson of the Dallas Morning News, who adds that he didn't see much after he got there, either.
"Your pool was stashed in a small pub, complete with rotating disco ball, on the embassy grounds," he explains.
It wasn't until the wee hours - 4:04 a.m. yesterday - that the White House came clean: "A surprise birthday party for Condoleezza Rice."
The president's national security adviser and close confidante turned 50 yesterday.
Two weeks after Republicans tightened their grip on terrified Democrats, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, traveled to Pebble Beach, Calif., to accept an award for bipartisanship.
Retiring Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, also received the annual Jefferson-Lincoln Award award from the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, presented to politicians who are able to put politics aside for the interest of the country.
"The fact is, we've all witnessed this mounting chorus of partisanship that has engulfed our nation's politics," Mrs. Snowe said Saturday night. "Indeed, our current system appears infused by a coarse partisanship, a raw ideology, a podium-thumping belligerence that all too often produces only political stagnation."
She said the "sensible center - the moderate center where most Americans reside and where both political parties meet - has dissipated."
Exacerbating matters, she added, is the loss of "consensus-forging leaders" on Capitol Hill, specifically former Republican Sens. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, Warren B. Rudman of New Hampshire, Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, William S. Cohen of Maine, and John Chafee of Rhode Island, and former Democratic Sens. Sam Nunn of Georgia and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.
Virginia Sen. George Allen, chairman of the newly strengthened National Republican Senatorial Committee, gets the honor of introducing the seven newly elected Republican senators at a Capitol Hill reception this morning.
Soon to add a net four new votes among them for the Republican Party are Sens.-elect Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mel Martinez of Florida, David Vitter of Louisiana, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and John Thune of South Dakota - the latter dethroning Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
How does the Republican Party build a lasting majority?
"There are three earlier elections that were classic springboards to long, stable majorities," notes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "Thomas Jefferson's victory in 1800, William McKinley's in 1896, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's re-election in 1936. In each case, a personality and a cause were fused into a new system of power that then went on to govern for a generation.
"Jefferson wiped out the Federalist Party, and his followers governed for 24 years. McKinley launched a Republican majority that lasted thirty-six years, with the only Democratic victory coming from a split in the Republican Party. Roosevelt's majority kept the White House for 20 unbroken years and the House for 64 (with only two Republican interruptions, neither of which lasted past one term)."
Mr. Gingrich, now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, expressed optimism for the future, saying President Bush's political architect, Karl Rove, understands this history as well as any political analyst in modern times.
LOAD OF LUKE
It was a beautiful morning this past Sunday as President and Mrs. Bush departed the White House to attend services at St. John's Episcopal Church. If only the Gospel reading - Luke 21:5-19 - hadn't been so grim.
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. But before all this occurs they will arrest you and persecute you. ... You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.
Talk about squirming in your pew.
According to the official White House pool report: "Even the rector, Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, thought this a little much. 'I wouldn't pick this for a nice bright sunny day,' he explained, saying that the choice of readings comes down the church's bureaucratic chain, and he promised that things would be more optimistic when the Pentecostal season gives way to Advent."
Albeit, the preacher concluded, "There is no such thing as perfect security."
BIG SHOES TO FILL
Few if any employees at the State Department were surprised with Secretary of State Colin Powell's decision to resign, one insider tells Inside the Beltway.
"But the rest of the world and the 77 percent of the American public who approve of him will backlash for losing the one person they like and trust," says the source.
CASE FOR IRAQ?
Somehow while winning re-election, fighting a war in Iraq, huddling with foreign heads of state, and accepting resignations of his Cabinet, President Bush finds time to read books - most recently, "The Case for Democracy."
Obviously, Mr. Bush wanted to learn more, inviting co-authors Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet political prisoner, and Ron Dermer into the Oval Office late last week for a rare one-hour meeting.
"We are grateful to have had the opportunity," says Mr. Sharansky, an Israeli government official. The authors, who expose the inner workings of a "fear society," argue that democracy is not beyond any nation's reach.
Pro-life forces are closely following the California conviction of Scott Peterson for the murder of his wife, Laci, and her unborn child - the first high-profile case to be decided since the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
"The Petersons' preborn child, Conner, was described by some as a non-person," says Judie Brown, president of American Life League. "The verdict makes it crystal clear that he, and all those who reside in the womb, are indeed human persons, not possessions."
TOUGH TO SWALLOW
A new poll has some sobering results for liquor industry lobbyists circulating the message that "a drink is a drink."
The basic theme of the "equivalency" theory, promoted by the distilled spirits industry as a so-called public service, is that there is no difference between wine, beer or hard liquor if they are served in "standard sizes."
But the poll, released by the Council for Government Reform, finds half of Americans - and more than half of all drinkers - believe a drink is not a drink because liquor is more potent and can be consumed more quickly.
While most agree the liquor industry is trying to stop drunken driving, three-quarters believe the "equivalency" theory is being promoted to make liquor seem less harmful. Nearly 70 percent believe it is being done to increase liquor's appeal with young drinkers.
"This is a classic example of how commercial interests use the mantle of public health and safety to advance their agenda," says Michelle Plasari, vice president of the Council for Government Reform.