Saluting Nancy

John McCaslin
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Posted: Feb 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Former first lady Nancy Reagan hasn't made any major public appearances since the June 5 death of her husband, former President Ronald Reagan.

Now, The Beltway Beat has learned that Reagan, 83, will come to the District on May 11 for a national salute in her honor.

"A Nation Honors Nancy Reagan" is title of the tribute, said Fred Ryan, longtime chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library.

"There is much interest in Washington and across the country for a tribute to Mrs. Reagan," he explains. "There will be 1,000 people on hand, although the invitations have not gone out yet."

Ryan says about 50 well-known names make up the tribute committee, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, all of whom are honorary chairs of the black-tie dinner gala.

"It's says a lot to see this bipartisan interest," Ryan says. "It's really going to be a great tribute."

CAMP UDAY

As Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, did on the House side yesterday afternoon, Sen. John Kerry today will welcome filmmaker Michael Tucker to Capitol Hill for a Senate screening of Palm Pictures' "Gunner Place."

McDermott's staff says the documentary film chronicles the day-to-day experiences of the U.S. Army's 2-3 Field Artillery unit that operates out of the former "pleasure palace" of Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein who died in a firefight with U.S. troops.

ENDLESS BORDER

If you think America's borders are difficult to secure, imagine keeping terrorists, saboteurs and armaments from crossing the border into and out of Iraq.

And don't think it's just the U.S. military and Iraqi soldiers manning the dangerous border crossings.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security, recently deployed a second team of agents to Iraq and the surrounding region to help secure Iraq's borders.

"Border security is critical to defeating terrorists, whether at U.S. borders or the borders of Iraq," says CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner, noting that his officers "volunteered their expertise and sacrificed the comforts of home" to take up their positions in and around Iraq.

One CBP team began training Iraqis at the Jordanian International Police Training Center in the capital, Amman, in August 2004. Since then, more than 2,100 Iraqi border control officers have been trained. Another team of U.S. agents arrived and began training Iraqis Feb. 7.

We're told that more than 1,000 CBP officers are working outside the United States.

STATE OF MIND

Young Texans, old Texans, transplanted Texans, homesick Texans.

You name it, Texas boys and girls from here to Houston have written to The Beltway Beat after we questioned why so many official types in Washington who hail from Texas " President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to name three " are constantly reminding people of their Texas roots."

Former President Bill Clinton never bragged so much about Arkansas, nor did we hear former Vice President Dan Quayle sing "Indiana Wants Me."

Reader William Hembree offers: "The answer to the question you posed is something I was taught many years ago in Midland, Texas: You don't ask a man if he's from Texas. If he is, he'll tell you, and if he's not, there's no point in embarrassing the poor fellow."

It has nothing to do with Texas geography, explains Bill Huffman of Columbus, Ohio: "Our family has lived in several states, including Texas. After living in Texas, I came up with the following summary: One lives 'in' Ohio or 'in' Delaware, but one 'lives' Texas. Alternately, Texas is not just a state, it is a state of mind."

Russell Cannon, who lives in Alabama, agrees that folks hailing from other states aren't as proud as Texas natives.

"I am a Texan, born and raised," he says. "Though I have not lived there for over 20 years, my sense of patriotism to my state remains very strong. Among the many people with whom I work, only two have state patriotic decor in our offices, and we are both from Texas. What I wonder is why natives of other states are not the same way about theirs."

Finally, David Sutton writes: "I only spent 18 years in Texas, but wish I could claim being born there as well."

UNUSUAL PRAYER

The Catholic League draws attention to William F. Buckley Jr.'s, essay "End Times," in which the longtime National Review editor acknowledges praying for the death of Pope John Paul II.

"At church on Sunday the congregation was asked to pray for the recovery of the pope. I have abstained from doing so. I hope that he will not recover," Mr. Buckley wrote during the pope's recent hospitalization.

Yes, he gives the "towering theological figure" high praise for his 26 years of papacy, his Rome foundation built from his early years as a Catholic seminarian "in a Poland subservient first to a Nazi overlord . . . then to a communist overlord," and finally to the Holy See, "where he was the symbol of hope and, after the communists fell, of triumph, distinctive in his bid for international recognition as a God-fearing man of good will.

"The temptation is, always, to pray for the continuation of the life of anyone who wants to keep on living. The pope is one of these," Mr. Buckley said. "So, what is wrong with praying for his death? For relief from his manifest sufferings? And for the opportunity to pay honor to his legacy by turning to the responsibility of electing a successor, to get on with John Paul's work."

TAX CHANGE

No fewer than two dozen congressmen are giving Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark Everson until the close of business Feb. 28 to explain why the IRS granted a tax deduction for a sex change operation.

"(A)s members of the United States House of Representatives, we view this as an outrage and believe it sets a precedent that both the IRS and the American taxpayer at large will not be comfortable with," the congressmen wrote to the IRS chief.

It was widely reported in December that the IRS had granted a tax deduction to Rhiannon O'Donnabhain, who claimed her operation was medically necessary because of a diagnosed condition called "gender dysphoria."

The congressmen go so far as to reprint for Mr. Everson a portion of a mental health manual stating that the "psychological" condition that afflicts the woman does not warrant a sex change operation. In addition, the lawmakers point out, the IRS decision to allow the deduction smacks in the face of the law-abiding tax examiner who labeled the woman's surgery "cosmetic."

"Putting this burden on the American taxpayer is unacceptable," the congressmen concluded.

WESTERN BEGINNINGS

Not wanting America to forget her roots, an outspoken congressman on illegal immigration has introduced a resolution urging Americans to recognize "the importance of Western civilization."

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, says it's important that public school boards, teachers and students "have an appreciation of Western civilization," how it affected the "development and maintenance of a vibrant, united and enduring United States polity, culture and society."

Similarly, he says immigrants to this country "should be provided an understanding of the national political and civic institutions of the United States as derived from Western civilization."

BEYOND EVERYTHING

"The ACLU has filed a lot of ridiculous lawsuits in its time, but attacking the Boy Scouts is beyond the pale."

So remarked House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, after the House voted to urge the Pentagon to continue its long-standing support of Scouting activities.

Rep. Joel Hefley, Colorado Republican, introduced the resolution in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking to end Defense Department support for the Boy Scouts and bar them access to military bases. The ACLU argued that the relationship violates the separation of church and state.

HELLO AND FAREWELL

If it's his maiden speech in the U.S. Senate, then why is Sen. Richard M. Burr, North Carolina Republican, delivering a 45-minute farewell address?

Actually, Vice President Dick Cheney and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist selected the freshman senator to deliver the traditional reading Friday of George Washington's farewell address. It has been delivered on the floor of the Senate every year, on or near Washington's birthday, since 1896.

When he finishes, Burr will inscribe his name and a few comments in a black, leather-bound book kept by the secretary of the Senate.

And how does the freshman senator feel to join other notable senators to have read the address, including Henry Cabot Lodge in 1898, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. in 1937, Hubert H. Humphrey in 1956 and Barry Goldwater in 1957?

"The United States Senate is an institution deep in tradition," he says, "and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in such an honored part of that tradition."

Last year's address was delivered by outgoing Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat.