Who's Bush?

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jul 05, 2005 12:00 AM

The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), the last of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, is now three years from completion and is set for launch in 2008.

The Navy expects this latest addition to its fleet to be in service for at least five decades - at least through the year 2058 - 70 years after Mr. Bush was elected president in 1988.

OFF TO ASPEN

The annual Aspen Ideas Festival, a gathering place for 100 of today's most "profound and provocative" thinkers, commenced Tuesday in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

Among those in attendance at the event, hosted by the Aspen Institute: former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his wife, Alma, chairwoman of America's Promise; TV news personalities Jim Lehrer and Cokie Roberts; historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.; Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers; Nobel laureate Toni Morrison; and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens.

"Through it, we can stimulate important and interesting discussions and give more people access to the seminars and open-minded dialogues that form the crux of what the institute has been doing since its origins in the 1950s," says Elliot Gerson, the institute's executive vice president and chief creator of the festival.

NEW ENEMY

We're told the United States and Russia will hold a first-of-its-kind joint tabletop terrorism-response exercise this October.

Word of the preparedness drill comes on the heels of President Bush late last week receiving the first progress report from a joint U.S.-Russia working group he established with President Vladimir Putin. The group's primary purpose is to deal with the threat of terrorists gaining access to nuclear material or weapons.

PRESIDENT HARRISON

The former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee has become the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's (CPB) new president and CEO.

Patricia S. Harrison, since 2001 the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, says she is "pleased to join with the board and all stakeholders in the future success of public broadcasting."

Already she has vowed to join with public broadcast leaders to restore congressional funding cuts of CPB in the president's fiscal 2006 budget.

Under Harrison's leadership, the U.S. government started the first exchange program for high school students from the Arab and Muslim world.

BAR THE STARS

Flying the American flag this Independence Day?

Not everybody was so privileged.

Alarmed to learn that some homeowners' associations and condominiums prevented Americans from flying the U.S. flag at their homes, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, has introduced legislation that would ensure the right of an individual to display the U.S. flag on his or her residential property.

TOKE AND STROKE

There has been a great deal of response, sarcastic to humorous, to our item last week about white-collared Washingtonians flocking to country music legend Willie Nelson's inaugural golf tournament in Texas on Monday to benefit the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"I would assume that the safest place for the gallery to stand at this event would be in the middle of the fairway," writes Charlie Blankenship of Industry, Pa. "If the golfers toke up in the clubhouse in the morning and similarly refresh themselves through the day, it could be long past dark before the last foursome finishes, leaving behind a veritable storm of empty Doritos bags, Slim-Jim wrappers and thousands of lost golf balls.

"The winners will stagger back in at the edge of dark, boasting an average round of 200 over par for each. The last place team is expected to hit triple digits and 'darn proud of it!' What a day for the sport."

TOO HOT FOR WOOL

"Do these stripes make me look like I'm warming dangerously?"

So asks global-warming skeptic Christopher C. Horner, counsel of the Cooler Heads Coalition at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"Look out, world, here comes the fashion industry steaming down that runway of global salvation," warns Horner. "It was cute when crooners and drama queens demanded to be taken seriously on matters of deep scientific inquiry."

He's referring to the otherwise reclusive Italian fashion designer and philanthropist Carlo Gianconi's offer to assist world leaders, many of whom he considers friends, in reducing global warming.

Popular in Las Vegas for what one writer describes as "his flamboyant gambling and his attitude of never letting anything bother him," Gianconi says global warming bothers him enough that he's decided to do something about it.

The designer's initial efforts include the creation of a Web site and hiring an agent to assist him.

RENOUNCING TERROR

What better day than the Fourth of July for immigrants to take the oath of allegiance to become Americans?

Now, with input from former attorney general Edwin Meese III, a congressman wants the newest class of Americans to renounce terrorism in the process of being administered the oath.

Rep. Jim Ryun, Kansas Republican, has introduced legislation to amend the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance so that it is "readable and understandable" for immigrants and ensures they "renounce any ties to a terrorist organization."

The proposed language for the new oath:

"I entirely renounce all allegiance to any foreign state or power of which I have been a subject or citizen.

"My fidelity and allegiance from this day forward are to the United States of America.

"I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and will support and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

"I will bear arms, or perform noncombatant duty or civilian service, on behalf of the United States, when required by law.

"This I solemnly swear, so help me God."

ENGLISH INSTRUCTIONS

Mauro E. Mujica, chairman of Washington-based U.S. English Inc., weighs in after a Riverside, Calif., crane operator sued the state of California claiming his rights are being violated because he is not allowed to take his safety certification in Spanish.

According to press accounts, Tom Ledesma failed his mobile crane certification test in English on May 14, and is now asking the state to cease issuing crane-operating certificates until a Spanish test is offered.

"The claim that immigrants have a constitutional right to operate heavy machinery without understanding the English language is absolutely breathtaking," says Mujica, himself an immigrant from South America. "While California may choose to offer certain services in foreign languages, that does not mean that the state has an obligation to do so, particularly where lives and limbs are at stake."

CRYING WOLF?

If you believe the latest Zogby poll, 42 percent of Americans would favor impeachment proceedings if President Bush is found to have misled the nation about his reasons for going to war in Iraq.

"The results of this Zogby poll are astonishing and reveal the depth of anger among the American people over President Bush's lies about Iraq  - even among 25 percent of Republicans," reacts one such believer, Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com.

Then again, that same John Zogby - just hours before the polls closed on Election Day 2004 - predicted a John Kerry presidential victory by a margin of 311 electoral votes to 213.

TAR AND FEATHER

What if a TV anchorman were to announce: "The president nominated George Washington for the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Sandra Day O'Connor. Democrats immediately attacked Washington for his environmental record of chopping down cherry trees."

Don't laugh, says Progress for America, a national grass-roots organization dedicated to supporting a conservative issue agenda.

"Some Democrats will attack any Supreme Court nominee," insists the group, calling past attacks of judicial nominees a "smear" and "dishonest."

In preparation for pending attacks on President Bush's nominee to replace Justice O'Connor, who announced Friday that she is retiring, the group is distributing "Tar & Feather Inc.: A Liberal 10-Step Plan for Judicial Character Assassination."

MEANS OF ESCAPE

The big question, after yet another airplane entered restricted air space over Washington on Wednesday evening, is whether President Bush was actually "evacuated."

According to the White House pool report, Mr. Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, says he himself was starting to "move" toward an exit when the alert was lowered.

"He disputed the use of the word 'evacuation' to describe what happened in the West Wing, saying only that 'some staff were moved,'" the report states.

As for the president, he was temporarily "relocated," Mr. McClellan suggested.

To no avail. When the official report was filed it stated that Mr. Bush was "whisked" out of the White House at approximately 6:30 p.m.

As for the president's men?

Senior staff including J.D. Crouch, Dan Bartlett and Scooter Libby were spotted "skedaddling" out of the West Wing around the same time, it states.

ONLY IN AMERICA

You never know what kind of crook you're going to meet on Capitol Hill.

Take this week, when a most creative jail inmate from South Carolina walked a House committee through his elaborate scheme that allowed prisoners to file fraudulent tax returns and receive refunds totaling $3.5 million.

And what did these incarcerated swindlers do with our taxpayer dollars?

They maintained their drug habits and peddled illegal merchandise - while locked up, says Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican.

Testifying under the alias John Doe, the inmate told the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight that his scheme was inspired by an Internal Revenue Service TV commercial, which urged taxpayers to file early in order to receive speedy refunds. Doe decided to put the IRS's promise to a test. He filed 10 tax returns using his fellow inmates' vital statistics, claiming refunds for each of up to $5,400. All 10 refunds, wouldn't you know, sailed right through.

Why stop there?

Doe expanded his operation each succeeding year, until 700 or more forms were filed. Inmate refunds reached $3.5 million, with the jailed tax preparer - Doe in this case - pocketing $1,000 for each refund.

"I suppose we should call this enterprise 'H & R (Cell) Block' and it's time we put it out of business," Hayworth says. "If it is this easy for jail inmates to cheat the tax system, we must assume that the practice is widespread among tax cheats outside of prison walls."

As for Doe, who is 37, after he finishes serving his 25-year sentence for burglary, grand larceny and arson, he begins a new five-year federal sentence for tax fraud.

ARMSTRONG'S WAKE

The General Accountability Office has opened an investigation, to be completed by mid-October, into whether there have been any additional White House Cabinet-level department contracts with either the press or public relations entities.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on Rules, requested the probe. She said Americans deserve to know the extent of "this outrageous abuse and manipulation of the free press," or, as she also put it, using "government funds for covert propaganda to promote the president's legislation."

"The public should be able to trust that the news they read is unbiased and straightforward. If the administration is paying journalists to report slanted news," she said.

It was first reported in January that the Bush administration paid conservative black broadcaster Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote its education reform law on his nationally syndicated TV show. Similar contracts, albeit not as lucrative, with other press-types also soon came to light.

APPEAL OF THE WEEK

"The Republicans raise more than $10 million a month in huge checks from special interests and lobbyists. They have created a money-for-influence machine unlike anything our country has ever seen. A million of us contributing $20 a month can double their total."

Or so Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean observed last week, at first criticizing Republicans for raising big money, then appealing to Democrats to double the GOP's amount.

ZELL'S ZINGERS

Zell Miller, the outspoken former Democratic senator from Georgia, had few good things to say about the leaders of his party when interviewed this week on Paul M. Weyrich's "The Right Hour" Internet radio program.

After he finished calling Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin a "national disgrace" for going on the Senate floor and comparing the U.S. military to fascists, Miller said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is "doing more harm than good for the Democrats."

"Here is a man who should be trying to broaden the base of his party, a party that has been shrinking now for many, many years. Instead, he is narrowing the base even more," Miller said. "It is ridiculous."