Political Scrapbook

Posted: Jun 07, 2001 12:00 AM
ERASING HISTORY The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is proceeding with its lawsuit against the state of Texas, including members of President Bush's White House staff. The suit cites the "unlawful" removal of two Confederate dedicatory plaques from the Texas Supreme Court Building. A 1954 amendment to the Texas Constitution transferred money from the Confederate Pension Fund to build the Supreme Court Building. The amendment says the building was to be a memorial to Texans who served the Confederacy, and be "properly designated." Then-Gov. George W. Bush, under pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ordered the plaques removed last June 9, after the building had closed for the day. LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Ronald Reagan's political enemies criticized him as a second-rate, B-movie actor, but according to an article appearing in the new issue of Claremont Review of Books, the critics got it wrong. Washington-based author John Meroney, associate editor of the American Enterprise magazine, says those old enough to remember have probably forgotten - and those too young could probably never imagine - the criticisms that Reagan endured when he ran for public office. Starting with his campaign for governor of California in 1966, when incumbent Edmund G. "Pat" Brown told two young black girls: "You know, I'm running against an actor. Remember this: You know who shot Abraham Lincoln, don't you? An actor shot Lincoln." The reviews didn't get much better after Reagan became president, with CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer titling his book on the Reagan presidency "Acting President." But Meroney contends that not only have historians and biographers missed the full significance of Ronald Reagan's Hollywood life, "they have largely ignored the importance of the roles he played, and the themes and the storylines of his films." The themes being "patriotism, liberty, justice, sacrifice, loyalty and idealism - (which) are in keeping with the principles by which he lived his life, and the ones he used to shape the public policy of his presidency," the author writes. "Reagan loved movies, and his work in Hollywood was as critical to shaping his presidency as practicing law was to Lincoln, or commanding the PT-109 was to JFK. Brass Bancroft, The Gipper, Drake McHugh, Grover Cleveland Alexander - all of them are critical parts of Reagan's life's work." However, it was footage far from Hollywood - when Reagan was a film administrator in the Army Air Force's Signal Corps and became one of the first to process color footage of Nazi death camps filmed by combat camera units - "that seemed to influence Ronald Reagan most profoundly," writes Meroney. All of which furthered his drive to end the Cold War. "Jesse Jackson, of all people, recently admitted: 'Henry Kissinger types bitterly argued that it was absurd to expect (that) a guy like Reagan could do anything with Gorbachev . . and yet . . . Reagan made history that all those little wannabe Kissingers in the future will spend their working lives analyzing.'" While Ronald Reagan never won an Oscar, concludes the author, "by any measure, that is a performance worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award." CLASS OF '94 For the GOP, there was no better vintage than 1994. Which is why former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour is being called upon to produce another bumper crop. "Our goal is to win back the Senate next year," says Barbour, the newly appointed finance chairman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The appointment was made by Sen. Bill First of Tennessee, NRSC chairman, who calls Barbour a proven "strategist" and winner. In 1994, Barbour led Republican efforts that resulted in the greatest midterm Republican sweep of the 20th century, with Republicans picking up 52 House seats and eight Senate seats to win control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Republicans that year also picked up an additional 11 governors' offices and more than 500 state legislative seats across the country. FUTURE WORSHIP The British have sailed into Washington aboard a unique naval ship: the world's biggest trimaran, berthed in the back yard of Capitol Hill. At a welcoming ceremony Monday (June 4), U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jay Cohen talked about how this was a happier visit that the one in 1812 -- when the British Navy tied up in the same spot and proceeded to burn down Washington. The admiral, however, couldn't help but joke to the British visitors, "Please leave the Navy Yard as you found it." The Triton, an innovative triple-hull vessel, has docked at the Navy Yard for a weeklong visit. Although visitors will not be allowed to board, dockside observation is being encouraged. And what an eyeful awaits. The football-field-sized ship, a prototype for the next generation of warships, is visiting Washington as part of extensive U.S. sea trials to ensure its cutting-edge design can live up to high expectations. Those include "turn-on-a-dime" maneuverability, maximum speed of 20 knots, ultra-stability thanks to special fins, and almost 50 percent extra deck room for weaponry and helicopters. It's also a floating laboratory, configured to meet all the needs of war and peace, both military and civilian (there is onboard accommodation for 12 scientists). Still, the Brits can't claim all the glory for this futuristic craft. The Triton is the powerful result of a British and U.S. collaborative effort to come up with a naval ship of the future. So while it's British-built and crewed by the British Merchant Navy, all the instruments -- advanced to a degree -- are U.S.-produced.