McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Nov 12, 2001 12:00 AM
It's become clear why Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, is the leading supporter of House Joint Resolution 42 - requiring American flags atop all federal office buildings to be lowered to half-staff each year in commemoration of fallen firefighters, particularly those who perished on Sept. 11. "I am proud to have close to 30 firefighters in my family," Reyes reveals. "It is a deep-rooted tradition and a strong dedication to service that has been in my family for years." IN PRAISE OF LAURA Oprah Winfrey, we wrote earlier this week, is the nation's most powerful woman - or so concludes the Ladies' Home Journal, which ranks the 30 Most Powerful Women in America. Martha Stewart ranks 3rd, Barbara Walters 4th, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton 5th and Britney Spears 9th. First Lady Laura Bush, surprisingly, was ranked 26th on the list. "Is it possible the readers of the Ladies' Home Journal could have been influenced by some substance stuck between the pages of said publication?" wonders reader Sam Pierce. "Britney above Laura? Hillary above Laura? We can't be in our right minds." "Thanks for the news about 'Power Women,'" writes Bert Jeffries. "'Icons for the Ignorant' would have been a better title." Adds Doug Huffman: "If a political democracy is 'the rule of fools by fools,' then where will this marketplace-democracy lead us? Not, I believe, to any utopia. The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense." "This is just a thought watching Mrs. Bush," reader John Engel writes. "Maybe she just wants to be a support to her husband and not a power woman. I would venture to say she may be more powerful than any of us think." "Britney Spears?" asks Roger Ferguson of New Jersey. "Really." HISTORY LESSON He never ceases to amaze Americans 50 and more years his junior. So perhaps it's not surprising that Sen. Strom Thurmond, who in a few weeks turns 99, is an original co-sponsor and assisted in drafting a most urgent immigration control measure - the Visa Entry Reform Act. And in doing so, the South Carolina Republican is recalling the history lessons learned in his lifetime. "This bill will help America get back control of our borders," Thurmond says quite simply. "The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have demonstrated how dangerous it can be for us to fail to know who is coming into our country." Among key points, the legislation would create one centralized database for all noncitizens, integrated by all law-enforcement and intelligence services so relevant agencies could share and gain access to critical data. Airlines, cruise ships and cross-border bus lines would also be required to submit passenger manifests prior to departure, providing ample time for U.S. authorities to conduct background checks on visitors. And the legislation would impose greater control on student visas, requiring schools to report quarterly to the Immigration & Naturalization Service. "If a foreign student dropped out, or failed to register or attend classes, the school would be required to notify the INS immediately," notes Thurmond, who on the heels of World War II ran for president in 1948. In fact, a provision of the bill inserted at Thurmond's request requires a General Accounting Office study on whether the United States should return to an annual registration of aliens. "This was a World War II-era program that was essentially abandoned about 20 years ago," says Thurmond, who believes annual registration is needed again "to determine whether temporary aliens are actually here for the reasons they were authorized to enter, such as attend school." "I believe this reform could be very beneficial to our security," the eight-term senator says. "The terrorism threat we face today is no less serious than the more conventional wars we fought in the past." HOW TRUE "I will be contributing to myself as well as the defense of this country and the betterment of the world." -- High school paper about one's future plans, written by Army Ranger Spc. John J. Edmunds, a member of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 75th Rangers, who died in a recent helicopter crash in Pakistan while providing rescue relief for fellow American troops in Afghanistan. NO RED LINE It's not so much a war on terrorism as it is a race against terrorism. Sobering words from Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who says there's no line terrorists won't cross - "and no limit to what they might and in fact will do." "We are in a race with terrorists," prefers Shays, "to prevent them from getting a better delivery system for chemical and biological agents, to get nuclear waste material to explode in a bomb, a conventional bomb, or even to get a nuclear weapon. They will use all of those weapons because there is no red line to them." SCARLET CROW Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., went looking for a buried Indian in the Congressional Cemetery east of Capitol Hill and instead found "a rather forlorn place" in need of dignity. The senator tells us he was interested in American Indians buried in the Congressional Cemetery, particularly Scarlet Crow, a member of the Wahpeton-Sisseton Sioux Tribe who died under mysterious circumstances in Washington in 1867. Dorgan says he went to the cemetery to find Scarlet Crow's tombstone, finding a once-hallowed burial ground that's fallen into disrepair. He went back to his office and asked his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee for the needed funding to "spruce up" the cemetery, and now has been granted $1.25 million for the effort. "It is my hope that this funding will honor the memory of Scarlet Crow by restoring dignity to his final resting place," Dorgan says. "This funding is a tribute to this dedicated native American, Scarlet Crow, whose life came to such a tragic and untimely end in our nation's capital." From what we can gather, an apparently robust Scarlet Crow was in Washington to meet with government officials when he suddenly was found dead of "natural causes." Some, though, suspect he was murdered. CAN'T TRUST ANYBODY There is no truth to the rumor that knitting needles were confiscated from one woman's carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for fear that once on board the airplane she would knit an afghan.