McCaslin's Beltway Beat: Patriotic duty

Posted: Jan 09, 2002 12:00 AM
Perhaps it is fitting that suspected terrorists seeking to undermine the United States will be tried in the historic city of Alexandria, Va. "We're going to get some folks saying this is a terrible thing, but I feel it's our patriotic duty as Alexandrians to rise to the occasion and to ensure that justice is carried out," says Mayor Kerry Donley, who has learned that suspected would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid might join terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui for a court date in Alexandria. George Washington in 1749 helped lay out the streets of Alexandria, where Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee and his son, Robert E. Lee, each had homes. In fact, the nation's first president recruited his first command at Alexandria's Gadsby's Tavern in 1754, and held his final military review there in 1799. SMOKING ECONOMY Illegal or not, domestic pot cultivation has made marijuana America's No. 1 cash crop, and proof is beginning to show in Washington. Unprecedented fund raising and increasing national support for marijuana-policy reform has led the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project to increase its full-time staff from five to 11 in just three months. The project credits several unnamed "major donors" for doubling the project's budget from $500,000 in 2001 to more than $1 million this year. Now, organizations seeking to change state and federal marijuana laws - articulating tactics and strategies to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol - will be eligible for first-of-a-kind grants of up to $50,000 each under a new program administered by the project. We also see where longtime political strategist Billy Rogers, former fund-raising director for former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, has become the pot project's new director of state policies. In 1998, Rogers served as campaign manager for Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Garry Mauro, and prior to that helped launch (and served as editor in chief of) the Moscow Guardian, the first English-language magazine in Russia. ANTHRAX HYSTERIA National Public Radio is trying to link the Traditional Values Coalition to the anthrax scare. Or so the conservative coalition charges, informing Inside the Beltway that NPR reporter David Kestenbaum telephoned coalition executive director Andrea Lafferty on Thursday "to insinuate that the organization was somehow involved in mailing anthrax-filled letters to liberal senators." Lafferty said the NPR reporter asked her if the FBI had contacted the coalition. She then expressed shock at Kestenbaum's comments, asking why he thought that a "church group" was involved in sending anthrax through the mail. The reporter, according to the Traditional Values Coalition, replied that he'd seen a coalition press release that was critical of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and fellow Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, both of whom received anthrax-tainted letters. The news release was critical of the senators' efforts to remove "so help me God" from the oath administered to individuals testifying at Senate hearings. "It was quite an episode," the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, told Inside the Beltway. "I was really shocked. The pure assumption here, and the NPR thrust, was that we were a potential anthrax hoax group." As for Kestenbaum, he confirmed to Inside the Beltway that he was trying to track down any people who might have been interviewed by the FBI about anthrax, "including scientists." "The letters were sent to Democrats, and one question you have to ask is why," Kestenbaum told us. "Clearly, if the letters were sent to Republicans, you would have to look at environmental groups, for example." For the record, Daschle said recently that he believes the deadly anthrax-laced letters mailed to his Capitol Hill office were perhaps sent by somebody who previously worked for the military. POLITICAL POP-UPS When subscribers to Juno Online Services, an Internet-access provider, log on to retrieve their e-mail, a political survey pops up courtesy of the Democratic National Committee. "Dear Juno Member: America is currently facing many challenges at home and abroad," the pop-up message tells Juno subscribers. "The Democratic National Committee is interested in hearing the viewpoints of Internet users like you on the issues facing our nation." If they choose to participate, Juno subscribers are then asked to rate the importance of several hot issues, starting with improving security against terrorism, lowering taxes, protecting Social Security and Medicare, reducing classroom sizes, protecting the environment and protecting the right to bear arms. A spokesman for United Online Inc., a leading Internet-service provider that recently acquired Juno, told Inside the Beltway that the DNC paid to place the survey on the site, and said Juno "isn't taking any (political) position." We were alerted to the DNC pop-up by Juno subscriber Donald Thorson, who not surprisingly once worked for the Republican National Committee. GIRL STUFF "Just like every other woman in America, I carry a lipstick, a hairbrush, and Altoids." - First lady Laura Bush, in the current issue of Good Housekeeping HASKELL FOR PRESIDENT? Retiring House Majority Leader Dick Armey likens Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to "Leave It to Beaver" troublemaker Eddie Haskell, who was played by Ken Osmond on the sitcom that aired from 1957 to 1963. "The thing that kind of bothers me is his little angelic look about this feigning of sincerity," the Texas Republican told WABC radio's Sean Hannity. "You know, it's like Eddie Haskell got elected to the Senate." ISSUE OF HERITAGE? Daschle is putting politics over the heritage of 25 million Italian-Americans, according to the National Italian American Foundation, which is "outraged" by the Senate's failure to vote on the nomination of Eugene Scalia, a labor lawyer and the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to be the Labor Department's solicitor general. The Italian-Americans want an immediate vote on the nomination when the Senate returns later this month. The NIAF made its displeasure known in a letter to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. "This last and vital step has been denied by the Senate (Democratic) leadership, which is wrong," wrote NIAF President Joseph R. Cerrell. President Bush nominated Scalia more than eight months ago. The NIAF has alerted more than 300 Italian-American organizations to the leadership's stalling. GROUND ZERO The Army Corps of Engineers over the weekend briefed congressional aides about recovery efforts at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. Here's a congressional memo we obtained on the assessment: - "The effort is obviously very expensive, continues 24/7 and is superbly managed (including finding the damaged steel that had been stolen by the Mob.) - "South Tower removal is done, they have reached bedrock. North Tower removal is rapidly nearing completion. - "Depending on the weather, all cleanup at the WTC site might be done by April. The site will then be a huge 60-foot-deep tub (the surrounding walls are intact) and ready to start rebuilding. - "At that point, the roads in lower Manhattan can open and surrounding buildings repopulated. Neighboring buildings that had structural damage are already being repaired. All the utilities are being rerouted around the site. - "The remaining funds for cleanup will then be devoted to the sorting and burying of the material at the landfill in New Jersey. October to December 2002 will probably complete that work. - "Consequently, federal appropriations for 2003 will be to support the rebuilding plan. The first thing to be rebuilt is the subway line that ran under the center. Surprisingly, that line will likely be running by the end of the year but not stopping because the aboveground portions of the station will take longer. - "Of course, the rebuilding planning (how big a memorial, how big a new building) is a city-run work-in-progress, so the amount of federal funding participation is to be announced. With any luck, it will not be part of the Defense Bill!"