McCaslin's Beltway Beat: Gibson's last stand?

Posted: Mar 01, 2002 12:00 AM
President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, joined Mel Gibson for a very early sneak peek - read, last fall - of the new movie "We Were Soldiers," opening this weekend. John Meroney, Washington-based associate editor of the American Enterprise, reveals that Rove and Gibson sat together several months ago in the private Washington screening room of Motion Picture Association Chairman Jack Valenti to watch Hollywood's version of the first major engagement of the Vietnam war - when 450 U.S. soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers in Ia Drang Valley. Joining Rove and Gibson for the screening were retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (played by Gibson), who commanded the 7th Cavalry and wrote the book the movie is based upon, and Joe Galloway, the UPI correspondent assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry. Also on hand was the picture's writer and director, Randall Wallace (scriptwriter for the Gibson blockbuster "Braveheart"). Without giving too much away, Meroney reveals one scene in the March issue of AE in which Gibson, preparing to depart for Southeast Asia, learns that his regiment number is seven. "The Seventh?" Gibson asks. "The same regiment as ... Custer?" "Ultimately, and this news won't spoil the film," promises Meroney, "Gibson and his troops fare better than the general and his soldiers did at Little Big Horn. But that's not to say they have an easy go of it." In fact, the war's initial engagement turned out to be one of the bloodiest. THOU SHALT CO-SPONSOR On behalf of a far higher authority, the "Ten Commandments Defense" will soon be introduced in Congress. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., will set forth the act, allowing states the power to decide whether or not to display the Ten Commandments on or within publicly owned buildings. The amendment, we're told, will use the First and Tenth Amendments as its base (i.e., those powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states). In other words, it would become a states' rights issue. At the heart of the debate is whether Congress has equal and independent authority to interpret the Constitution, or does the Supreme Court have the only say in a case in which the Congress interprets the Tenth Amendment as leaving a matter up to the states? The bill, says Aderholt, would take a significant step toward allowing states to advance religious freedoms previously restricted by the judicial branch. The Ten Commandments act, he says, does not violate the establishment clause of the Constitution. The Ten Commandments "do not represent one single religion - in fact, they are tenets of Judaism, Islam and Christianity," says language in the act. "Moses is the only historical figure in the House chambers not in silhouette; instead, he faces forward, looking down on the Speaker's chair," the act points out. "As the conduit of the Ten Commandments, he, in a sense, presides over the law-making process. His influence and the law of the Commandments have been recognized throughout the history of our country." MISUNDERSTOOD MISFIT We've just finished reading Joe ("Primary Colors") Klein's new book, "The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton," which hits bookstores next week. The publisher, Doubleday, promised us beforehand that we would be reminded of what we forgot - and what history will remember - about the nation's 42nd president. In other words, Clinton's "impressive" array of accomplishments: -- The first president in 40 years to oversee a budget surplus. -- Passed the Earned Income Tax Credit and tax credits for higher education. -- Oversaw growth of funding for Head Start and child care supports. -- Left office with the highest sustained job-approval ratings of any president except John F. Kennedy. We'll leave it up to readers to decide whether the above accomplishments - for a president permitted eight years in the Oval Office, only to be impeached - are that "impressive," or for that matter, historic. But as Klein himself concedes: "Moral turpitude was part of the problem, of course. Even if Clinton had passed universal health insurance, tackled terrorism, solved the Middle East, and led a successful global effort against AIDS, the Lewinsky scandal - and the outrageous gush of pardons granted on his last night in office - would still cast an enduring shadow over his presidency." EAR FOR AN EAR Opposition to D.C.'s Boxing and Wrestling Commission's semi-decision to grant heavyweight Mike Tyson a license to box in Washington, D.C. is not confined to any one corner of the political spectrum, with everyone from conservative pundit Armstrong Williams to Terry O'Neill of the National Organization for Women expressing dismay about the prospect of a Tyson match. Now, Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender joins the chorus of criticism, but for reasons that have little to do with political ideology or political correctness. "I am an avid fight fan, but this match is a liability nightmare," Olender warns. "Whenever Tyson fights there's trouble, and I see liability for the city from either lax or overzealous police activity, liability to the MCI Center for injuries on the premises, and so-called 'Dram Shop' liability of purveyors of alcohol for injuries caused by drunkenness. When you tally up the potential costs, the boost to city revenues from the fight isn't worth the potential costs," says the lawyer. Although he concentrates on medical malpractice, Olender says he's willing to represent the champion, Lennox Lewis, if Lewis gets bitten during the fight. "A bitten-off ear is not one of the risks assumed when entering into a boxing match. That's boxing malpractice," he tells this column.