Beltway Beat: Chain-Linked Capital

Posted: Apr 03, 2002 12:00 AM
A permanent chain-link fence around the Kennedy Center? It's not out of the question. Look for additional security buffers - some in the form of chain-link fences - to go up around official Washington as the nation enters this new age of terrorism. Here's what we know: Since Sept. 11, federal agencies and other facilities in Washington have been re-examining the security of their perimeters. To give you an idea to what extent, we're told the entire federal government will spend about $6 billion on upgrading perimeter security alone this fiscal year, with a large part devoted to chain-link fencing. Last week, at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, representatives from the General Services Administration, Department of Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Kennedy Center attended the Chain Link Fence Manufacturers Institute's introduction of new security-fencing guidelines. Among the briefers was a leading anti-terrorism analyst, retired Marine Col. Ed Badolato, who explained how to maximize perimeter security at government buildings, military installations and other high-security areas of Uncle Sam's. And it's not just government installations concerned about their peripheries. Representatives of many leading technical and communications companies in the Washington area were also on hand. BEAN SPROUT SWIRL? Days after telling readers about "fat taxes," we learn that legislation to impose a "fat tax" on soft drinks in California and study new taxes on junk food is the first wave of a new war on fat by politicians. But not all politicians. The Libertarian Party says the "war on fat" by politicians other than themselves "should be vigorously fought by every American. "This is our next great battle of American politics: keeping politicians out of our refrigerators," says Libertarian spokesman George Getz. "If we don't stop them now, they'll slap new taxes on soda, hamburgers and ice cream - while subsidizing tofu, broccoli and bean sprouts." In California, state Sen. Deborah Ortiz has introduced a bill that would impose a new tax on distributors of soft drinks and other sweetened sodas. The bill would add about 2 cents to the cost of a typical 12-ounce soda, and the money - as much as $300 million a year - would be used to fund childhood-obesity prevention programs. Getz counters that our eating habits are none of Uncle Sam's business, saying the government should not be allowed to "micromanage our menus and tax our Twinkies." BREAKFAST WITH HILLARY Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's numerous visits to Washington in recent years were often surrounded by controversy. In February 1999, Arafat was invited to break bagels with President and Mrs. Clinton at the 47th National Prayer Breakfast - against the wishes, we should add, of the breakfast chairman, Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla.; the Christian Coalition; and the Zionist Organization of America. Arafat could not have been more delighted. After all, he had been waiting to thank Mrs. Clinton in person for her declaration months before in support of a Palestinian state. "I thank her from deep inside my heart," Arafat proclaimed when Mrs. Clinton surprised everybody from Tel Aviv to Washington, including her husband, by hoisting the Palestinian flag. "The territory that the Palestinians currently inhabit and whatever additional territory they will obtain through the peace negotiations should be considered, and evolve into, a functioning modern state," Mrs. Clinton proposed. As for President Clinton, whose own policy did not allow him to support an independent Palestinian state, he knew no amount of White House spin could bail him out of this one. Like it or not, he was forced to take the extraordinary step of publicly distancing himself from his own wife. He allowed his White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, the privilege: "That view expressed personally by the first lady is not the view of the president." SKIT TO REMEMBER President George W. Bush and Drew Carey appearing together on stage? For one engagement only, at the 88th annual White House Correspondents' Association's Dinner on May 4. "You're going to love this dinner," WHCA President Steve Holland says of the black-tie gala honoring President Bush and featuring entertainment by the star of "The Drew Carey Show" and "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" Actually, Bush and Carey have shown up together in nationwide polling, Bush among the top people living today in any part of the world who are admired most and Mr. Carey among the favorite TV personalities. In fact, one Harris poll had Carey as the favorite TV celebrity, topping Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Rosie O'Donnell, even Jennifer Aniston. This will be the first WHCA dinner since Sept. 11, which has posed new challenges for the 60 or so scribes who cover the president on a daily basis. "The White House Correspondents' Association has taken an active role in working with the new administration in its first year in office," Holland says. "It has been a difficult year since Sept. 11. We've worked hard to ensure that (reporters') access to the president at the White House and on the road has not been compromised."