Beltway Beat: Alien checks

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 26, 2002 12:00 AM
Much has been written since Sept. 11 about immigration, legal and illegal, and how it has swelled beyond a social debate into a national security issue for America. But an often-overlooked dimension concerns taxpayers, says Jim Tyrell, associate policy analyst for the 335,000-member National Taxpayers Union, which presses not only for lower taxes, but government accountability. Tyrell tells us that from 1997 to 1999 alone, the Internal Revenue Service "issued some $2 billion in erroneous Earned Income Credit payments to 'non-work' Social Security number holders, most of whom are in America illegally." Yes, illegally. TERRORISM SUMMIT World and national leaders will descend on Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., May 13-14 to discuss a "global" approach to combating terrorism. NATO's Supreme Allied Commander (Atlantic) Gen. William F. Kernan; Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy; German Ambassador to the U.S., Wolfgang Ischinger; former ambassador and Brookings Institution President Michael Armacost; and Carl Bildt, former special envoy to the Balkans and past prime minister of Sweden, are among participants in the symposium. GOVERNING SPACE While she's on the right track, questions are being raised over legislation introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would create a virtual red-light district on the Internet, moving pornographers from .com to something like .prn. Landrieu's bill gives owners of adult sites 12 months to transfer all pornographic content to the new domain. One immediate problem, however, is that a great deal of Internet porn is foreign-owned and operated. "Nice sentiment," a top Internet industry insider tells this column, "but how would more than 200 countries attempt to agree on the definition of pornography? How would you enforce it? How could the U.S. Congress tell the world to push soft/hard pornography into one area of the Internet? "If you can't attempt to regulate content internationally on the Internet," says the insider, "certainly you can't regulate it by using domain names." The chairman of the House Republican Conference is accusing his Democrat counterparts of swiping the HRC's official slogan, created - but not copyrighted - in 1999. "I am glad to see Democrats are finally looking forward to 'Securing America's Future,'" says House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, who implemented the slogan, which appears on everything from HRC letterhead to placards, after being elected chairman. The New York Times this week published a story focusing on the new message being crafted by Democrat leaders, who it said were "struggling to find their voice." "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," says Watts, who leaves open the possibility that Democrats might finally be embracing Republican ideals. "But I'd rather Democrats imitate our votes, not just our slogans. Perhaps I should change the House Republican Conference letterhead to read: Securing America's Future (c). TEXAS WHITE HOUSE A White House insider says presidential Counselor Karen Hughes will not be riding off into the sunset when she steps down from her key post this summer and returns to Texas. "I think you will see her here in Washington (quite frequently) for major decisions or announcements," says a White House official, who asks not to be identified. "And certainly (Hughes and President Bush) will be talking on the phone constantly." Considered Bush's closest adviser, Hughes has been constantly at his side since his days as Texas governor. She surprised everybody in the White House and elsewhere this week by announcing her resignation, saying she's homesick for Texas and wants to spend more time with her family. She stressed that she would continue to advise the president, although she probably won't be on the federal payroll. "A lot is being said about her departure," the official acknowledged, "and many in Washington are having a hard time believing that someone would want to leave a great job like this for their family. But that's the way this White House operates, and that's the way Karen Hughes operates. It makes all of us realize the importance of family." Bush often reveals that he, too, is homesick for Texas. In fact, the president prefers to huddle with visiting foreign heads of state at his Prairie Chapel ranch, where he chauffeurs them around in his pickup. As for Hughes' replacement, the White House official repeated Bush's sentiments that "Karen Hughes is irreplaceable." BUSH TRIBUTE Hughes isn't leaving Washington without first attending the 88th annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner honoring President Bush on May 4, the first WHCA dinner since Sept. 11. First lady Laura Bush will also be on hand for the black-tie gala in the Washington Hilton ballroom, joined by senior White House officials Andrew Card, Karl Rove and Mary Matalin. AFGHAN IS IN It used to be that film and TV celebrities like Rob Lowe and Tony Curtis, and "15-minute stars" like O.J. Simpson's house guest Brian "Kato" Kaelin, were the hit of the Correspondents' Dinner. Not so this year. Who would have guessed that one of this year's biggest snares is newly appointed Afghanistan Ambassador Ishaq Shahryar, who, along with his wife, Hafizah, will be seated in the company of Sunday talkmeister John McLaughlin. Come to think of it, McLaughlin is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of "The McLaughlin Group," which premiered as a pilot on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., in April 1982 and went on to make history as the first in a long line of political screamfests.