Politics of war

Posted: Jun 20, 2002 12:00 AM
Sept. 11 did nothing to break the 2000 stalemate in U.S. politics, with red (George W. Bush) states like Texas getting redder and blue (Al Gore) states like California getting bluer. "The war on terrorism has not transformed U.S. politics," says William Schneider, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "In fact, there are indications the opposite may happen. The war may become more political as it goes on." He cites the debate surrounding Iraq, which pits conservatives and Republicans who favor using U.S. ground troops to overthrow leader Saddam Hussein against liberals and Democrats who remain strongly opposed to such an undertaking. "This is the first time since Sept. 11 that a war issue has become partisan and divisive," Mr. Schneider notes. "Iraq is likely to be far more controversial than Afghanistan. America's 'old politics' - the political division of 2000 - could end up infecting America's 'new war.'" WELCOME TO AMERICA You illegally crossed our border? You're a drugs and weapons importer? You're a sociopath Spewing venomous wrath? Yes, everything seems in order. - F.R. Duplantier TEXAS TWO-STEP At New York's LaGuardia airport, Vietnam Veterans Memorial founder Jan Scruggs was preparing to board a Delta Shuttle flight back to Washington's Reagan National Airport. He'd been in the Big Apple trying to persuade NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw to investigate Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's maneuvers over the past 18 months to prevent an education center from being built at the widely-visited memorial, also known as "The Wall." On three different occasions, Mr. Scruggs pointed out, the Republican senator stopped the center's needed legislation from reaching the Senate floor. It so happens that when Mr. Scruggs reached the Delta boarding gate he and just one other fellow passenger were chosen by security officers to be searched. Wasn't Mr. Scruggs surprised to look next to him and see Mr. Gramm. Talk about a small world. As with the recent body searches of former Vice President Al Gore, these two obviously suspicious-looking gentlemen were told to remove their shoes and open their bags for inspection. When no plastic explosives or knives were found they were given permission to board the plane. Walking down the jetway, Mr. Scruggs introduced himself. "My name is Jan Scruggs," said the memorial founder. "We have had a long struggle against you over the Vietnam Veterans Education Center. Is it over or not, senator? I need to know right now." Mr. Gramm eyed Mr. Scruggs for a while and replied: "As far as I am concerned it never happened." Mr. Scruggs tells us he'll now wait to see if the senator is a man of his word. MONEY TAMPERING In recent weeks this column revealed how much money Uncle Sam has wasted - $62 million - promoting 1.4 billion Sacajawea dollars, the much-hyped golden coins that nobody wants to spend. We learn that the U.S. Mint, having failed with Sacajawea, the American Indian girl who helped guide Lewis and Clark westward, is planning to remove the image of Monticello from the reverse side of the U.S. nickel and replace it with an image of an American Indian and an eagle looking to the West. Not so fast, says Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, who recently introduced legislation to keep the home of Thomas Jefferson put. Mint officials originally said the redesign plan would be made final on June 17. "My office was notified of this decision very late in the process, and I'm offended on behalf of the people of Virginia that we were not given any chance to have any input on this decision, nor were the American people," says Mr. Cantor. "The images of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello represent to America so much of what this nation was founded upon - the principles of liberty, freedom and limited government." HILL SEARCH Missing children aren't just for milk cartons anymore. Beginning immediately, official congressional envelopes mailed from the office of Rep. Richard Pombo, California Republican, will feature pictures of the nation's missing kids provided through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. NO ASSURANCES Forget the traditional thinking about solving the world's problems: an environmental conference to be held in Aspen, Colo., next month will focus "on whether a sustainable future is even possible." The Sopris Foundation of Aspen and the Worldwatch Institute of Washington are hosts of a far-reaching panel at The Aspen Institute, convening environmental and social thinkers to dissect trends they say are putting the global economy on a collision course with the earth's ecosystems. "Unlike other feel-good environmental conferences where the audience is assured our problems can be solved and that everything will be all right, this conference will confront head-on the harsh realities and the dramatic steps that have to be taken," says Kate McBride Puckett, president of the Sopris Foundation and conference director. In a letter to conference directors, former undersecretary of state and Colorado Sen. Tim Wirth phrased the problem this way: "The fact is that by every single measure, the state of our earth's health is declining. A huge and radical turnaround is necessary." Among the several speakers are former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm and immigration expert Jonette Christian.