It's the law

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 04, 2002 12:00 AM
In making the case for a U.S. military operation to oust the heavy-handed regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, all President Bush need remind Capitol Hill lawmakers is that he's simply obeying a law that they had passed. Senate Joint Resolution 23, to be specific, which Bush subsequently signed into law (Public Law 107-40). It authorizes the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." PATRIOT DAY With Sept. 11 fast approaching, several readers have inquired whether Uncle Sam finally gave the somber date an official name. The answer is yes: A House bill was ultimately signed by President Bush that officially establishes Sept. 11 as "Patriot Day." TOILING AWAY During a recent NBC "Today Show" feature about newly crowned national Scrabble champion Joel Sherman, a Scrabble board was showcased that spelled the word "fag" among the tiles. One curious viewer who wrote to the network was Tom Crandall of Arizona: "Please explain the reason for presenting this to the Today show audience. Also, please detail the difference in media reaction if this had occurred on the Rush Limbaugh Show or Fox News. It is important that I educate my niece, and this would be fodder for an educational presentation in her classroom." Today Show spokeswoman Allison Gollust reveals that Sherman, a 40-year-old retired bank teller, actually spelled "fag" to help him win the championship. "It was one of the winning words," she tells The Beltway Beat, reminding us that "fag" has several meanings, although it is most often used disparagingly in American English. Among the definitions culled from our Webster's dictionary: "to work hard, toil," "an English public school boy who acts as servant to an older schoolmate," and a "cigarette." All we have to say is that it's too bad for House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas that he didn't recall some of these various meanings when he was loudly denounced for inadvertently referring to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., as "Barney Fag." HEADLINE OF THE WEEK "The stuff they toss at Pombo is just like what he shovels," reads the newspaper headline in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin, referring to what environmental zealots have been tossing at Rep. Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif. Apart from being a congressman, Pombo is a rancher and dairy farmer. VACATION'S OVER First lady Laura Bush's spousal role, described since Sept. 11 as critical to the well-being of the nation, is cause for a new chapter in Kati Marton's re-released national best seller, "Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History." Which isn't to say that Laura Bush's required consoling elevates her to "presidential adviser," an unofficial but powerful role assumed by her predecessor, now-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom critics equated to a "co-president." Asked to recall the best advice she had given her husband since he became leader of the free world, the first lady glibly answered, "Let's see, I don't know. Cut his hair or something." In fact, in the first nine months of her husband's administration - when her presence was described as a "low profile pre-Sept. 11 existence" - the first lady spent enough time away from the White House to rival Bess Truman's record. "The White House is not a glittering place of culture or style under the Bushes. It is not an exciting place intellectually or socially," Marton opines. "Washington's social life holds little appeal for President Bush." Perhaps White House adviser Mary Matalin said it best, once observing that Washington, as far as the Bushes are concerned, is "a very insular, phony place." JOINING GEORGE? Katherine Harris, Florida's former secretary of state who certified that George W. Bush was the winner in Florida's hotly contested presidential election, is well on her way to winning her own seat in Washington - that held by retiring Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla. Harris in recent days filed a pre-primary fund-raising report with the Federal Election Commission and, according to campaign records, raised more than $2.6 million in her quest for Congress. GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT Congress is taking hits for increasing its salary by $5,000 to a total of $155,000 per year. "Members of Congress have the only job in the country whose occupants can set their own salary without regard to performance, profit or economic climate," observes Council for Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz. Congress amended the law in 1989 to allow for automatic "cost of living" increases every year, unless there is a specific vote to cancel it. This coming fiscal year will make four years in a row that Congress refused to turn down its pay raise, which some see as hypocritical and insensitive to the nation's hardships. "Unfortunately," says Schatz, "both parties share a 'gentleman's agreement' to stay quiet on the issue and pass it with as little fanfare as possible." ON SECOND THOUGHT Harvey L. Pitt, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, says former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin will be treated like everybody else during the SEC's probe into the implosion of Enron Corp. "If the commission finds violations of the securities laws, regardless of by whom, we will take appropriate action," Pitt assures Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who requested that the SEC investigation include Rubin's participation on behalf of the former energy giant. Pitt tells the congressman in a letter we obtained yesterday: "You have my assurance that the (SEC) enforcement division will carefully consider the information you provided concerning former Secretary Rubin." Some of that information concerns Rubin sounding alarms of Enron's pending collapse and placing calls to Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Peter Fisher to see how he felt about the idea of Enron getting a credit-rating boost. Both men ultimately agreed, in Rubin's words, that "this is probably not a good idea." TIMID REPUBLICANS Constitutional corruption, not politics, more rampant on Capitol Hill? It may come as news to Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but politics may not be to blame as their committee continues to stall confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. "It is the corruption of the Constitution itself that explains the current stall and the decision by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to impose an ideological litmus test on Bush's nominees," argues Cato Institute legal affairs expert Roger Pilon, who heads the Center for Constitutional Studies. "Judges today do set national policy far more than they used to - and far more than the Constitution contemplates," he says. "In fact, it is because the original design has been corrupted, especially as it relates to the constraints the Constitution places on politics, that we have come to ideological litmus tests for judges." Pilon predicts that Republicans will be unable to make a credible case for their judicial nominees until they come to grips with the constitutional revolution that took place during the New Deal. In the meantime, he says, Republicans "come across as timid Democrats," arguing occasionally for limited government but unsure how to go about it.