3-D disparity

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jul 02, 2003 12:00 AM

First we learn that cash-flow problems could stymie South Carolina's presidential primary, which is supposed to take place in seven months, because the cash-strapped state Democratic Party doesn't have the money to pay for it. The most recent state filing showed the Democrats had only $288.93 in their bank account, well short of the required $450,000 to hold the primary.

Now we've gotten hold of the current Federal Election Commission June quarterly filing for net cash on hand for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, in Washington - $514,677. Compare that sum with that of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, or NRCC - $5.43 million.

In May, the NRCC raised $8 million, compared with the DCCC's $1.5 million. As for a yearly comparison, the NRCC thus far in 2003 has pulled in $39 million in contributions. The DCCC has pulled in $10 million.

No wonder congressional Republicans are handing their Democratic rivals a new "3-D" theme of alliteration: "disengaged, depressed and destitute."

WHAT ARI WON'T MISS

Earlier this week, aboard Air Force One en route to Florida, outgoing White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had the following exchange with desperate correspondents along for the ride:

Reporter: "Why can't you find Saddam Hussein?"

Fleischer: "As Ambassador (Paul) Bremer said, we will."

Reporter: "Now you're saying he's alive."

Fleischer: "It's just a question, just a question of time. If he's alive, we'll find him. Thank you for that clarification. If he's alive, he'll be found over time."

Reporter: "Is he alive? Did you say he was alive?"

Fleischer: "No. I said -"

Reporter: "What did you say?"

Fleischer: "...I answered it. And then I indicated that if he's alive, we will find him."

BY SEA...

Former first lady Nancy Reagan will be in Norfolk, Va., on July 12 to commission America's most technologically advanced super aircraft carrier, the apex of Nimitz-class design, the first carrier to incorporate a 722-ton bulbous bow design, the future of aircraft carriers - the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76).

Joined by President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Reagan on March 4, 2001, christened the Ronald Reagan, paying lasting tribute to the life, achievements and presidency of her husband.

But a christening and commissioning, we now learn, are two very different ceremonies.

"Maritime lore has held for centuries that the spirit of a ship's sponsor enters the vessel at christening and remains with it forever," according to the Navy League of Hampton Roads. "Once a vessel is christened with the traditional champagne, she slides down the ways into the water and enters the final phases of construction and fitting out."

For a large ship like the Reagan - 1,092 feet long, 47,000 tons of structural steel, 1 million pounds of aluminum and a 4.5-acre flight deck - it can take months, if not years.

"Once the vessel has completed rigorous testing and manufacturer sea trials - and is deemed by the shipbuilder to be capable of performing her design mission - she is prepared to join the fleet," the Navy League states.

Thus, the commissioning ceremony will culminate with Mrs. Reagan raising a long whiplike commissioning pennant to the masthead. At that time, the vessel becomes a United States ship. (The USS Alfred in 1775 was the first such U.S. ship to be commissioned.)

"The long whiplike pennant that flies above all vessels in service of the United States of America traces its roots to the Anglo-Dutch naval wars of 1642-1654," the Navy League states. "British Admiral Robert Blake affixed a buggy whip to the masthead to convey the message that it was his intention to 'horsewhip' his adversaries."

Among its many high-tech features, the Reagan has a network based on fiber optics for improved communication, features a redesigned weapons elevator system, and has improved facilities for female personnel.

...OR BY MOUNTAIN

Washington public relations mogul and presidential historian-author Peter Hannaford said a bell rang in the back of his mind after reading about the New Hampshire legislature renaming a mountain "Mount Reagan," after the former president.

"In our younger days, my wife and I tramped up and down quite a few New England mountains," recalls Hannaford, a former Reagan adviser. "Later, back in California, we and our sons did the same in the Sierra Nevada. In those days, I kept a binder with notes and a log from our climbs and hikes.

"I pulled it down from a shelf and found that my wife and I had climbed 'Mt. Reagan' in July 1955 - the same day we climbed its next door neighbor, Mt. Washington. 'Mt. Reagan' - has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"

ONCE UPON A TIME...

Yes, Virginia, there are fairy-tale romances.

Ask Amy Harkins, who for the past two years has been a media relations specialist in the U.S. Senate Press Gallery. Her knight in shining armor, White House spokesman Taylor Gross, rode in unannounced on Friday evening.

"I lured her over to the White House under the ruse of going to a reception in the East Wing," Gross tells Inside the Beltway. "I had prearranged with Secret Service agents posted by the Rose Garden to keep foot traffic at a minimum and then took Amy into the garden on our way to the East Wing."

And?

"I was really nervous and didn't know what to say," he says, "so I began telling her some history about the Rose Garden."

And when you ran out of things to say?

"I dropped down on one knee and proposed to her."

We wouldn't be telling the whole story if we didn't mention that the flustered spokesman - trust us, Gross thinks more quickly on his feet - began sliding the engagement ring on her wrong hand. Which isn't to say the tearful Harkins wasn't in a similar state of blissful confusion, given the incredible turn of events.

"I'm the luckiest girl in the world," says the Mississippi native, one of triplet sisters. "Taylor can never put one over on me, but he did it this time."

As quickly as the Tennessee native got the ring on the right (meaning left) hand, Secret Service agents hiding in the bushes and atop the White House roof broke into applause.

Also hiding in the bushes, it turns out, was White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who captured the moment on film.

Oh, and Harkins did say "yes." Then she told her new fiance, "I need to call my sisters."

BORDER BUSINESS

John B. Childers, president and CEO of the Washington-based Consortium of Universities, read with interest our recent item about an American couple who, upon arrival to Florida by sailboat from Mexico, went to great lengths to check in with the U.S. Customs Service, as required by law.

When the couple finally reached a customs officer by telephone - one day later - he asked them two questions: "Are you both American citizens?" and "Do you have any avocados on board?"

Childers tells us, "I recently had the same experience in Minnesota. Upon returning from a fishing trip into the Boundary Waters area between the United States and Canada, my cousins and I went to report in to the Customs office near Ely, Minn.

"Upon arriving at the office - a trailer by the side of the road about 15 miles from the border - we found it closed at 4:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon. There was a sign that said to just put the form with the names of the members of our party in a box that was attached to the side of the trailer.

"We did," says the CEO, "but obviously there was no check to see who actually was in our group."

We trust you didn't pick up any hitchhikers, Mr. Childers - or bring back any northern avocados.

PASS THE NUTS

A pill by any other name might not be so cheap after all.

Sens. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., have attached the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals amendment to the Medicare bill to increase the availability of generic drugs.

But some say the legislation would weaken patent protections that innovator drug companies receive and open the door to foreign companies as far away as India to export "copycat" generic drugs to the United States.

Frontiers for Freedom, a Virginia-based think tank, says the amendment also would hamper the ability of brand-name manufacturers to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars spent developing, testing and negotiating Food and Drug Administration approval for new drugs. Drug makers reinvest those dollars into developing life-saving medications for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, Frontiers for Freedom explains.

Kerri Houston, the group's vice president of public policy, says, "Anybody can copy a pill, but restricting the time innovative drug companies have to recoup (research-and-development) costs is more than bad economic and health policy. It's just plain nuts."

CORN-POLISHING

An eager aide for Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., called up National Journal's Hotline this week to make the specific, obscure point that Edwards had supported one of Sen. Tom Harkin's Medicare amendments.

That would be Tom Harkin, Democrat from the state of Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential nominating contest. Edwards is one of four Democratic senators running for president. Harkin has remained unbiased in the crowded primary and has spent equal time introducing each of the candidates to his crucial home-state voters.

The Edwards aide went on to point out that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut missed the vote on Harkin's amendment. Had the two men - both running against Edwards for the Democratic nomination - been on hand for the vote, Harkin's amendment would have passed. The other senator seeking the White House, Bob Graham of Florida, voted to back Harkin.

"We're sorely disappointed the amendment was killed," Harkin spokeswoman Allison Dobson told a reporter from The Washington Times.

Asked whether her boss would seek revenge against Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman in the cornfields back home, Dobson chuckled and replied: "I don't think it will hurt their chances in Iowa."