Post-Nixon crime

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jul 23, 2003 12:00 AM

Susan Ford, who spent her formative years living in the White House as daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and first lady Betty Ford (she never got the attention Chelsea Clinton did, but today's entertainment "media" wasn't around yet), has just written her second mystery novel.

The plot: Is the killer stalking the president's daughter, or is the real target the dad?

Either way, the White House is the setting for the sleuthing in Sharp Focus (Thomas Dunne Books).

RUNS IT OFF

It's not often that President Bush shows visible signs of wear and stress. And his ability to jog an 8-minute mile with little effort or pain impresses runners years his junior.

How does he do it?

On his recent visit to Texas, Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, bumped into an old friend who operates a fitness facility.

"In the midst of some of those Ranger losing streaks I would get all anxious and I would go over and visit with my friend Ken Cooper," Bush recalled.

Cooper's advice?

"He'd just say, run until it doesn't hurt anymore."

NOT ABOVE THE LAW

One public interest law firm, in particular, is praising last week's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals to limit the recoupment of legal fees from U.S. taxpayers by former President Bill Clinton and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation, after all, successfully pursued law license sanctions against Clinton.

"Our organization spent three years in the successful effort to hold Mr. Clinton professionally accountable for lying under oath and obstructing justice in a court case," says Lynn Hogue, chairman of SLF's legal advisory board and Arkansas-licensed lawyer who brought the initial bar complaint against the president in 1998.

"This sad episode serves to remind members of the legal profession that they are duty-bound to protect the integrity of the judicial system no matter what elevated position they might hold," he says.

A constitutional law professor at Georgia State University College of Law, Hogue notes that both Clintons are lawyers and, as such, "they continue to fall under a special and strict set of rules designed to protect the integrity of the legal system that do not apply to non-lawyers."

Last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court disbarred Mr. Clinton, SLF criticized the couple's attempt to recoup from taxpayers somewhere between $1 million and $6 million in legal fees resulting from the Whitewater investigation. The Clintons' joint net worth is now estimated to be more than $15 million.

GOP CONSPIRACY

"As the proud father of nearly 7-year-old Reagan Robb Dellinger, I am enjoying the running commentary" on parents increasingly naming their children, especially girls, after the 40th president of the United States, writes Royal S. Dellinger.

"Although my mom was executive assistant to the boss (Ronald Reagan), and I was principal deputy executive director at PBGC (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) and deputy assistant secretary at the DOL (Labor Department), it was Reagan's older sisters who picked her name after they met another Reagan at the beach. They liked the name but didn't link it to the president.

"Needless to say, I was pleased. Of course, no one believes that I didn't steer them to their suggestion, but some folks - mostly my Democrat friends - just won't believe the truth about most anything."

PARTING WORDS

Here's wishing a pleasant retirement to Carol Cox Wait, a frustrated departing president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

"After 22 years as president, I am leaving the committee ... and ask your indulgence," says Wait, sharing some final thoughts on the federal budget.

She first observes that the committee opened its doors in 1981, for once a group outside of government that was committed to a sound budget process.

"Not to specific spending or tax initiatives or programs, but rational, transparent, disciplined budget decision-making rules," she says. "Almost immediately, the committee was overwhelmed by the specter of historically large, seemingly endless, structural budget deficits."

But the committee, under her leadership, buckled down. And 17 years later, on Feb. 2, 1998, President Clinton released a $1.7 trillion balanced budget that he said marked "the end of an era."

Then, of course, came the national wake-up call on Sept. 11. Homeland security issues could no longer be ignored and were beefed up, airlines had to be bailed out, U.S. troops went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and given the astronomical costs of these and other unanticipated bumps in the road, it was good timing for President Bush (if not Wait) to expire budget enforcement rules.

"It is very unfortunate, to say the least, that the budget enforcement rules expired just as huge unanticipated surpluses emerged," Wait says. "Budget balance proved to be a fragile hothouse flower. Huge surpluses evaporated just as quickly as they emerged. Here we are, 22 years later, and it is deja vu all over again."

BUNNING'S SLIDER

You know the dog days of summer are upon us when the political junkies of Washington turn to America's pastime - baseball.

Our mailbox is jammed after writing that a valuable baseball was stolen from the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican and Hall of Fame pitcher. The missing autographed (Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra and others) baseball was from the 1957 All-Star game, in which Bunning was the starting and winning pitcher.

Most readers expressed dismay that somebody would dare snatch the senator's prized souvenir. Others wrote to say they had no idea the senator was Jim Bunning the legendary pitcher.

Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) once told the story of when Bunning was pitching against the New York Yankees, a team that had as its first-base coach Bob Turley, who was highly skilled at stealing a catcher's signs.

"Every time Jim would throw a fastball, Turley would whistle, and the batters knew what the pitch was," the congressman explained. "Now the first batter up was Bobby Richardson, and Jim got him out. The second batter up was Tony Kubek, the shortstop. Jim got him out. The third batter stepped in, Mickey Mantle, and Jim walked over to the first-base coach, Turley, and he said, 'If you whistle, I am going to hit him right in the back with a pitch.'

"Jim took the mound. He got his sign, and he was at the top of his windup when Turley whistled. Jim decided to cross everybody up. He threw a slider. It got away from him, and hit Mantle right in the back. Mantle headed toward the mound with his bat, but decided better of it and trotted down to first base.

"The next batter was Yogi Berra. Yogi stepped in, pounded the plate, looked at Jim Bunning and said, 'Hey, Jim, if Turley whistles, I ain't listening.'"

PEDAL TO THE METAL

In light of his "McCarthy-like attacks" against the State Department, a freshman congressman is calling on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to "do the right thing now" and resign from the U.S. Defense Policy Advisory Board.

"If he does not resign, the president, the secretary of defense, and the secretary of state should hold him accountable for his statements, and they should demand his resignation from the board," says Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

"The Bush administration can either stand by the statements of Mr. Gingrich or they can make it clear that those statements are unacceptable."

The Defense Policy Advisory Board is chartered to provide the secretary of defense and his top deputy with advice on a wide range of national security matters.

Gingrich told American Enterprise Institute, where he's a senior fellow, that certain State Department officials were engaging in a "deliberate and systematic effort to undermine President Bush's foreign policy." He later asserted in writing that rising anti-American sentiment is partially the result of U.S. diplomats abdicating "values and principles in favor of accommodation and passivity."