Kerry's War

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jul 24, 2003 12:00 AM

Suffice it to say that presidential hopeful John Kerry (D-Mass.) has made "Iraqgate" the theme of his campaign.

On virtually every stump he's stood on this week, Kerry has complained that President Bush sidestepped the congressionally approved path to war by bypassing the United Nations, by not building an international coalition, and simply by not doing what it was that he had promised to do (actually, one could argue that the senator is wrong on all three counts).

Forget that Kerry voted in favor of the Iraq war resolution. He did so, he now says, with the understanding that Bush would exhaust every remedy first. What was the big hurry, in other words.

But let's revisit Nov. 17, 1997, when nobody else in Washington except this column led with an item headlined, "Finish the mission."

"Debate on whether to take out Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi strongman, is over as far as one Democratic senator is concerned," or so we had written.

"Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is calling for a 'strong' military attack in response to the Iraqi leader's 'horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.'"

Weapons of mass destruction? That's what Kerry called them.

"As the senator points out, military might is the only language Saddam knows - and fears. 'Saddam Hussein should pay a grave price, in a currency that he understands and values, for his unacceptable behavior,' says Kerry. 'This should not be a strike consisting only of a handful of cruise missiles hitting isolated targets primarily of presumed symbolic value. But how long this military action might continue and how it may escalate ... and how extensive it would reach are for the (White House National) Security Council and our allies to know and for Saddam Hussein to find out!'"

Just as you wished, Senator.

NO MA BARKER

The giant online auction house EBay has banned a satirical T-shirt that links Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to Osama bin Laden.

The 100 percent cotton, preshrunk, fade-resistant "Osama bin Rodham" shirt combines the names and likenesses of Sen. Clinton and al Qaeda leader bin Laden. The shirt designer suggests that the former first lady's "paranoid ramblings" about a vast right-wing conspiracy were "eerily reminiscent of Osama's anti-American ravings."

"The item you have listed does not appear to be consistent with EBay guidelines," reads the July 14, 2003, notice to the St. Louis, Mo., shirt maker. "In accordance with our Offensive Items Policy," the notice continues, EBay may "remove listings of items closely associated with individuals notorious for committing murderous acts."

GOING HOLLYWOOD

A book by a Washington, D.C. think tank scholar is being made into a major Hollywood film.

The lucky analyst is James L. Swanson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and editor in chief of the annual Cato Supreme Court Review. And no, it's not the conservative makeup of the court that Hollywood is interested in this time.

Instead, Disney, partnering with Walden Media, will turn Swanson's forthcoming nonfiction thriller, "Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killers," into a high-profile motion picture. The book attracted Hollywood's attention after William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins, beat out Miramax Books for publishing rights in an intense bidding war.

The story, says Swanson, focuses on "John Wilkes Booth's terrorist conspiracy to topple the government at the close of the Civil War by assassinating Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, the secretary of state, and General (Ulysses S.) Grant, and on the nationwide pursuit for the hypnotic actor and his strange band of mesmerized followers."

At the Washington-based Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, where Swanson serves on the advisory committee, executive director Michael Bishop said: "This is great news. I hope that much of the film will be made here on location, where many of the Lincoln sites still stand."

COLLEGE INVENTIONS

Uncle Sam won't be fooled much longer by "bogus college degrees" and other "resume padding" under strict new guidelines being implemented by Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Cole James.

OPM, we've learned, will sponsor two seminars next month for federal human resources and personnel security managers to establish the veracity of education achievements cited by prospective employees on their resumes.

Several years ago, OPM alerted federal agencies to the FBI's investigation of "diploma mills" that sell bogus college degrees and other professional credentials.

"It is my goal to ensure that those hired to work for the federal government are of the highest integrity," the director says. "As the federal personnel security community continues to strive to protect homeland security, it becomes increasingly important that serious suitability issues are dealt with promptly and effectively."

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

Our recent item about White House spokesman Taylor Gross popping the question to the Senate Press Gallery's Amy Harkins in the White House Rose Garden caught the eye of Doug Shaddix of King & Spalding in Atlanta.

Shaddix, after all, is the first to document such a happy event with the White House Historical Society.

"In October of 1984, while working at the Republican National Committee, I got engaged in the main foyer, just beneath the chandelier, to my sweetheart - with four beady-eyed Secret Service agents looking on," he recalls.

"The White House Historical Society had no record of anyone getting engaged inside, though I'm certain that some have possibly proposed while going through on the tour," he adds. "I waited until a time when President Reagan would be away in order to be allowed to come in and pop the question."

His future wife, Carol, was personal assistant to Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman, and he'd arranged with the OMB staff to have her take a document to the director in the Red Room, "where I was to accost my swain en route," says Shaddix.

"As it turned out, I could not get into the Red Room ... because White House Chief of Staff James Baker was in the Red Room. As Carol entered the foyer, I had to intercept her and propose in the lobby while ushers and agents looked on."

That obviously made the moment twice as stressful.

"Yes, I was somewhat intimidated," he says, "and for that reason did not get down on my knees in the traditional manner."

GI JOE

Who better than Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, to introduce legislation to provide up to 250,000 additional troops specifically for homeland-security duties under primary state control. He's the only member of Congress drilling in the Army National Guard - that is, until he concludes 30 years of military service next month.

Joining Wilson in sponsoring the legislation is Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), a captain in the Tennessee state Guard.

What the bill would do is "allow us to tap into the thousands of ready-to-serve troops in state defense forces," says Wilson, adding that state defense forces were used heavily during World Wars I and II, fielding over 100,000 troops specifically tasked with homeland-security missions.

These volunteer forces receive no pay while in training or standby, but are paid standard National Guard pay scales if activated for a state emergency.

FIXING WAGONS

Strom Thurmond is gone, and it's not likely he'll ever be forgotten.

Freshman Rep. J. Gresham Barrett, South Carolina Republican, has introduced legislation to name the new Capitol Visitor Center after the legendary senator, who was 100 years old and barely into retirement when presented his final reward on June 26.

"Senator Thurmond's middle name was 'constituent service,' and it seems only fitting that we name the new visitor center after the nation's most dedicated and longest-serving elected official," Barrett says. The one thing the freshman heard repeatedly at Thurmond's funeral was that "if someone had a problem, the first person they called was Sen. Thurmond and they never had to call anyone else."

MILITARY ANIMALS

The president of the Navy League of the United States has warned every member of Congress this week that "critical defense development and training programs are being delayed or curtailed as our nation approaches a turning point in the war on terrorism."

And the problem is?

"The Navy and Marine Corps are besieged by overzealous environmentalists that have employed vaguely written regulations to delay or cancel key weapon development programs, severely reduce the size of usable military-training areas and diminish the opportunities for realistic training," the league's president, Sheila M. McNeill, tells Congress.

She cites, for starters, a six-year delay of deployment of an advanced sonar system because of unproved assertions that it would damage marine mammal populations. (The system would improve substantially the Navy's ability to detect quiet, diesel-electric submarines deployed by North Korea and Iran.)

In addition, only a mile of the 17-mile beach at Camp Pendleton, Calif., is available to practice amphibious landings, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to designate an additional 56 percent of the camp off-limits to military training, labeling it critical wildlife habitat. Same story for 65 percent of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California.

It gets worse. Uncle Sam's green soldiers proposed in October to designate large tracts of military property on Guam off-limits to protect such endangered species as the Mariana fruit bat and the Micronesian kingfisher, even though neither of the species lives on military land on Guam.