Retired U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, expresses doubt that Osama bin Laden will ever be found. However, he is confident Saddam Hussein will be captured or killed.
In his first in-depth interview since his retirement, with Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado, Gen. Franks says there "is no question that Saddam Hussein had the intent to do harm to the Western alliance and to the United States of America."
He says there's already enough evidence to suggest Iraq had the capability and intent to produce weapons of mass destruction. He also views Iraq and Afghanistan as "part of a global war on terrorism," voicing a three-word formula on dealing with terrorists and terrorist states: "Convince. Coerce. Compel."
As for ranking President Bush, the 58-year-old Gen. Franks says: "I think he's very, very bright" and will "ultimately be judged as a man of extremely high character."
The retired general is currently writing his memoirs for ReganBooks.
WHY EAT OUT?
The multimillion-dollar renovation of the State Department's headquarters continues, with the cafeteria reopening last week and touting several fancy new menu items: oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, shrimp, mussels, calamari, stuffed crab, crab cakes, souvlaki, Greek salads and stromboli baked in a "state-of-the-art" brick oven.
"Complete your meal or take an afternoon break with a cup of coffee from Starbucks," adds a State Department memo to employees.
Here's an interesting tidbit for Republican lawmakers to cite on the campaign trail: House Democrats in the last Congress called for an average of $417.6 billion in new spending - nearly 13 times more than the House Republican total of $32.3 billion.
In fact, some lawmakers today who are putting a frightful face on federal deficits are "masking" high-spending legislative agendas that would actually worsen the problem.
So concludes the latest BillTally study released by the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation, finding that only 26 lawmakers in the previous Congress had legislative agendas that would reduce overall federal spending, while 32 lawmakers would raise the annual budget by more than $1 trillion - the most lopsided levels ever recorded in the project's history.
"Taxpayers hoping to see federal spending restraint will be disappointed to learn that the 107th Congress took a long holiday from this task," said NTUF senior policy analyst Demian Brady.
The foundation's cost-accounting system computes a net annual agenda for each member of Congress. Within the 107th Congress, a record-high number of bills were identified as having a fiscal impact of at least $1 million (1,186 in the House and 851 in the Senate).
A record-low of 26 representatives sponsored bills that, if enacted all at once, would reduce federal spending. And get this: not a single senator had a net cutting agenda.
Vice President Dick Cheney says "the only real assignment I have in any formal constitutional sense is as the president of the Senate."
"When they wrote the Constitution, they created the job of vice president, then they went all the way through the Constitutional Convention, got down to the end, (and) suddenly discovered they hadn't given him anything to do," Cheney notes.
"So somebody said, well, we'll make him the president of the Senate, and let him preside over the Senate and let him cast the tie-breaking vote whenever the Senate is evenly balanced."
Cheney is envious of predecessor John Adams, the first vice president, because he was allowed floor privileges and joined in the debate of the day.
DID YOU KNOW?
George W. Bush wasn't the first, but the third Republican presidential candidate to win the White House while losing the popular vote, the other two being Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888.
Just one intriguing fact from "The Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans," by Lewis L. Gould, published simultaneously by Random House with "Party of the People: A History of the Democrats," by Baltimore Sun political columnist Jules Witcover.
Other little-known tidbits about the GOP:
- Republicans enacted the first income tax, during the Civil War, and defended it by saying that "the rich should be taxed more than the poor."
- Herbert Hoover and his wife were the last president and first lady to dress formally for dinner every night in the White House.
- Because of his record on the environment and social welfare spending, Richard Nixon has been called "the last liberal president."
- Charles Evans Hughes, the party's nominee in 1916, was the last presidential contender to wear a beard.
- Maine's Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to make a serious try for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964.
As for the Democratic Party, the oldest existing political party in the world, first called the "Republican Party" by Thomas Jefferson and later the "Democratic-Republican Party" before assuming its present name:
- Had an elector from Maryland not risen from his sick bed and walked through deep snow to the U.S. Capitol to vote for Jefferson in 1801, Aaron Burr, later charged with treason, would have become president.
- Martin Van Buren of New York, later elected president, was the first Democratic presidential campaign manager, organizing Andrew Jackson's successful bid in 1828.
- Sex raised its head early in Democratic politics when Andrew Jackson's supporters accused the younger John Quincy Adams of having procured a young girl for the Russian czar when Adams was minister to Moscow. Jackson's foes countered with allegations that Jackson and his wife were not legally married and that his mother had been "a common prostitute."
- In the 2000 election, Al Gore won the largest vote ever achieved by a Democratic presidential nominee. His popular vote margin of 539,947 was the largest ever posted by a popular-vote winner denied the presidency in the Electoral College.