Rest assured, U.S. troops are not preparing to invade Iran - although some congressional reporters covering Capitol Hill weren't so sure.
As a result, the authors of legislation introduced in Congress - interpreted by some as authorizing military action against Iran in light of nearly two decades of covert nuclear programs pursued by that country - have agreed to erase one word from their amendment.
The initial words "all appropriate means" are confusing, agrees Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat.
"To make it absolutely clear that the resolution before us does not do that, the authors of the substitute amendment have deleted the word 'all' from that phrase. We do not intend this resolution to encourage the use of military force by any country," he stresses.
In other words, the United States will use "appropriate means" to bring Iran into international nuclear compliance, but stop short of "all appropriate means."
Not that Congress can march the U.S. military into war.
As the senator points out, such a resolution cannot authorize the use of force by the United States. Under the Constitution and War Powers Resolution, only legislation signed by the president can do that.
CRUISE TO VICTORY?
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume apparently has the black vote wrapped up for Sen. John Kerry, spending the entire week before the Democratic National Convention on the Royal Caribbean "Adventure of the Seas."
"We shipped off from San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sunday the 18th, and he was on the ship the whole week, until Sunday the 25th," one gentleman on his honeymoon tells this column. "He was at the clubs, comedy shows, lounges, dancing. . . ."
Congress is no role model.
Or so says one congresswoman fed up with congressional votes being extended up to three hours with the aim of changing the outcome, with charges of bribery on the House floor, with the reported theft of computer files by a congressional staffer.
Congress is increasingly becoming "a model of how not to run a democracy," says Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney. That is why the New York Democrat has introduced the Restoring Democracy to the United States Act of 2004, setting forth 10 changes that would:
1. Limit the time of roll call votes to 17 minutes.
2. Require conference committees to meet and vote before filing their conference reports.
3. Prohibit germaneness requirements for conference reports from being waived.
4. Prohibit members from calling the U.S. Capitol Police to have a congressman removed from a room.
5. Prohibit redistricting between censuses.
6. Prohibit a vote on legislation unless it has been available in a searchable form online for more than 24 hours.
7. Prohibit bribery on the House floor.
8. Prohibit hacking into members' computer files.
9. Prohibit committees from spending more than $25,000 a year on franked mail.
10. Guarantee the minority (currently, Democrats) a minimum of one-third of the overall committee budget.
After months of headlines surrounding U.S. treatment of al-Qaida and Iraqi prisoners, Congress has turned its attention to America's POWs.
"It is estimated that since the American Revolution, more than 500,000 Americans have been captured and incarcerated as prisoners of war," reports Rep. Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota.
Since World War I, more than 142,000 Americans, women included, have been captured and interned as POWs. Another 93,000 Americans were lost in battle, their whereabouts - or remains - unknown to this day.
Before Congress recessed for its summer break, the newly elected congresswoman introduced a bill authorizing a six-year extension of the Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Former Prisoners of War.
Created by Congress in 1981, the committee is made up of POWs from World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Vietnam and Gulf wars, as well as specialists from the medical field. It assists nearly 16,000 former POWs currently receiving federal compensation for service-connected injuries, diseases or illnesses.
Of the many letters received from readers surrounding Samuel R. Berger lining his trappings with classified documents, none reads as well as Phil Christenson's.
"In an election season that has become far too acrimonious, Sandy Berger has injected a delightful note of humor. He should be pardoned just for making us laugh again," Christenson notes.
"Caught stashing top-secret, code-word documents in various parts of his clothing, Berger gets help from his old boss when Bill Clinton comes to his defense with a claim, 'Oh, that's just Sandy's way,' and says that he's just disorganized.
"You can just imagine what it was like in the Clinton White House when they were having an all-night pizza party to discuss foreign affairs. Clinton asks National Security Adviser Berger for the presidential decision memo on North Korea, and (the) rumpled Berger stands up, checks his armpits for the memo, then reaches into his trousers and ... pulls out the NAFTA policy paper, the memo on NATO expansion, plans to deal with Burma human rights, but no Korean paper.
"Finally someone says, 'Sandy, have you checked in back?' Sandy fumbles around, reaches down the back of his trousers . . . and lo and behold out comes the Clinton policy on North Korea. I knew this is where they got their foreign policies."
Radio talk-show host Linda Chavez, former director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, got right to the point when grilling Lanny Davis, former special White House counsel to President Clinton, about former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger swiping government papers.
Q: Did you leak this?
A: I wrote a chapter in my book about one of the great reporters who covered the White House, John Solomon for the Associated Press. . . . But I'm afraid if I asked John Solomon, "Who leaked this to you?" he would give you the same answer that he's always given me when I asked that question, which is, "None of your business."
Q: OK, Lanny. But (the caller) was asking you . . . did you leak this information to John Solomon in order to get the bad news out of the way?
A: Oh, did I? Well, let me put it this way. Had I been asked last October by my old friend Sandy Berger - who is a great man, an honest man and has done something that he sincerely regrets - I would have suggested to Sandy that we call John Solomon and that he sit down with John Solomon and tell him the whole story and get the story out last October. Because as sure as the sun rises in the East, Linda, there were enough people who knew about this that this particular week out of 52 weeks in 2004 is not surprising as the week that somebody chose to leak the story.
When President Bush's motorcade rolled into Detroit for the National Urban League conference, the official White House pool report observed: "Along the way, the string of cars passed a billboard that said: 'Guess who's coming to Michigan?'"
If only Bush enjoyed such a billboard welcome.
"Pictured was Tiger Woods," read the report, "looking remarkably like a young Sidney Poitier."
The popular golfer is in the field for the upcoming Buick Open.
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING
"Nobody asked us, but we felt it was our civic duty to help these (presidential) candidates look their best," explains Pirooz Sarshar, co-founder of the Grooming Lounge barbershop in downtown Washington.
"I guarantee the ticket that follows our advice will be sitting pretty in the White House this time next year," he says, echoing this column's observations that more attention is being paid to the candidates' looks than their stance on issues.
Without further ado, the Grooming Lounge's tips:
President Bush: Cut your hair closer to eliminate excess puffiness and flyaways, which make you look less refined.
Vice President Dick Cheney: Shave your head or crop your hair ultra close to give you a younger, stronger look.
Sen. John Kerry: Bring down the height of your hair to create a closely cropped style more in line with your face shape. And trim your eyebrows.
Sen. John Edwards: Add some texture to your hair to eliminate "helmet head" and make you seem less boyish and more sophisticated.
PUMPED IT UP
Days before the start of the Democratic National Convention, few phrases could surface overnight and rank near the top of the Global Language Monitor's PQ (political-sensitivity quotient) Index.
But California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's use of "girly men" jolted the index by rising about 300 percent in less than 72 hours.
"If this trend continues, 'girly men' would ... best such terms as 'flip flopping,' 'quagmire,' and 'jobless recovery,'" index president Paul J.J. Payack says of the popular talking points leading into the Democratic convention.
"The governor has a way of speaking all his own that we call ArnoldSpeak, which is an ongoing language lab experiment," Payack says.
Congratulations to Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and former federal judge, who traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, and got himself elected president of the 55-nation Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Hastings defeated candidates from Finland and France after a German candidate withdrew in support of the Florida congressman, who hopes his one-year term encourages young blacks to "think globally."
The OSCE works to monitor elections and maintain peace throughout the world.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich admits, "I occasionally eat veggie burgers just because they're good for you. But I also eat meat and fish, so I'm probably not totally approved of by PETA."
Sounds to us like Newt might like to join People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said.
"With a name like Newt, animal lovers are bound to have a natural affinity for him," Friedrich agrees. "And of course, any friend of veggie burgers is a friend of ours. Every veggie dog he eats is one less animal carcass hot dog - good for him and good for animals."