Capitol Hill's top watchdog on illegal immigration, Rep. Tom Tancredo, is not a happy camper these days.
"I guess al-Qaida wants to fill a few jobs no American will take," said the Colorado Republican, reacting to word that an al-Qaida suspect crossed the Mexican border into the United States as thousands of other illegal aliens do every month.
Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed, a woman reported to have close ties to al-Qaida, was arrested in McAllen, Texas. She'd flown from London to Mexico City, then entered the United States by crossing the Rio Grande. Reports said she was on a "watch list" and possibly entered the United States as many as 250 times in the past.
"Is it going to take another September 11 to get our leaders in Washington to wake up and start minding the store?" wondered Tancredo, chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus.
If illegal immigrants aren't enough to worry about, the congressman has now sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. In it he asks what safeguards exist to ensure that none of the 11,000 Muslims legally eligible for refugee status will turn out to be the next Yassin Aref, one of the two men recently detained after reportedly attempting to obtain shoulder-fired missiles as part of a terrorist plot.
"To hear reports about anyone being granted unconditional citizenship . . . is troubling to say the least," writes. Tancredo. "How can we sleep at night not knowing that our government isn't doing everything possible to prevent another terrorist attack on our own soil?"
Yes, that mountain bicycle tied to the bike rack of a Suburban on the busy Beltway Sunday afternoon belonged to President Bush, who was a few cars up ahead.
After returning from his tour of hurricane-battered Florida, Bush and his 11-vehicle motorcade, with little traffic control, sped around the outer loop of the Beltway to the Secret Service training center in Beltsville for yet another presidential bike ride.
Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, smells "politics" as the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe apparently prepares to arrive in the United States to monitor the 2004 presidential election.
In fact, 10 congressmen sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanding answers "within one week," including who had requested the OSCE's presence.
In a recent letter to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas Democrat, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Paul V. Kelly indicated that the OSCE would be observing the federal elections this fall.
"Did the Department of State plan to invite the OSCE to observe our elections prior to having received the letter from Congresswoman Johnson dated July 8, 2004?" lawmakers asked.
Furthermore, if the OSCE "did not monitor our presidential elections in 1992, 1996 and 2000, are election observers being sent to the United States in response to the contested presidential election in 2000?"
And in what cities and states will the observation mission be deployed, and who will determine where the observers will be posted?
Finally, does the OSCE "have any authority to . . . issue a report or make determinations as to whether elections in the United States are 'full' and 'fair?'"
As the curious congressmen see it, many OSCE members are emerging democracies that are younger than 15 years old, and would it not "be more appropriate for the OSCE to direct its resources to these newly sovereign states?"
EMBASSY OF SORTS
It was a little more than a year ago, in May 2003, that the State Department reached out to young Iranians through the "Persian Web site."
Because the United States has no official presence in Iran, the Iranian-language site was intended to serve as a virtual embassy and cultural center for hundreds of thousands of Iranians with access to the Internet.
Now, the department says it has received hundreds of e-mails thanking the U.S. government for its support, especially during weeks of student demonstrations calling for democracy in a country that President Bush has lumped in the "axis of evil."
THEN AND NOW
A most intriguing school test appears in the current issue of Education Reporter, describing what eighth-graders in the United States were expected to know in 1910 (suffice it to say, many students today wouldn't know where to begin).
Among 10 grammar questions: "In what must a pronoun agree with its antecedent? Illustrate."
Under orthography, spell: "laudanum, beneficent, declension."
A few from the U.S. and civic history category: "State the qualifications of a U.S. senator . . . What has made the names of each of the following historical: Alexander Hamilton, U.S. Grant, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cyrus W. Field, Clara Barton? . . . Give an account of the framing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence."
After students got through rather tough questions in geography, arithmetic and physiology, there was this easy (for students of yesteryear, at least) question: "Quote two stanzas of 'America.'"
WITH A TWIST
Here at The Beltway Beat, we often receive intriguing political press kits, but never before has a stainless steel martini shaker appeared on our desk.
Compliments of House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier, California Republican, who for one night during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York (Mr. Dreier is convention parliamentarian) will be serving up "Dreier Big Apple Martinis" to his invited guests.
Should we boo or should we applaud
One so fine or fatally flawed?
Is John Kerry a hero
Or despicable zero,
Man of honor or posturing fraud?
- F.R. Duplantier
"To clear up any possible misconception from Pool Report No. 1, Scott McClellan says that President Bush would of course support the American soccer team in any hypothetical game with Iraq."
- White House Pool Report No. 2, clearing up any confusion gathered from a previous White House pool report quoting White House spokesman Scott McClellan about where Mr. Bush's loyalty would lie if the U.S. Olympic soccer team were to face a surprisingly competitive Iraqi soccer team.
FATHER OF . . . SORTS
First lady Laura Bush said she won't forget one visit she and President Bush made to an elementary school not long ago, where "a little second-grader came out to welcome us and bellowed, 'George Washington!'
"Close, just the wrong George W.," Mrs. Bush said.
Can't we just all get along?
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's campaign has called on Republican Senate challenger South Dakota Rep. John Thune to apologize on behalf of his campaign manager, who reportedly verbally berated a Daschle staffer and referred to Daschle with a barnyard obscenity.
During a candidate forum held in front of school administrators and board members in Sioux Falls, Thune's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, is said to have approached Jeremy Funk and told him that his boss - Daschle - was a "chicken (expletive deleted)" for not showing up.
"Berating young staffers and referring to public officials with obscenities is not how we do things in South Dakota," says Daschle's campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand.
On to more important matters, the first of five debates between Mr. Daschle and Mr. Thune was to be held today.
HOLD THE BACON
Apart from Hurricane Charley, we've been following a most intriguing story out of Orlando, Fla., where a woman says she was fired from her job because she ate a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich at work, offending Muslim employees.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Lina Morales has filed a religious-discrimination lawsuit against Rising Star Telecommunications, saying she lost her administrative position because she violated a policy banning pork and pork products from the work place.
She says the rule "constitutes religious discrimination because it is based in Islamic law for the benefit of some Muslim employees who were offended by the presence of pork - and at the expense of non-Muslims such as Morales, who is Catholic," explains the newspaper.
"I felt I was being discriminated against because I was not Muslim. I wasn't trying to make somebody else eat it," the woman reasons.
"Extras Needed - Major Hollywood Movie in Town!" blares Carlyn Davis Casting in Washington, saying now's your chance to "star in a movie" with Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson and Willem Dafoe.
"XXX: State of the Union" is the title of the movie, and the first two simultaneous casting calls will be held - Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. - at the ESPN Zone in the District and the ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.
What type of talent are they looking for?
"Mechanics, prisoners, prison guards, farmhands, NSA types, tactical NSA, FBI agents, cops, extras with cars, some with upscale cars (can't be black, white, red, yellow or a neon color), SWAT team, bouncers, tough gangster types, hoochy women, tourists, business types - Capitol Hill suits, senators, Frisbee-throwers, one baby, BAMA commandos, teachers, Secret Service, news reporters and news camera/sound teams, reporters, sharpshooters, military soldiers (must be fit and have military hair), dog walker, joggers, bike courier, pimped-up cars, etc."
Not exactly sure what "hoochy women" are, we researched some recent news clippings and found this one, for what it's worth: "JLo's reportedly working on a new fragrance targeted at more sophisticated and no doubt less hoochy women."
Filming takes place both in Washington and Baltimore from Sept. 14 to Oct. 1.
As the Austin bureau of the Houston Chronicle describes it, Texas State Democratic Chairman Charles Soechting is so disgusted that his national party has written the state off as Republican that he is urging financial donors to cut off the Democratic National Committee in Washington.
"Is a line drawn in the sand between myself and the DNC? Yes it is," says Soechting, explaining that DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe and his national team in Washington have taken the attitude that because Texas is President Bush's home state it cannot be won.
"That is a loser, defeatist mentality," he says.
Indeed, the Democratic National Convention did not produce the expected "bounce" for Sen. John Kerry, but at least he's ahead in the polls, reason party strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg.
If nothing else, the recent Boston convention "fully consolidated" Democrats - 93 percent of whom say they will vote for Kerry, the party's presidential nominee. But Republicans also began lining up behind President Bush in larger numbers.
"That (Democratic consolidation) was counterbalanced by the Republicans who, also predictably, consolidated in like numbers after hearing Kerry," say the two strategists. "The partisans were both apparently just waiting for their cues."
Still, they concede, "the small shift in the vote is disappointing. . . . We hoped the convention would have pushed up the Kerry vote at least to the proportion wanting change - and then some more, reflecting the usual 'unreality' of many voters momentarily taken with all the excitement and hope.
"It is possible that the country has become so polarized so early that such changes are not possible."
NOW HEAR THIS
For the sake of American soldiers, a congressman is calling on news organizations to begin reporting the "other side of the story" in Iraq.
"It is one that demonstrates what can happen when people taste freedom," says Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, who has twice traveled to Iraq.
"And I can tell you firsthand that what is being reported by the mainstream media does not accurately reflect the day-to-day acts of goodwill toward the Iraqi people," he says. "I can tell you that what the troops told me did not sound remotely similar to the non-stop negative stories being promoted by the major media sources."
With Saddam Hussein no longer in power, the congressman cites more than 170 newspapers that are now being published in Iraq without restrictions on free speech. More than 3,700 schools have been renovated, he says, and more than 9 million new math and science textbooks printed and distributed "with the pro-Saddam propaganda extracted."
He calls attention to Iraq's new $1 billion healthcare budget - 25 times greater than the $16 million annual budget under Saddam's reign. Already, 85 percent of Iraqi children have been immunized.
"Why don't we hear any of this in the media?" King asks.