- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Brief retirement

We've learned that former NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Wesley Clark, who retires from the Army this week, will join the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington.
Gen. Clark, who was in charge of the aerial bombing campaign against Serbia one year ago, will be "senior adviser" to the renowned studies center.
His new headquarters: 1800 K Street NW.
"He is anxious to become involved in the center's high-tech future, which was launched by its new president, John Hamre, who was deputy defense secretary for the past three years," notes our source.

Thought that counts

A Republican congressman who requests anonymity tells Inside the Beltway he was standing on the floor of the House alongside Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, as lawmakers filed by one-by-one to cast votes on an amendment introduced by Mr. Davis to provide U.S. attorneys overtime pay.
Immediately after Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., Ohio Democrat, cast his vote, he turned to the two congressmen and said: "I vote yes so the [U.S. attorneys] working overtime to put me in jail get paid for it."
The two lawmakers erupted in laughter.
Mr. Traficant has long been the subject of a Justice Department probe into organized crime.
The amendment failed to pass.

Since you ask

You can say a lot of things about White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, but not being prepared for his daily briefings isn't one of them.
"Joe, does the president believe that he pressed for fuel-efficiency standards as arduously as he could in his first term?" asked a reporter who's obviously filled up his gas tank one too many times this week.
"I think we have pushed very clearly and repeatedly for increased fuel standards, alternative-energy sources [and] tax incentives for conservation," replied Mr. Lockhart. "Unfortunately, with the Republican-led Congress, we've met a brick wall. Let me just go through some of the things that they've done."
At which point, like magic, Mr. Clinton's spokesman produced a list of Republican failures he rattled off one by one:
"They failed to extend the authorization of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
"They failed to create …
"They failed to replenish …
"They failed to enact …
"They failed …
"They failed …
"They failed …"
Said a reporter when Mr. Lockhart was finally through: "You were ready for this, weren't you?"

Issue of ethics

Lobbyists in all quarters of Washington are watching closely to see whether a cloud of controversy hanging over the heads of a veteran congressman and one of their own health care lobbyist Deborah Steelman dissipates or gathers steam.
The cloud formed after the Bakersfield Californian revealed it has spent the past six months investigating an "unusually close relationship" between California Rep. Bill Thomas, the leading House Republican on health care financing, and Miss Steelman.
Although Mr. Thomas is married, the newspaper says the relationship between the congressman and lobbyist raises conflict-of-interest questions.
Mr. Thomas had no choice this week but to issue this statement to constituents: "I have never let my public decisions be influenced by any factor other than what I thought was best and right on your behalf."
Miss Steelman, a lobbyist for health care companies and top health adviser to GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush, declined to be interviewed by Inside the Beltway. But her secretary offered to fax a statement in which Miss Thomas points to her professional relationships with other members of Congress, not solely Mr. Thomas.
"To suggest I would stoop to 'an inappropriate relationship' to achieve legislative results is repugnant and sexist," Miss Steelman says in her statement.
The Californian began its probe after sources said they heard Mr. Thomas' chief of staff, Cathy Abernathy, say she was concerned about the congressman's "intensely personal" relationship with a Washington lobbyist.
Miss Abernathy did not return our phone call yesterday.
Mike Jenner, executive editor of the Californian, said when he first learned that Mr. Thomas might be having an extramarital relationship, his response was, "So what?"
"I didn't believe and still don't believe that the private life of a public figure is necessarily the public's business," Mr. Jenner said over the weekend.
"But when a congressman develops a close personal relationship with a person paid to influence the writing of legislation and the shaping of policy, that no longer is simply a private matter," he said.

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