- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2000

Nonviable

Nothing speaks of money's influence on politics like the confidential memo we obtained dispatched by the National Republican Legislators Association to its financial backers.

The memo regrets to inform the sponsors that the NRLA is canceling a fund-raising event scheduled for New York City this month. And for good reason:

One can't raise money where there is none.

"The event is being cancelled because fund-raising by the two major presidential contenders is soaking up most of the available private sector resources," Van Esser, the NRLA's executive director, explains in the memo. "This made the event non-viable from our perspective."

Timely topic

Speaking of feeding the political machine, former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder will join Federal Election Commission Chairman Darryl Wold in Washington this week to explain how money corrupts the political process.

Not that we're suggesting Mr. Wilder speaks from experience.

The Voting Integrity Project is hosting a two-day conference devoted to the integrity of the voting process. The project is co-chaired by Georgia's two senators Republican Paul Coverdell and Democrat Max Cleland.

Mr. Wilder, the nation's first black governor, gets his fill of politics these days by teaching government at Virginia Commonwealth University, hosting a weekly radio show, writing a monthly newspaper column and heading a company that sells voting machines.

Remembering Roger

Why the moment of silence last week in front of the statue of Roger Williams in the hallway of the U.S. Capitol?

And who is Roger Williams?

"The Puritan leader," we were reminded. "He founded Providence."

As in Rhode Island, which explains the presence of the state's two senators, Democrat Jack Reed and Republican Lincoln Chafee. They bowed heads in the presence of Reps. Frank R. Wolf, Ed Pease, Benjamin A. Gilman, Martin Frost and Bob Weygand.

Actually, we learned the ritual has been observed in front of Williams' statue every year since the early 1920s, a tradition of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity (Mr. Gilman, of New York, is a member).

It recognizes the colonist's advocacy of religious tolerance and freedom, iconoclastic views that got him thrown out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. ZBT, a non-sectarian fraternity, has a strong Jewish heritage.

Historic day

The Worldwide Watch Co. of Seattle has spent plenty of time over the years poking fun at President Clinton, its latest watch counting down Mr. Clinton's last days in office: one day, every day, until Inauguration Day 2001.

Then what, throw the watch away?

"After that date," watchmaker Mike Cram tells this column, "the watch can be set to countdown to less-important dates: anniversaries, graduations, etc."

Nukes then …

Harold Rood, one of the first scholars of the California-based Claremont Institute, once wrote that "the central strategic objective of the United States is, as it has always been, the prevention of direct [nuclear] attack upon the United States."

The United States abandoned that strategy in the late 1960s, adopting a scenario most of us remember as "mutually assured destruction."

Enter President Reagan with a new strategy: "Strategic Defense Initiative." The Gipper believed no president should have, as his only option, the destruction of another country and the assured destruction of the United States. But nobody was listening.

Now, 17 years later, Claremont President Larry P. Arnn says America still doesn't have a national missile defense: "The United States cannot stop a single enemy missile despite the fact that nuclear missiles are no longer the possession of Russia and China alone but are, or are soon to be, in the hands of North Korea, Iran and Iraq."

So the institute has an Internet project (www.missilethreat.com) to inform its countrymen of this. Visitors get to see everything from animated movies of a ballistic missile launch to which parts of the United States are most vulnerable to attack.

Nukes now …

Speaking of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, its 17th anniversary isn't going unnoticed by Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican.

"While President Reagan and his … initiative were mocked by critics, he remained steadfast in his vision and his belief that the American people could achieve anything they committed themselves to doing," says Mr. Thompson.

Americans today, he adds, should concern themselves with missile attacks "from newer and more likely threats, some of which we may not be able to deter accidental launches, terrorist groups and rogue states."

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