- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2000

The chaplain speaks

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives is a privilege reserved solely for members of Congress.
This week, an exception was made when the Association of Former Members of Congress past Reps. William V. Alexander of Arkansas to Roger H. Zion of Indiana held its 30th annual meeting and presented its distinguished service award to Chaplain Emeritus James D. Ford, who retired earlier this year.
"Chaplain Ford will finally have his opportunity, which he has long sought, to speak from the floor of the House a privilege reserved only to members," observed House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
For the assembled members, past and present, it was worth the wait. Mr. Ford said first that he never imagined that a Minnesota "country pastor" from a town of 700, who followed his father and grandfather into the pulpit, would inherit the title of congressional chaplain.
Then, the man of the cloth, who for 21 years prayed for members at the start of each congressional day, quietly retreating to his office afterward, disclosed a past that left his audience of lawmakers in awe.
"I went to West Point in 1961, in my 20s," he began, "and met General Eisenhower who came to church one Sunday. Omar Bradley, I discussed D-Day with him. I knew MacArthur.
"In fact, I was there when MacArthur gave a famous speech. He gave one here, but he gave a more famous one called, 'Duty, Honor, Country' at West Point in the early 1960s. All he had on the podium was a crumpled piece of paper. He said he worked on that speech for 40 years, and his little piece of paper only said the word, 'doorman.'
"He began his speech this way. He said, 'As I left the Waldorf this morning, the doorman said to me, 'General, where are you going today?' And MacArthur replied, 'I'm going to West Point.' And the doorman said, 'Nice place. Have you been there before?'
"Over the years, I got to know these men. [Norman] Schwarzkopf, whom you know as a general, I remember as a captain and the meanest player in the noontime basketball league. Wes Clark, who just retired as NATO commander, was one of my cadets. [U.S. Southern Command Gen.-turned-White House drug czar] Barry McCaffrey … was one of my cadets."
On Capitol Hill, where Mr. Ford never removed his clerical collar, he told how the late House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill always called him "Monsignor."
"He thought I was an Irish priest from South Boston," he said.
He spoke of celebrating "democracy" with Czechoslovakia President Vaclav Havel, and a former electrician named Lech Walesa from Poland. He also huddled with Nelson Mandela, "27 years in prison who stood up here and spoke about reconciliation."
None of which surprises the former House chaplain: "As Martin Luther said in 1530: 'Send your good men into the ministry, but send your best into politics.' I grew up that way. I believe it."

No money?

With all the talk in recent days about Al Gore's confidence in the stock market, we turned to Schedule A of Mr. Gore's latest public financial disclosure report, signed by the vice president on Saturday and filed Monday.
The Gore campaign might insist that the vice president has no money "tied up" in stocks, but the report once again lists the Occidental Petroleum Inc. stock awaiting Mr. Gore in a family trust fund.
The stock was reportedly valued at $680,000 in 1992, but should be worth considerably more today. The report only says the stock is valued anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million.

Love infection

It took an "I Love You" note to alert U.S. senators to the potentially devastating impact that computer terrorism can have on national security.
The "I Love You" virus that e-mailed its way into the nation's computers in recent weeks is found to have damaged more than 1,000 files at NASA, some never recovered.
Also, it shut down the e-mail system of the Department of Health and Human Services for six days, causing one bureaucrat to observe:
"If a biological outbreak had occurred simultaneously with this 'Love Bug' infestation, the health and stability of the nation would have been compromised with the lack of computer network communication."

Alive and voting

"Regarding [Senate Minority Leader Thomas] Daschle's 'reading of the dead,' the list would be between 20 and 50 times longer if he read off the names of people who use guns to save their lives every single day," Scott Noris, who works in the funeral business in Farmers Branch, Texas, writes of our item Thursday.
"My name won't get mentioned," says Mr. Noris, who told us by telephone later that he obtained a concealed handgun permit through Texas Gov. George W. Bush four years ago, "because Senator Daschle would refuse to listen to my story or acknowledge that it even happened. That's OK. At least I know. And my family knows. And on Election Day, I'll be alive to make my vote count."

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