- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Only in Washington

Kristinn Taylor,president of the local Free Republic chapter, was walking through the concourse of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Wednesday afternoon when he spotted one of SaddamHussein’s attorneys, Ramsey Clark, who was attorney general under President LyndonB. Johnson.

“As we walked by each other in the uncrowded terminal, I made a slashing motion across my neck and said to him, ‘It’s too bad about Saddam,’ ” in reference to the deposed Iraqi tyrant’s failed judicial appeal to avert his death sentence.

At that point, he said, Mr. Clark “glanced back at me with a hangdog look and nodded his head in sad agreement.”

Mr. Clark last year explained in an op-ed essay in the Los Angeles Times why he was willing to defend Hussein. He acknowledged that a majority of the media were dismissive of him. “ ’There goes Ramsey Clark again,’ they seemed to say. ‘Isn’t it a shame? He used to be attorney general of the United States and now look at what he’s doing.’ ”

He’s not deterred. “The United States, and the Bush administration in particular, engineered the demonization of Hussein, and it has a clear political interest in his conviction,” he wrote. “Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure — and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq. This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.” Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the hangman is testing his noose.

Honest politician’

With arrangements proceeding for a scaled-down state funeral for Gerald R. Ford, who prized the simple ways, the two-story Colonial in Alexandria in which the Ford family lived for nearly two decades when he was congressman and vice president and 10 days into his presidency is worth a second look.

Plain and simple is not a Washington way. “[A] remarkable home simply because it is so unremarkable,” The Washington Post calls it. We talked yesterday with one of Mr. Ford’s longtime neighbors, 83-year-old Hulda Russell, a retired antiques dealer who knew the family well.

“When your children play with another family’s children, you can’t help but get to know them,” Mrs. Russell says. “But I won’t ever forget the time I was at a fundraiser in McLean in 1976 — it was for John Warner — and there was a group of ladies standing around discussing the upcoming election with Gerald Ford. And one of them said, ‘You know, this man couldn’t be very bright. Anybody who has been in Washington as long as he has, and has so little to show for it, can’t be bright.’ And I couldn’t help but look her straight in the eye and say, ‘Did it ever dawn on you that he is an honest politician?’

“And that has always been my opinion of him.”

One of the gang

Inside the Beltway reader Scoop Hagen writes:

“My conversation with Gerald Ford: I was in high school, covering my first political convention [for my high school radio station]. President Ford and Ronald Reagan had scheduled an informal debate, but both of them were delayed.

“Being the cub reporter, I stayed there for what seemed like an eternity. The other reporters left (can you imagine that happening today?). Suddenly, the president of the United States walked in, followed by Secret Service agents. Genuinely surprised, I pointed my finger at him … and said, ‘Hey!’

“Before his agents could get between me and him, the president stopped, pointed his finger at me, and said, ‘Hey!’ ”

Already 2008?

We caught up with Roger Salazar, who was assistant press secretary in the Clinton White House and served as national spokesman for John Edwards‘ 2004 presidential campaign, after the former one-term North Carolina senator and vice presidential nominee yesterday announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Salazar, a Democratic strategist now working on the early 2008 Nevada caucus, says he’s not surprised Mr. Edwards, clad in jeans and with his sleeves rolled up, told campaign supporters to “actually take action now, not later, not after the next election.”

“He is one who inspires people all across the country,” Mr. Salazar says. “He’s one of the smartest politicians out there, and what he wants to do is see that everybody has access to the American dream. He would make a dynamic president, one who would move the country in the right direction — as opposed to the one we have in there right now.” (This is how strategists talk.)

All about I

Average number of times that President Bush has used the pronoun “I” in each of his State of the Union addresses: 36

Average number of times that President Clinton did in his addresses: 103

Harper’s Index, January 2007

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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