- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Cheney’s toe

If there’s one thing that aggravates members of the White House press corps, it’s not knowing what exactly ails Vice President Dick Cheney, who delights in keeping details of his medical records — and for that matter, his other private affairs — to himself.

All of which makes the redundant questions surrounding Mr. Cheney’s health — including a recurring foot problem — all the more hilarious.

“Scott, does the president think that it would be a good idea for Vice President Cheney to release his medical records to clear up any questions about his health?” asked one reporter this week after Mr. Cheney was briefly hospitalized for shortness of breath related to anti-inflammatory drugs administered for his left foot — or more specifically the joint of his big toe (how much more specific do we need to get?)

“Well, I think that the president believes that the vice president’s office has … provided the appropriate information regarding his health,” spokesman Scott McClellan replied.

But the requests persisted for “a more complete disclosure,” with one reporter asking: “Can you tell us what the pre-existing foot condition is that the vice president has?”

“Well, the vice president’s office talked about that last week,” Mr. McClellan reminded the reporter. “And I’m sure if there’s more information to share with you, they will do so.”

“They didn’t mention anything specific,” the scribe countered, while another protested “we don’t know what it is.”

“I would encourage you to direct questions such as that to their office, because they check with his doctors and then provide information in an appropriate fashion,” Mr. McClellan repeated.

But the press corps still didn’t let up, with one reporter asking whether “gout in his foot” was the problem.

“There’s a rather large ‘foot secrecy’ going on here, considering the vice president’s left appendage,” the reporter observed, “and we’re just curious as to [how] it landed him in the hospital this morning?”

“That’s very cute,” answered the spokesman of the foot-conspiracy theory, “but I think there’s a significant amount of information that is provided to you all about his health situation over the course of the last few years.”

Still, the press corps persisted, until Mr. McClellan finally had no choice but to acknowledge: “Well, he talked about how [Defense] Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld has been chewing on his — no, I’m just kidding.”

“Do you want to elaborate on that?” a reporter asked.

Peek at 2008

We wrote last week that the road to the White House begins at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, where historically prospective presidential candidates have lined up to introduce themselves to state party leaders.

This year’s conference, to be held in March in Memphis, Tenn., and featuring the first significant presidential straw poll for 2008, has added significance because Midwest Republicans for the first time will gather with the Southerners — 26 states, all told. Yesterday, we learned that three additional notables have confirmed their participation: Virginia Sen. George Allen, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Arkansas gubernatorial candidate and former congressman Asa Hutchinson.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. Lamar Alexander, both of Tennessee, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney already have RSVP’d.

Woman to woman

Kate O’Beirne, National Review’s Washington editor, who writes on politics and domestic policy, will expand on her intriguingly titled book — “Women Who Make the World Worse: How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military and Sports” — at this Friday’s Conservative Women’s Network luncheon.

Sponsored by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and the host Heritage Foundation, the cat fight commences at noon in the Lehrman Auditorium.

Sago legacy

Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who grew up in the bituminous coalfields of West Virginia, will take the lead in the first Senate subcommittee hearing stemming from the recent mine disaster in Upshur County.

“The families of the Sago miners deserve to know what happened in that mine. Just as importantly, miners and their families across this country want to know that steps are being taken to prevent others from ever experiencing such pain,” Mr. Byrd said in announcing the Jan. 19 hearing. “That should be the legacy of the Sago miners.”

Called to testify: Federal and state mining officials and representatives of labor, business and academia with expertise in mine safety.

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

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