- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Question of company

“He’s taken pictures with many of you.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, responding yesterday to repeated questions by members of the White House press corps as to why former powerhouse lobbyist Jack Abramoff had his photo taken with President Bush — as have several reporters, and on more than one occasion.

Virginia son

Hollywood’s most politically active brother-and-sister pair — Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine — not only have family roots near Washington, they credit their Virginia upbringing for helping to motivate their political activism.

The February issue of Virginia Living magazine writes about Mr. Beatty’s and Miss MacLaine’s Old Dominion roots (both were born in Richmond and attended Washington-Lee High School in Arlington), given that the former keeps appearing to position himself for a political move.

Don’t hold your breath. In 1999, the outspoken Democrat and aging sex symbol — he soon turns 69 — made political waves by expressing his displeasure with party presidential hopeful Al Gore. The New York Times went so far as to say that the actor was considering throwing his hat into the presidential ring.

“There certainly should be someone better,” Mr. Beatty said of then-Vice President Gore, who in the end lost to Republican George W. Bush.

After trashing Mr. Gore, Mr. Beatty turned his frustrations on fellow actor and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Indeed, the celebrity’s commencement speech last summer to students of the University of California at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy was more political than philosophical, described as a “blistering” attack on the Republican governor’s job performance.

But in a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Mr. Beatty downplayed his repeated political meddling as a precursor to running for public office.

“It’s important for someone to stick their neck out and say, ‘I’ll be the antagonist.’ I don’t know how much I’ll do, or at which point I will simply be obnoxious,” he said. “But I would feel negligent if I didn’t do this. I know that when I want to attract attention, I can. I’ve been nothing but honest in saying that I don’t want to have to run for political office.”

That said, when asked if a moment might come when feels he has to, Mr. Beatty replied, “[Y]ou’ve got to leave it open — never rule anything out.”

Defining an American

Defenders of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program to identify terrorist infiltrators argue that the chances of a patriotic, law-abiding American ever being monitored is slim to none.

Others label the program, approved by President Bush, illegal and a threat to civil liberties.

Seth Green, chairman of the nonpartisan Americans for Informed Democracy, tells Inside the Beltway that his organization this evening will kick off a series of town-hall meetings, “Spying on Americans: Is it the right approach to fighting the war on terror?”

The meeting will feature remarks by the former chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer; former Republican National Committee spokesman-turned-president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Clifford D. May; and the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad.

The debate begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Elliott School of International Affairs on the campus of George Washington University.

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

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