- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

Exceptions

Talk about timing. Barely three weeks ago, Inside the Beltway reported that no women were lining up to take Eileen Collins‘ place in the space program, which confused the retiring astronaut.

“We haven’t hired any women pilots since 1995, and I’m wondering where they are,” she said in a NASA interview. “I’m married. I’ve had two children while I was in the astronaut office. In the 16 years I was here, I’ve flown four missions and had two children, and I’ve been able to do that without too much heartache.”

We now know, since that interview, that’s not always the case.

Drink up

Vermont products are making a comeback in the U.S. Senate, thanks to the return of Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee’s executive business meeting late last week marked the return of Vermont Pure Natural Spring Water to the hearing room, while the senator also served hot cups of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters java to the committee’s 18 other members.

Ready to roll

There was tremendous reaction to our item of last Friday about the young gentleman who answered PresidentBush’s call to fight terrorism by going all the way to Egypt and Yemen — on Uncle Sam’s dollar, no less — to study advanced Arabic, only to find his applications with the FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Pentagon and CIA ignored.

“I never heard back from any of the agencies. None. Not one,” he told Inside the Beltway. “And after I returned back from Yemen, the State Department, which paid for my fellowship, never contacted me or anybody else that was in my group (there were 18 in all), all of whom achieved advanced levels of Arabic proficiency.”

Fred Gedrich, who as a State Department official in 1993 directed a comprehensive review of the department’s Foreign Language Program, now tells Inside the Beltway: “You have hit a very sensitive topic. Despite the efforts of many people in Congress and government over the years, this remains a long-standing problem, which remains unfixed and seriously hampers U.S. [intelligence] collection, military maneuvers and overseas job performance.”

Meanwhile, Evan Lesser, director of Dice Company’s ClearanceJobs.com, says his job board currently finds 95,000 job seekers who are U.S. citizens and hold active or current national security clearance.

“I’m finding no fewer than 1,250 job seekers fluent in Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages,” he says. “We have pitched [our] service to the federal government, even at no cost to them and have made almost no headway in four years.”

Finally, Mohamed Ly, executive director of the Northwest-based Head of Return on Diversity Council, wants to call Uncle Sam’s attention to his firm’s upcoming multilingual recruitment fair at the Baltimore Convention Center April 15 to 17.

Riding elephants

Politicos, pollsters and pundits weighing in with scuttlebutt and confidential tips for PoliticalDerby.com’s 2008 Power Rankings, have former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani now as the Republican front-runner, knocking Arizona Sen. John McCain to the No. 2 position.

“He is surging in the polls,” according to the rankings, “and some Republicans are buying Rudy’s theory that his conservative judicial philosophy and commitment to appointing judges” like John G. Roberts Jr., Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Antonin Scalia “trumps his personal positions on the hot-button social issues.”

As for Mr. McCain, if “he were any more establishment, he’d be riding an elephant to his Senate office.”

On the Democratic side, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a mostly double-digit lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Miller draft

The District-based National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has uncovered an interesting twist in the congressionally proposed union “card-check” bill.

“Way back in August of 2001, bill sponsor George Miller, California Democrat, and a bunch of his colleagues sent a letter to the officials of the state of Puebla, Mexico, urging the use of secret ballots in union elections,” NAM notes.

“For the record, we happen to agree with Rep. Miller and his colleagues. It’s certainly served us well here in the U.S. for some 70 years. We see no need to throw democracy out the window just because unions can’t seem to win many elections these days.”

NAM says that unions over the years “have been losing more and more elections, or, worse still for them, not even getting to an election because they fail to get 30 percent of employees to sign authorization cards.”

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

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