Inside the Beltway: A brief tale from Beverly Hills

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“This is an issue of accountability, or put more simply, who is in charge? Additionally, in my judgment, this sends a signal that homeland security is not a priority for this administration,” the lawmaker observed, adding, “From border security to internal investigations, top positions have remained vacant not for months, but years.”

Tom Ridge, the federal agency’s very first secretary, was among the witnesses, and had his own take.

DHS reports to more than 100 congressional committees. The Department of Defense, with a far-larger budget and more personnel, reports to less than 40 committees,” Mr. Ridge countered. “The endless barrage of Hill inquiries and preparation for testimony drains from the department’s leadership (permanent or acting) one of it most important resources — time.”

He added, “Let me be clear. Oversight is the duty of Congress. It is your responsibility and it is absolutely necessary. But the current number of congressional committees with homeland security jurisdiction is not oversight, it is overkill.”

THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS ‘W’

Indeed, he signs his work with a “43”.

The artistic output of former President George W. Bush, who has taken up painting with much enthusiasm, is getting some serious traction. His work is featured on his official Christmas card and tree ornament this year. It has been showcased on Air Force One and NBC’s “Tonight Show.” And now, Mr. Bush gets a little TLC from the White House.

“I think the results are pretty impressive,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told curious journalists during the daily press briefing Thursday.

THE CARNEY-VAL

But things aren’t always so harmonious. The aforementioned Mr. Carney could have used a whip and chair at one point during his encounter with the assembled press gaggle. They became irritated, then turned upon him, tusks extended. And with good reason. During President Obama’s trip to South Africa earlier this week, journalists had virtually zero access to the leader of the Western World, though his administration claims to be a veritable role model of transparency.

Dave Boyer, esteemed colleague and White House reporter for The Washington Times, was an eyewitness to the events, and provides this account of the back and forth, which yielded some more praise for “43.”

“Anyone here can tell you that there’s less access than under the Bush administration,” CNN reporter Brianna Kellar told Mr. Carney.

“For a lot of those hours, the president, former president, first lady and the former first lady were asleep, so we probably weren’t going to bring in a still pool for that, or they were having dinner or something like that,” Mr. Carney said.

But why were no press or network photographer on the 40-hour round trip flight? That came from ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl.

“We hear you, and I want to address this,” Mr. Carney assured him

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