- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Covert concierge

For four decades, the federal government kept a tight lid on a supersecret bunker hidden beneath the luxurious Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia until this newspaper, in 1992, disclosed details of the elaborate complex intended to house the entire Congress in the event of nuclear war.

Only a few members of the congressional leadership knew of the Alleghany Mountain hideaway, 250 miles southwest of Washington, a good probability being that former Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, was among the privileged.

"I can confirm for you that he did know about the famous Greenbrier bunker," Mr. Byrd's press secretary, Ann Adler, told Inside the Beltway yesterday.

We'd inquired after hearing Mr. Byrd this week tell colleagues a few more details of what he called the "Greenbrier's secret life as a covert agent of the U.S. government."

Said Mr. Byrd of the 800-bed bunker, which was operated by the CIA and Defense Department: "It had its origin in plans created by President Eisenhower, to ensure the survival of the constitutional system of checks and balances. The president had to convince congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, to go along with the plan, which was carried out in the greatest secrecy for over 40 years."

Mr. Byrd said the "secrecy was necessary because the bunker at the Greenbrier was not designed to withstand a direct hit, but rather to ensure security through a combination of physical design and camouflage.

"The remote shelter," he said, "proved a perfect combination of cover, concealment and denial."

Next Oprah

Yes, that was a member of President Clinton's Cabinet, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, taking time out to host a television talk show.

And she ain't bad.

Bonnie Erbe, regular host of the PBS program "To the Contrary," took a break from the weekly show on women's issues and thought why not have Miss Shalala be her substitute?

"She had a great time and enjoyed doing it, in her words, 'Doing what I do best, helping to educate and inform women on the issues and facilitating a discussion on the issues,' " says Miss Shalala's spokeswoman, Vicki Rivas-Vazquez.

And might TV be in the secretary's future?

"I think she's open to doing new things," says the spokeswoman, who stresses that history's longest-serving health secretary "has committed to stay [at the HHS helm] until Jan. 20, 2001. She still has a lot of work to do."

Share the burden

We can't confirm that President Clinton was logged on to his computer before leaving for Camp David and the Middle East peace summit yesterday, but seconds before his chopper lifted off from the South Lawn of the White House, this column received a flashing message from "Bill C."

It read: "Hello, you've been sent a Hillary2000 e-card."

We clicked our mouse as directed to the Hillary2000 campaign Web site, where sure enough, a note had been left in our name from "Bill C."

"Message: We can't expect all our money to come from Rosie [O'Donnell] and Hollywood. Give a little to my wife, I have been for years."

Can't explain it

Hours before the opening pitch of the 71st All Star Baseball Game last evening, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota sought to explain the similarities and differences between Democratic and Republican congressional agendas.

"I've been thinking about one of baseball's all-time greats," Mr. Daschle said. "Yogi Berra was a good ballplayer and a great manager, but he's probably best known for his linguistic screwballs. He once said about a restaurant, 'No wonder nobody comes here. It's too crowded.'

"His son is the same way," the Democratic leader added. "When Dale Berra was playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a sportswriter asked him to compare himself to his father. He replied, 'Our similarities are different.' "

Kinder convention

Republican National Convention Co-chairman Andy Card yesterday told us the theme for the 37th party gathering in Philadelphia: "Renewing America's Purpose. Together."

Each night, the convention will convey a key message to support the theme, he says, highlighting the policies and principles of the party and its presumptive nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

"When Republicans gather in Philadelphia, they are going to be part of an historic event that is going to look, feel and sound different from conventions of the past, Republican or Democrat," says Mr. Card.

"We are abandoning the tradition of dedicating an entire night to old-style attack politics," he says. "Our primary focus will be talking about what we stand for as a party and where Governor Bush wants to take the country."

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