- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

God in government

Uncle Sam won't allow prayer in public schools, but bureaucrats, bow your heads.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) held a "litany," or liturgical prayer service, for its employees on Wednesday in advance of the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday.
About 100 employees of SSA's Office of Hearings and Appeals, headquartered outside Washington in Falls Church, Va., attended the litany service, which took place during working hours in an SSA meeting room.
"I looked 'litany' up in the dictionary and it means 'prayer,' which is against the law in our schools, but apparently not in the federal government," Frank Keliher, a clerk-typist in the SSA office, tells this column.
The event program shows the litany was led by SSA Associate Commissioner Rita S. Geier, and requested that SSA employees stand during the litany, which praised "the Lord God" more than a dozen times.
There was no immediate comment from SSA headquarters, where a "going-away party for our press officer" was being held yesterday.

'Late unpleasantness'

Former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr wowed the crowd at the Norfolk Forum, introduced by forum President L.D. Britt as a man who's gone down a road that "only history will be able to name."
Mr. Starr replied that he wasn't sure about the name of the road, only that he "kept getting run over on it repeatedly by 18-wheelers."
"Mr. Starr's comments were on the role of character and integrity in politics," says audience member Chuck Rigney of Norfolk, "and he went back as far as Aristotle in making his case on the importance each plays in determining the kind of government we get.
"Starr referred to his involvement with the Clinton impeachment as 'the late unpleasantness' and wove this phrase throughout his remarks. He addressed his concerns with the Independent Counsel Act, advocating instead the ability of the Executive Branch, through the attorney general, to appoint an outside person of character and integrity to conduct any necessary investigation."
Discussing his probe of President Clinton, Mr. Starr cited as his biggest regret his failure to keep the public more aware of his investigation, the reasons behind his actions, and where he was attempting to go with them.
Asked whether President-elect George W. Bush should pardon Mr. Clinton, Mr. Starr smiled broadly, said it was an excellent question, and then said he couldn't comment.

Stay the course

Concerned that President-elect George W. Bush will "drop" the Cabinet-level status of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), eight high-ranking members of Congress have appealed to Mr. Bush to "re-energize" the commitment to fighting the national drug epidemic.
"We believe that any downgrade of the drug czar position below Cabinet status at the outset of your administration would be a political misstep," says the letter, obtained yesterday by Inside the Beltway and signed by Republican Reps. John L. Mica of Florida, chairman of the House Government Reform criminal justice, drug policy and human resources subcommittee and co-chairman of the Speaker's Working Group for a Drug Free America; Dan Burton of Indiana, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee; Cass Ballenger of North Carolina, vice chairman of the International Relations Western Hemisphere subcommittee; and Benjamin A. Gilman of New York, past chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
"Early on, President Clinton's misguided efforts to severely reduce the ONDCP staff was met with strong public and congressional condemnation and eventually reversed," say the congressmen, who tell Mr. Bush they want a "nationally prominent figure" appointed as drug czar.
Leading contender for the post, we're told: former Florida Rep. Bill McCollum.

Cheney post

Future second lady Lynne V. Cheney is returning to her senior fellow research position at the American Enterprise Institute, following a five-month leave of absence to stump for the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.
Mrs. Cheney will resume her research, lecturing and writing on education standards and policy, including her book-in-progress, "Schoolthink: The Ideas That are Undermining American Education and What We Can Do About Them."
Mrs. Cheney joined AEI in 1993, following her tenure as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Perfect match

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his band, Capitol Offense, dreamed of playing at the Inaugural, and what better gig than the "Free Republic Inaugural Ball and Count the White House Silverware Party" at the Wyndham Washington Hotel.
The band, which performs a mixture of classic rock, Motown, country and blues, comprises the governor (bass) and Capitol staff members.
"We figure we work in the state Capitol and we usually offend everyone who hears us, so 'Capitol Offense' seemed a pretty logical name for us," says Mr. Huckabee.


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