- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Rewinding Ashcroft

Americans yesterday didn't get to see the other profile of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft as he faced a Senate Judiciary Committee firing squad assembled by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

This column interviewed the former Missouri governor and senator on several occasions in recent years, finding a man of strong convictions, a quick sense of humor and many hidden talents. He often even agreed with Democrats, including President Clinton.

Like when the latter asked Congress to grant him "the strongest possible line-item veto." Mr. Ashcroft not only reached out to Mr. Clinton, he compared him to his mother:

"When I was a boy, my mom used to say to me: 'Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. You are loading up your plate, and you are not going to be able to finish the meal.' Our eyes have been bigger than our pocketbooks, and we need to give the president the right to take some of the stuff off our congressional plate."

Wouldn't you know, a gift soon arrived in Mr. Ashcroft's office: six pages of the Democratic Party's political strategy, sent to him "accidentally," we were told by some knucklehead in the White House.

For those doubting Mr. Ashcroft's ability to uphold the law, we once revealed that people seeking employment in the senator's Capitol Hill office had to be squeaky clean. After all, Mr. Ashcroft sought authority from the Rules Committee to administer drug tests to his staff.

"The importance of a drug-free working environment cannot be overstated," he had told the committee in a letter we obtained.

And when the chips are down, it's best to smile, said Mr. Ashcroft, recalling "the first time I got sued."

"I called my wife, Janet. I said, 'Good news and bad news.' She said, 'What is the bad news?' I said, 'We've been sued.' She said, 'What's the good news?' I said, 'Well, it's for $65 million.'

"It wouldn't make much difference if it was for $650," he explained. "We didn't have it."

Another time we caught up with Mr. Ashcroft prior to a premier performance at the Kennedy Center. His.

The attorney general nominee was crooning (he also plays guitar and keyboard) with the Singing Senators, a foursome made up of Mr. Ashcroft and fellow Republican Sens. Trent Lott of Mississippi, Larry E. Craig of Idaho, and James M. Jeffords of Vermont.

"I'm a cowboy musician," he told us (one talented enough to have appeared on stage in Branson, Mo., his state's thriving music haven in the Ozarks).

"Singing is a great thing, very relaxing," he said. "We sang at a Republican Conference meeting yesterday, and only a few rolls were thrown at us. I don't know if they were sharing their lunch with us or what."

Finally, in the actions-speak-louder-than-words category, Mr. Ashcroft once submitted a review of one of President Clinton's State of the Union addresses:

"I am reminded of Lincoln's words at Gettysburg: 'The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, while it can never forget what we did here.' "

Oysters and such

Charlie Brotman was one of several to write to Inside the Beltway yesterday after we'd revealed that 98-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond slurped down not one, but five orders of raw oysters at the Stardust Restaurant in Alexandria Saturday night.

"Who knows?" Mr. Brotman observed. "Maybe they do work."

We appreciated Mr. Brotman's note, especially during such a hectic week. You see, the 73-year-old chairman and CEO of Brotman.Winter.Fried Communications is busy finalizing his script for President-elect George W. Bush's Inaugural parade.

In fact, go back to any Inaugural parade since 1957 (Dwight D. Eisenhower's) and there was Mr. Brotman the official "president's announcer" relaying to newly sworn commanders in chief what bands and other surprises were marching up Pennsylvania Avenue.

"Miracle workers," Mr. Brotman says of this year's parade's organizers, who got a late start due to the contested presidential election. "Usually, you have a solid two months to prepare, but for this parade, only three weeks."

Mr. Brotman counts 11,000 marchers in Mr. Bush's parade.


Wow, who's the babe on the cover of the February issue of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine?

That would be the new and improved Monica Lewinsky, Web entrepreneur specializing in online handbag sales.

Must reading

Radio talk-show host Don Imus was railing against the liberal media yesterday for failing to report that all the votes have now been counted in Florida. The Palm Beach Post gave a count showing President-elect George W. Bush picked up six votes in a hand tally of Miami-Dade County's 10,000 "undervotes."

Mr. Gore, if anybody needs reminding, said such a recount could net him 600 votes and the presidency.

Mr. Imus pressed NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert to explain why the Washington Post, New York Times and other media ignored the story.

Mr. Russert disagreed, saying The Washington Times splashed it across its front page Monday.

Giving a Manhattanite's worldview, Mr. Imus countered: "No one reads The Washington Times."

Replied Mr. Russert: "We have to."

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