- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Rewriting history

President Bush yesterday was presented with a bust of Winston Churchill, and then some.

"I ought to tell you that I first heard the name 'Sir Winston Churchill' from my Great Aunt Sheila — a formidable Scottish woman, and she was one of Churchill's secretaries during the Second World War," British Ambassador Christopher Meyer remarked to Mr. Bush when unveiling the bust in the Oval Office yesterday.

Mr. Bush appeared intrigued.

"And Churchill came to like and respect her, because she was one of the very few secretaries who was prepared to take dictation from the great man late at night and sometimes in the early hours of the morning. And she used to tell me that sometimes he gave dictation when he was in bed, and sometimes even when he was in the bath."

Mr. Bush was even more intrigued.

"Either way, there was always a cigar and sometimes there was a glass of brandy as well."

Mr. Bush nervously chuckled.

"And apparently he used to shout out, 'Send me [Sheila]! She is the only one who doesn't mind my swearing.'"

Ballot boondoggle

Who in Congress hasn't introduced legislation to eradicate pregnant and dangling chads?

Incredibly, nearly 50 bills have been introduced so far in this Congress calling for voting reforms in the wake of Florida's presidential-election woes, according to Amanda Harrigan, a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

She had good reason to count.

If the 50 or so bills were enacted, she points out, taxpayers would be forced to shell out an additional $7 billion, paying for everything from the creation of 18 commissions to a new federal holiday.

Gun myth

Word that the Justice Department, under Attorney General John Ashcroft, is drafting a legal finding asserting that individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms, is being applauded by gun owners and constitutional scholars alike.

"For too many years," explains Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms member John Michael Snyder, "millions of law-abiding firearm owners have been subjected to the gun-grabber myth that the Second Amendment recognizes only a collective right, rather than an individual right, to keep and bear arms. We applaud the Bush effort to disabuse the political universe of this inaccuracy."

Byrd dogs

There's no better time, as we approach the dog days of summer, to pay tribute to the few friends that can be counted on in Washington.

"For my wife and me, 'Billy Byrd' is a key part of our lives at the Byrd house," says Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, referring to his four-legged Maltese. "As I said if I ever saw in this world anything that was made by the Creator's hand that is more dedicated, more true, more faithful, more trusting, more undeviant than this little dog, I am at a loss to state what it is."

"Dogs fill an emotional need in man," Mr. Byrd says. "They are said to be man's best friend and, indeed, who can dispute it?"

Certainly not Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose Portuguese water dog, Splash, is at his side even beneath the Capitol dome. In fact, Congress so regards man's best friend that its members have opened up the U.S. Capitol to dogs of every shape, color and size, so long as they remain leashed.

"President Truman was supposed to have remarked: 'If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog,'" Mr. Byrd notes. "No wonder so many political leaders have chosen the dog as a faithful companion and canine confidant."

Particularly presidents.

The current White House occupant, President Bush, seeks solace from Barney and Spot. His dad, George Bush, confided in Millie. President Clinton used to confess to his best friend, Buddy. Former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole not only huddled with Leader, he was perhaps his most trusted aide on Capitol Hill. President Truman reasoned with his Irish setter, Mike. And President Ford always counted on his golden retriever, "Lucky."

"Of course, there was President Franklin Roosevelt and his dog, Fala," Mr. Byrd recalls. "They had such a close relationship that his political opponents once attempted to attack him by attacking his dog. Eleanor Roosevelt recalled that for months after the death of her husband, every time someone approached the door of her house, Fala would run to it in excitement, hoping that it was President Roosevelt coming home."

Richard Nixon, finally, had no friend as devoted as Checkers.

"The only time I remember President Nixon becoming emotional, except when he was resigning the presidency perhaps more so in the first instance was in reference to his dog Checkers," Mr. Byrd observes.

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