- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Lone attacker

A liberal Democrat is the first federal lawmaker to publicly criticize American attacks on Afghanistan.

Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington questioned whether President Bush had "thought this action out completely or fully examined America's cause," claiming that a few weeks is not long enough to plan retaliatory strikes.

"The destruction of the infrastructure did not work in Iraq a decade ago," Mr. McDermott wrote in a statement.

"This sounds an awful lot like Iraq. Saddam Hussein is still in power! It is Iraq's citizenry, not Saddam, which continues to suffer the consequences of those air and missile strikes during the Gulf war and the sanctions we subsequently imposed against that nation."

Public celebrations of the attacks "smacks of certain arrogance," he said.

The congressman said he did not consider public reaction before taking his stand. "I simply raise the question of whether this is the thing to do," Mr. McDermott said.

"To simply say that whatever the president wants to do is right is not to use your own critical faculties."

"He's a hypocrite," Washington state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance told the Seattle Times.

"I can understand the left standing up against past military actions in Vietnam and Panama and even the Gulf.

"But here, the president is striking back against people who physically attacked America, and even then Jim McDermott doesn't want to use military force."

A rebuttal

President Bush could agree to an interview with the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network, the sole source of live footage of American attacks on Afghanistan, and the taped messages of Osama bin Laden and his closest aide, seen by viewers around the world this week.

"We are aware of press reports that the president has been invited. We are trying to pursue it," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer yesterday. "If that's true, and if he has been invited, the White House would consider that."

Bubba and the King

The saga of former President William Jefferson Clinton's presidential library continues down in Little Rock, Ark. Official papers, memorabilia and ephemera will also include "several hundred" Elvis Presley items, according to Skip Rutherford, longtime friend-of-Bill and the Clinton library foundation president.

"He grew up, like many of his generation, with Elvis, so we have this collection ranging from a dancing Elvis telephone to CDs to salt and pepper shakers. You name it, we've got it. We've got the clock," Mr. Rutherford told the Memphis (Tenn.) Appeal yesterday.

The timepiece in question features Elvis' legs as a pendulum. But there's more.

Other sealed boxes awaiting their spot in the library feature labels reflecting Mr. Clinton's White House history. There's "First Lady," "Investigations of Gulf War Chemical and Biological Incidents," "Betty Currie" and "White House Interns," the Appeal reported.

The impeachment story, Mr. Rutherford said earlier this year, will be part of the library collection. "We are not here to rewrite history. We are here to preserve it," he said.

Capping a controversy

The Californians have finally settled their hat differences.

Gov. Gray Davis has signed legislation that will allow students to wear hats in school to protect them from the sun, overturning dress codes of some school districts.

The new bill requires districts to allow students to wear hats when outside, but officials can still ban caps or other head wear that is gang-related or inappropriate.

The San Jose Unified School District is hat-free. "Inappropriate clothing" includes hats, hairnets, scarves and hoods. Spokesman Bill Erlendson told Scripps Howard News Service the district allows hats for its 32,000 students on a case-by-case basis. When it moved through the Legislature, the bill had only one opponent: the Association of California School Administrators.

"The question for us was, is this bill really needed?" said Brett McFadden, a lobbyist for the administrators. "We could just put out a policy position to our members and encourage them to be flexible in their clothing regulations to account for sun exposure. The bill is just an unnecessary addition to an already thick education code."

Name that tune

What song epitomizes current public sentiment? A new survey from pollster Frank Luntz finds that "God Bless America" is the favorite among 53 percent of the respondents, followed by "The Star-Spangled Banner" at 23 percent and "America the Beautiful" at 16 percent. Close to 83 percent said they displayed a flag at home or on their car, or wore a patriotic ribbon.

Homing signal

The Homeland Security Office is just 48 hours old, but the turf wars already have begun.

"Political power plays aren't news, but the struggle between the FBI-led National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) and the newly formed Homeland Security Office has many doubting that either agency will be able to perform at peak levels over the next few months," noted Wired yesterday (www.wired.com).

The NIPC has increasingly focused on computer security, but the HSO also has a new cyber-security division. "Homeland Defense wants the NIPC to report to them, but the NIPC believes they should be the cyber-security office," said online security analyst Rob Rosenberger.

"Fights have started to break out over the lines and boxes on Homeland Security's organization chart. The Bush administration will waste a lot of time and effort over the next few months while offices jockey for position," he added.

"This isn't the time to play political slap and tickle with each other. We need to get focused fast," said an FBI agent, who asked not to be identified.

Talent scout

Former Rep. Jim Talent, the Republican who lost a bid for Missouri governor last year, said Tuesday that he will challenge Democrat Jean Carnahan for her Senate seat next year, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Talent gave up his west St. Louis County congressional seat to run for governor last year, losing narrowly to Democrat Bob Holden. Mrs. Carnahan has not officially announced whether she'll run, but has raised more than $2.3 million for the 2002 race, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Mrs. Carnahan was appointed after her late husband, former Gov. Mel Carnahan, collected more votes than incumbent Republican John Ashcroft. Mr. Carnahan was killed in a plane crash three weeks before the election and his wife had agreed to replace him if he won.

Mr. Talent has been the Republican favorite for months, but he faces real competition.

St. Louis University political scientist Ken Warren compared the prestige of the Carnahan name in Missouri to that of the "Kennedy name in Massachusetts."

Bombing Baldwin

"Those of you still holding your breath for Alec Baldwin to make good on those alleged threats to leave the country in the event of a Bush presidency might want to exhale now," Amy Reiter writes in Salon (www.salon.com). "These days, he doesn't even want to leave New York."

"I feel like now is one of the greatest times to be in New York, because we're going to see all these great ideas flowing about how we're going to change the way we live here," the actor, notorious for his anti-Republican politics, recently told the New York Daily News.

"And then there's that weird part of me that thinks if New York got bombed again, I want to be here," Mr. Baldwin said. "I'd rather die getting bombed in a New York bombing than live some kind of shallow life somewhere else.

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