- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

A decade late

Virginia Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III is wearing more hats than most Americans ever realized. The question everybody is asking now is: Should somebody have been wearing one of the hats sooner?

While tending to his gubernatorial duties in Richmond and throughout the rest of Virginia, Mr. Gilmore has served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, and in these ideological times that is no small task.

But yet another, until now overlooked post that Mr. Gilmore has held, has suddenly thrust the Virginia governor further into the national spotlight in the wake of last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington: chairman of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The panel is a congressionally authorized group studying the threat of terrorism in the United States.

It so happens that in May, Vice President Richard B. Cheney asked for an opportunity to meet with Mr. Gilmore's panel, whose membership consists of current and former federal officials, terrorism specialists, intelligence authorities, the military, law enforcement, emergency management, fire services, the medical community and public health specialists. (One member of the commission, Ray Downey, chief of special operations for the New York City Fire Department, is listed as missing after the World Trade Center collapse.)

Mr. Cheney, assigned by President Bush the task of developing a national anti-terrorist policy, met with Mr. Gilmore, who told the vice president that it wasn't a question of "if" a terrorist act would occur on U.S. soil, but rather "when."

Buy safety

The letter to its clients was unlike any Scott & Stringfellow Inc., a Virginia-based personal investment service, prepared since its founding in 1893.

"We are sad. We are shocked. We are sickened. We are very, very angry. We pray for lives lost, families torn apart, and for wisdom to look beyond the tragedy. Today, we get back to work and ponder our changed world."

That means the arduous task of guiding clients through a challenging and uncertain outlook.

"It could be a heck of a lot worse," William A. Moncure Jr., Scott & Stringfellow vice president, told Inside the Beltway as he watched the U.S. stock market drop in value yesterday. "The Feds are doing all the right things [with yesterday's half-point interest rate cut], and we, of course, expected this plunge. But it will bottom, and then it will boom, and it will come straight back up."

Albeit with exceptions.

"The airline industry has changed forever," Mr. Moncure said, and property-insurance stocks will take at least a temporary hit because of losses in last week's attacks.

Defense stocks, on the other hand (with the apparent exception of Boeing, the dominant commercial-aircraft supplier), are potential beneficiaries, not only of short-term "sector rotation," but of the fundamental need for security.

"Safety," the firm says, "seems to be the huge theme going forward."

No time for politics

It has been a difficult week for everybody in Congress, particularly Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee.

Angry Americans have been writing to the congressman — and this column, in particular — after Mr. Meehan was quoted as saying ("out of context," he insists) after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington: "I don't buy the notion Air Force One was a target. That's just PR. That's just spin."

Reached yesterday, Bridger E. McGaw, the congressman's press secretary, provided Inside the Beltway with the following explanation from Mr. Meehan:

"I deeply regret giving anyone the impression that I do not fully support the president. My comments were taken out of context and were misrepresented. I have fully supported every measure that Congress passed last week: use of military force, providing $40 billion in emergency funding, and providing special tax benefits for the families of the victims. I will continue to support the president in his efforts to find and punish those who attacked our nation."

In fact, Mr. Meehan took to the floor of the House of Representatives late last week and observed of Congress: "[T]his is the most united I have ever seen this House in nine years; I believe we will win this battle. God bless America."

He also donated blood at a House-sponsored blood drive, took part in candlelight vigils, and met with rescue and recovery workers at the Pentagon.

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