- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

Breakfast with Hillary
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's numerous visits to Washington in recent years were often surrounded by controversy.
Like in February 1999, when Mr. Arafat was invited to break bagels with President and Mrs. Clinton at the 47th National Prayer Breakfast against the wishes, we should add, of the breakfast chairman, Rep. Steve Largent, Oklahoma Republican; the Christian Coalition; and the Zionist Organization of America.
Mr. Arafat could not have been more delighted. After all, he had been waiting to thank Mrs. Clinton in person for her declaration months before in support of a Palestinian state.
"I thank her from deep inside my heart," Mr. Arafat proclaimed when Mrs. Clinton surprised everybody from Tel Aviv to Washington, including her husband, by hoisting the Palestinian flag.
"The territory that the Palestinians currently inhabit and whatever additional territory they will obtain through the peace negotiations should be considered, and evolve into, a functioning modern state," Mrs. Clinton proposed.
As for Mr. Clinton, whose own policy did not allow him to support an independent Palestinian state, he knew no amount of White House spin could bail him out of this one. Like it or not, he was forced to take the extraordinary step of publicly distancing himself from his own wife.
He allowed his White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, the privilege: "That view expressed personally by the first lady is not the view of the president."

Partying with Yasser
We filed our favorite Yasser Arafat story two summers ago from the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton, the infamous hotel where Monica Lewinsky got bugged about Bill Clinton, and Marv Albert bit and got bitten.
Yours truly was serving as chairman of the 24th Annual National Society of Newspaper Columnists Conference and was busy unloading the tools of our trade beer, pretzels and laptop computers in our private hospitality suite, which wouldn't you know happened to be right next door to Mr. Arafat's room.
"We weren't told you guys were coming," grumbled one of Mr. Arafat's heavily-armed bodyguards, suspiciously eyeing a steady stream of columnists arriving for sustenance like ants in an ant farm.
One enterprising columnist tried but failed to get Mr. Arafat's signature (he must have thought we wanted him to sign for room service) to auction off at the society's scholarship banquet that evening. Luckily for us, entertainer Connie Stevens was just down the hall and happily autographed a sheet of paper, which if I recall correctly fetched about $5.

Priceless
The telephone rang in the office of Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton on Friday. The office of Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, was on the line, wanting to know how much taxpayer money Mrs. Norton spent to distribute an educational video about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to network news anchors and Sunday talk-show hosts.
The video in question shows ANWR's landscape during the winter months, the only time that proposed oil exploration would take place under President Bush's energy plan. The footage is strikingly different than the pictures often seen on television, which show a more lush central portion of ANWR that not only is designated a wilderness area, but is far removed from the region where any exploration would take place.
"I think it is important that you have video of the actual part of ANWR being discussed, so that your viewers can have a more accurate understanding of the issue," Mrs. Norton wrote in a letter to NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, obtained by Inside the Beltway. "Frequently during the energy debate, I have watched television programs feature video that resembles ANWR's Brooks Range … [which] is not the area proposed for energy development."
Still, to satisfy Mr. Markey's inquiry into the cost of further educating the prominent news leaders on ANWR, Mrs. Norton's office on Friday tallied the numbers.
"We did an analysis of how much money was invested in putting together the videos," Interior spokesman Mark Pfeifle tells this column. "ANWR videos: $95.81. Postage to send ANWR videos to network news anchors: $43.55. Informing Americans about what the real Alaska North Slope looks like in the dead of winter: Priceless."


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