- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

Rice recall

Frank J. Murray was one of the first journalists in Washington to notice Condoleezza Rice, whom we named yesterday as a potential running mate for President Bush in 2004.

It was back during the 1990 U.S.-Soviet Summit, and the former White House correspondent for The Washington Times couldn't help but observe how the "top Sovietologist" for the previous Bush administration then just 35 years old stood out in the summit crowd "a young black woman whom Soviet diplomats once thought too pretty to be serious."

Even then, Mr. Murray wrote, the child of segregated Birmingham, Ala., was portrayed by White House officials as "something of a superwoman," there discussing the fate of the world "in a red dress and 15 older white men in suits."

Miss Rice today remains surrounded by neckties while firmly entrenched in the pivotal role of White House national security adviser not to mention President Bush's most trusted confidante. But most wearing the suits report to her.

Condoleezza, whose name is adapted from an Italian phrase translatable as "with beauty" or "with sweetness," was a school classmate of one of the four girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, Mr. Murray observed a dozen years ago.

About the same time as the church bombing, Miss Rice revealed to our reporter, her father, John, photographed her in front of the White House. And she told him, "One day I'm going to live there."

Citizen ships

During a recent hearing of the House Armed Services Committee's Merchant Marine Panel, Chairman Duncan L. Hunter, California Republican and Vietnam veteran, made the following point:

"When Americans were being killed on the battlefield in Vietnam, and British shipping companies were moving supplies to our adversaries the North Vietnamese communists, who were killing those Americans on the battlefield there were undoubtedly, in those corporate memberships, retired admirals and generals who had fought side by side with GIs in World War II who, nonetheless, found themselves bound by circumstance in what I'm sure, for them, was a very uncomfortable situation."

Mr. Hunter today doesn't want America put back in the uncomfortable position of having its allies support its adversaries Iraq, Iran, Libya and Sudan, to name four state sponsors of terrorism in the event of war.

Could it actually happen?

The Maritime Security Program (MSP) is a national defense sea-lift project providing monetary assistance to American ocean shipping companies in exchange for guarantees that the Pentagon will have access to the ships in the event of a national defense emergency, like September 11.

The program, in addition, saves taxpayers millions of dollars each year by relieving the Defense Department from maintaining a fleet of expensive transport vehicles. There are currently 47 ships in the program, limited to companies that comply with U.S. citizenship requirements. A shipping company, therefore, even if foreign-owned, must be in the operating hands of American citizens.

That's where today's problem surfaces. In 1999, AP Moller/Maersk of Denmark purchased the international division of Sea-Land Service Inc., which had 15 ships enrolled in the MSP. In order to meet the citizenship requirement, Maersk entered into contracts with U.S. Ship Management.

However, Maersk now contends that the American "middle man" substantially increases its costs, so it is requesting an exception to the citizenship rule, in effect a change in U.S. law.

John Clancy, chairman of Maersk Inc., recently reminded Congress that his company is the largest operator of American flagships, 53 ships based in Norfolk alone.

"We have operated ships for over 20 years for the U.S. government," Mr. Clancy said. "We have participated in Desert Storm, and today, in Afghanistan, [are] playing a significant role. I think history has demonstrated that we can be quote, unquote, 'trusted.' I think if you ask the Marine Corps, they would give you an affirmative response."

But Jay Keegan, president and CEO of U.S. Ship Management, told the same congressional panel that in light of the recent terrorist attacks, "citizenship policy has become even more critical." He noted that Maersk continues to conduct business with terrorist states such as Iraq, Iran, Libya and Sudan.

"Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that Maersk has violated U.S. law, because, after all, Maersk is not a U.S. citizen," Mr. Keegan said. "But Maersk is appearing before this panel and claiming they should be considered the equivalent of a [U.S.] citizen."

In today's times, he said, "it is not enough to be 'like' a citizen."

Prettier ride

In seeking the Kentucky governor's office, Democrat Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and his wife, former Miss America Heather French, are seemingly following the path of another governor and first lady who was a former Miss America John Y. Brown and the famous Phyllis George.

"A lot of people have been elected on a coattail, but he's the first candidate I ever saw, instead of riding in on a coattail, he's riding in on a petticoat tail," joked former Republican Gov. Louie Nunn, speaking at the 122nd annual Fancy Farm Picnic on behalf of his son, State Rep. Steve Nunn, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

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