- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Fishing for Bush

The White House press corps, fresh from a three-day holiday weekend, will renew efforts this week to pin President Bush to the collapse of the energy giant Enron.

"I'm just not sure what you're asking for," a weary White House spokesman Ari Fleischer last told reporters who were bent on making Enron the Bush version of Whitewater.

"We've been asking you about this contact with Enron officials," a reporter shot back, "contacts the administration has had involving Enron for weeks now."

"This wasn't 'contact' with Enron officials," Mr. Fleischer repeated for the umpteenth time.

"Well, I know," the reporter finally conceded, "but it involves Enron. That's why I'm just curious."

"OK," said Mr. Fleischer, "now we're off of 'contact' with Enron officials and contact with anything involving anything that Enron was involved in."

The three bears

President Bush wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling for oil. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle doesn't (it was revealed a majority of the South Dakotan's own Energy and Natural Resources Committee favors drilling for limited amounts of oil in a tiny area of the Alaska refuge, but that's another story).

One of his fellow Democrats, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, told senators the story of the three bears before Congress adjourned for its holiday break.

He began by saying that wildlife in the refuge won't "interact happily" with oil pipelines, and then the one-time vice-presidential aspirant pointed to a picture of three foraging bears a story, he warned, that did not have a fairy-tale ending.

"I was advised that the bears in the pictures were not stuffed animals," Mr. Lieberman saw fit to assure any nonbelievers.

Kandahar diatribe

Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf has a lot to learn about U.S. culture in particular Ronald Reagan and American newspapers.

In recent weeks, the creator of the acclaimed film "Kandahar" has spent a lot of time answering questions about a star in his movie, David Belfield an American sought in the 1980 Bethesda slaying of an Iranian dissident Ali Akbar Tabatabai.

Belfield, a former Howard University student, has confessed in several television and newspaper interviews to killing Mr. Tabatabai on the orders of the Khomeini regime. He fled to Iran in 1980 after the killing and spent a few years in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s, fighting alongside the Islamic mujahideen in their struggle to defeat Soviet invaders.

"Now, there was a time that President Ronald Reagan brought a number of the leaders of the mujahideen to the White House and took propaganda pictures and videos with them, and then addressing the reporters and pointing to them, said, 'These are the moral equivalents of our founding fathers,'" Mr. Makhmalbaf said in a lengthy commentary on his Web site.

Mr. Makhmalbaf said this causes him to wonder whether Mr. Reagan "would equate the likes of David Belfield with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, precisely at a time that the FBI had identified him as a fugitive murderer."

The director had some nasty things to say about The Washington Times for reporting the resemblance between Belfield and the actor who plays a doctor in "Kandahar."

The Times, Mr. Makhmalbaf said, is a "right-wing" newspaper that "in pure charlatanism has mixed the names of two prominent American newspapers, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and created the bogus title of Washington Times, so that by this deception, it can fake legitimacy."

Obviously, no one ever told Mr. Makhmalbaf there was another Washington Times newspaper in the U.S. capital, decades before this one started publishing in 1982.

The first Washington Times a Sunday newspaper hit the streets in 1894 but survived only eight years. However, an evening edition was added in 1895, and it continued publication until 1939.

Charter principal

Former Rep. Frank Riggs, California Republican, ought to be named principal of the nation's charter schools.

For the past year and a half, Mr. Riggs has been highly successful as chief operating officer of the Washington-based Charter Schools Development Corp., a nonprofit that helps charter schools obtain and finance educational facilities. He was instrumental in enacting and implementing federal legislation providing the first $30 million in public funding for charter school facility loan guarantees $5 million of it for a revolving credit enhancement here in the District and $25 million for the Department of Education's new Charter Schools Facilities Financing Demonstration Program.

Now, we learn, Mr. Riggs will step down next week to become president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix-based ABS School Services. ABS not only addresses concerns about the quality of public schools, but examines policy initiatives like the charter school movement and federal legislation that affects public schools such as the recently enacted federal education bill.

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