- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Retirement bash

It appears the State Department, particularly its Clinton bureaucratic holdovers hiding en masse in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), doesn't care too much for the lovable Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, the 79-year-old New York Republican who is soon to retire after 15 congressional terms.

This despite Mr. Gilman's steadfast support for increasing the budgets of INL and other State Department programs during six years as chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

Known on the Hill as "Gentle Ben," Mr. Gilman has a reputation for aggressive oversight of INL in a number of areas, including establishing International Law Enforcement Academies in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He also implemented Plan Colombia, which was supposed to have delivered in timely order helicopters, weapons systems, planes and associated training to the drug-infested nation. Hill insiders blame the INL for repeated delays.

"Assistant Secretary Rand Beers [a Clinton bureaucratic holdover] has overt disdain for Gilman and others, and it appears those ill feelings have trickled down to INL's armchair warriors," one Capitol Hill aide tells Inside the Beltway.

Where's the proof?

This column has obtained a copy of several degrading e-mails that whizzed around the INL last week regarding Mr. Gilman's upcoming retirement announcement.

For example, opined the INL's John H. Bargeron of Mr. Gilman's announcement: "He will announce that he has discovered that he died back in 1992, but that no one noticed until now."

It was followed eight minutes later with: "Oops. That was meant for Julie. Please ignore."

The next morning, the INL's James A. Puleo cracked: "Too late. I thought it was he had no brain like the Scarecrow."


Voting 101

Scant proof has been forthcoming, yet NAACP President Kweisi Mfume continues to draw attention to a "callous, deliberate and clearly unconstitutional effort to suppress" the black vote in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

Still, Mr. Mfume is the first to acknowledge that more blacks voted in Florida in 2000 than in any previous election.

But even more blacks would have voted, the former Democratic congressman says, were it not for "racially driven purges of voter rolls, selective distribution of updated voting technology, poorly designed ballots [by a Democrat] and even police roadblocks."

Apparently owing in part to the confusing ballots, blacks in Florida were 10 times more likely than whites to have their votes disqualified (and, come to think of it, more likely than certain other groups to unintentionally cast votes for conservative presidential candidate Pat Buchanan).

As a result, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recently started a massive "voter education" program for blacks and other minorities in preparation for the mid-term elections this November.


Farm feat

Soon after passage of the $190 billion farm-subsidy bill, the House Agriculture Committee rushed out an "audacious defense" of the bill in the form of a glossy and full-color booklet titled "The Facts on U.S. Farm Policy," say the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards and Tad DeHaven.

This "propaganda piece" dispels seven supposed myths "of those who dared question the new law," they say. "Under Myth No. 5, the committee has the nerve to equate Ronald Reagan's victory over communism to enactment of the farm bill."

Sure enough, the new farm bill is compared to President Reagan's policy of "Peace Through Strength that brought down Communism." The rest of the piece is littered with pictures and quotes of famous Americans, from Thomas Jefferson to President John F. Kennedy, as if they endorsed such wasteful government spending.


Saluting Nancy

Former first lady Nancy Reagan, one of a dozen distinguished Americans to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House Rose Garden ceremony yesterday, was feted last night at the Potomac home of Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation.

And talk about a "who's who" on hand to salute Mrs. Reagan, who seldom leaves the side of her ailing husband, who is fighting Alzheimer's disease.

Among a few of the faces spotted in the admiring crowd: White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, former Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former Reagan White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding, former U.S. Information Agency chief Charlie Wick, former Nevada Republican Sen. Paul Laxalt, longtime presidential writer Hugh Sidey, banker and communications giant Joe L. Allbritton and, last but certainly not least, their better halves.

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