- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

It is both chilling and reassuring to hear that President Bush has been moving a "shadow government" of senior managers in and out of secret underground sites ever since September 11.

It is reassuring to know that if, God forbid, the nation's capital gets creamed by a super-Big-Gulp-sized terrorist attack, the White House is taking steps to preserve the American way of life.

At the same time, it is chilling to think that, after years of wondering whether the sole survivors of a postwar world might be cockroaches, the only survivors actually might be federal bureaucrats.

The Bush administration has been deploying about 100 top officials from every executive branch department to live and work inside secret underground sites somewhere on the East Coast ever since the morning of the September 11 hijackings, according to reports.

Key congressional leaders were not upset to hear the president is doing this. They were upset that they weren't let in on it before reporters asked them about it.

"I think the time has come for us to be asking a lot more questions," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Right. Questions like, "Where's my bunk?"

I guess we should not be surprised that the White House would want to keep a lid on its secret cave schemes. After all, if you let the Congress and the Supreme Court in on the plan, pretty soon everybody wants to know what's going on.

And here we thought Vice President Richard B. Cheney was the only key official who constantly was getting whisked away to a "secure undisclosed location."

Depending on our level of alertness, preserving possible custodians of the American way of life in secure undisclosed locations could become a trend.

Major news media, for example, might already be squirreling away a cave full of shadow grouches of the right-wing and left-wing persuasions, so the nation's endless supply of punditry and pontification will not lose its ample wind. (I would volunteer, but I fear that someone would seal off the cave.)

On the culture side, who knows? The movie industry may already have a secret "Shadow Hollywood" somewhere up in the California mountains to make sure the nation's 14-year-old boys will not suffer a gap in the supply of new movies targeted to them.

Plus, the name "Shadow Hollywood" could be used to help fill the nation's hunger for restaurants with silly themes.

The NFL and NBA may already have shadow leagues warming up in a secure location in case of a terror attack or a prolonged labor dispute, whichever comes first.

Each of us has ideas as to who belongs at the top of the list of those we'd like to stick around and preserve the American way of life. It is even easier, after a glance at recent news, to think of who belongs on the bottom of the list.

Here are a few of my nominees for my Bottom-Feeding Losers List of those whose woebegone ways we least need to preserve:

• Monica Lewinsky. After watching a few minutes of her HBO special, in which she chattered on and on about how she wishes everybody would just leave her alone, I was ready to help grant her wish. I turned off the television.

• Paula Jones and Tonya Harding. Just when we thought we had enough of the former sexual-harassment plaintiff and the former figure-skating tabloid queen, Fox Television has booked them to punch each other out on "Celebrity Boxing," which airs March 13.

Mrs. Jones agreed to step in after Amy Fisher, the ex-convict "Long Island Lolita" dropped out. That burst of good judgment grants Miss Fisher a reprieve from my Losers List, at least for now. Maybe the dear girl is on her way to rehabilitation after all.

• David Brock. Yes, after famously trashing Anita Hill and Bill Clinton as a reporter and author in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, he's now renounced the right and his own writing to become a New York liberal who invites you to read about his fascinating life in his $26 book. I hope it answers the big question: Why should anybody trust him now?

• O.J. Simpson. In his latest incarnation, he is hosting hip-hop concerts around the country. In Cincinnati last weekend, he defended rap music against its many critics, saying, "I know something about bad raps."

Right. I ask you, is this the man you want for a bunkmate in an undisclosed location?

• Anonymous. I don't know who the unnamed lightweight ABC executives were who suggested to the New York Times that Ted Koppel's "Nightline," which the network suits are trying to replace with David Letterman, had "lost its relevance." But, whoever they were, they belong on my Losers List.

Yes, folks like these have helped make the American way of life what it is today. Too bad.

But there's always hope. We Americans are pretty good at learning from our mistakes.


Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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