Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Can’t trust anybody

Number of press conferences at which President Bush has referred to a question as a “trick”: 11. — Harper’s Index, January 2004 issue.

Retaking America

On the heels of a controversial order by the Homeland Security Department to place armed air marshals on certain U.S.-bound international flights comes legislation now before Congress to prohibit the use in this country of identification cards issued by foreign governments, including consular ID cards.

“Aside from aiding and abetting illegal immigration, acceptance of consular ID cards is placing American security matters in the hands of foreign governments,” says Rep. Scott Garrett, New Jersey Republican, who introduced the legislation this month.

Specifically, it targets the use of foreign-issued ID cards for verifying the identity of a person who opens an account at a financial institution.

“Easy access to banking and financial institutions was one of the critical weaknesses in our system exploited by terrorists on September 11th,” Mr. Garrett says.

Feeling guilty?

Remember to act responsibly if you are “drinking and driving” tonight.

This month marks 70 years since the end of prohibition, described as a disastrous attempt to purge alcohol from American life, resulting in a booming black market, increased crime and alcohol abuse, wasted tax dollars, and lost civil liberties.

And while some assume that such a “misguided experiment” would never be tried again, so-called “neoprohibitionists” are attempting to limit alcohol consumption through indirect means, the Cato Institute’s Radley Balko writes in a new study.

“There’s a new anti-alcohol fervor afoot,” he says in “Back Door to Prohibition: The New War on Social Drinking.” Besides higher taxes, bans on advertising and restrictive zoning regulations, Mr. Balko argues that groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving are pushing for ever more stringent drinking and driving laws, beyond the point where they would deter truly intoxicated drivers.

“‘Drunks’ have been replaced by ‘drinkers,’ ‘drunk driving’ by ‘drinking and driving.’ It’s a subtle change, but a significant one,” he says of language used by anti-alcohol activists.

Monday quarterback

Newt Gingrich is returning to Capitol Hill, this time to speak at the Capitol Hill Civil War Round Table on Jan. 5.

The former House speaker is author of the recent “Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War,” and his comments (6:30 p.m. in room 1300 of the Longworth House Office Building) will focus on the battle of Gettysburg.

If you didn’t read the novel, Mr. Gingrich writes about how Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee might have won the battle and led Southern troops to victory in the Civil War.

Big signatures

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has published in the Congressional Record a D.C. voting rights petition signed by 1,000 D.C. residents including a former U.S. senator, a former congressman, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, a former ambassador, two former Cabinet secretaries, four current university presidents and four national civil rights leaders.

Well-known Washington signers include former Illinois Republican Sen. Charles H. Percy, former Ambassador Strobe Talbott, Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti, former Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West, Washington power broker Vernon E. Jordan Jr., former Army Secretary Clifford Alexander, and former Congressional Budget Office head Alice Rivlin, to name a few.

The petition complains that residents of the federal city are taxed without representation in Congress, and asks that they “be treated neither better nor worse than the citizens of the 50 states, but equally.”

During his campaign for re-election last year, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams promised to raise $1 million to promote the cause of D.C. voting rights in Congress.

Man’s best friend

Despite all the turmoil in the world, President Bush is managing to have a somewhat peaceful vacation at his remote Texas ranch.

“Anything specific that he’s doing that you can tell us? Fishing?” a reporter asked White House spokesman Trent Duffy.

“He is working at the ranch, doing the typical cedar clearing and cutting, I believe, today,” the spokesman replied. “I saw him toss a few horseshoes to Barney.

Barney is a pretty good horseshoe player.” Barney is the Bush family’s Scottish terrier.

• John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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