- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

Masked men
It's not easy being a "senior administration official."
Just ask, er, sorry, we can't tell you. Here's why:
Quite often during Washington news conferences, top U.S. officials will suddenly ask to speak on "background." During this transformation to anonymity, it is understood by both parties that what is about to be uttered will not be attributed to, say, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell or White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer but to a "senior administration official."
This can sometimes be confusing to members of the Washington press corps, who find themselves taking notes from a person that, at least on paper, does not exist. Even senior administration officials forget they're not always themselves.
That said, a person (we can't say whom) we've all come to know and recognize (we can't describe him) was speaking (we probably shouldn't say where) to the White House press corps about Iraq (we had better not say when) the other day when a reporter … well, consider this official transcript:
Senior Administration Official: The resolution will be tabled next week.
Reporter: What do you mean by "tabled"?
Senior Administration Official: "Tabled" is the official U.N. diplo-babble jargon for offered or proposed or introduced.
Reporter: It must be hard for you as a former congressional aide to use that word, because you know it means "killed" on the Hill.
Oops! Cover blown.
Senior Administration Official (stammering): Former many different jobs. As a senior administration official, I'd hate for any identification to exist on a transcript. Had many different careers, many different paths."
Reporter (wiping egg from his or her face): Of course.
Senior Administration Official: OK.
Reporter: Thank you.
Tiny risk
During this heightened period of terrorist-related stress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, a medical doctor, is prescribing a hefty dose of calm and common sense for Americans.
One can start on the road to recovery, he says, by switching off the TV news channels.
"We have to be very careful because with 24-hour news cycles, seven days a week, every 30 minutes the news cycle being repeated with the potential use of germs, microbes, bacteria, chemical agents … it is easy to overstate, and all of a sudden the pain and paralysis you begin to feel inside, if you are mesmerized by that television set, seeing these images come again and again, we have to be careful.
"We all know these visual images are put on television to capture your attention," he adds. "Again, we have to be careful as we look at television, as we look at media today, not to let it feed our paralysis and fear."
So we don't need to duct tape a plastic bubble around our lives?
"The risk of biological weapons or chemical weapons, although I think it is higher than nuclear weapons being used in our homeland, is still small. It is tiny," Mr. Frist says.
"It is bigger than 10 years ago, but the overall risk of biological and chemical agents being used successfully as agents of mass destruction in this country is small."
Still, aware that because of the media hype many Americans are no longer sleeping well, eating more, eating less, developing belly aches and back pain, experiencing irritability, detachment, periods of depression, feeling blue, being on edge and waking up in the middle of the night, Mr. Frist says we have to deal with our emotions.
"There are a lot of things you can do," he says, telling Americans:
Take a news break.
Keep the faith.
Embrace daily routines.
Communicate.
Do not lock yourself down and worry.
Exercise regularly, eat well, and get a good night's rest.
Smokers might also take the opportunity to kick the habit. After all, smoking has a far greater chance of killing you than Osama bin Laden. If he's even alive.
Inclusive party?
Al Cardenas, past chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, says stalling tactics by Democrats surrounding the confirmation of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is "an affront to millions of Hispanics" in the United States.
"This brilliant Hispanic's roadblock by Democrats in the U.S. Senate is shameful," Mr. Cardenas says.
Meanwhile, in the heavily Hispanic state of Florida today, Republican Rep. Mark Foley will publicly challenge Florida Sen. Bob Graham to not only persuade his fellow Democrats to remove their hold on a nomination floor vote, but to announce that he will vote to confirm Mr. Estrada.
"Partisan politics is getting in the way of his confirmation," Mr. Foley says. "It's time for Senator Graham to step up and back this American success story. And it's time he calls his fellow Democrats and tells them to stop playing politics with the federal judiciary."
At a Florida news conference attended by the state's Hispanic leaders, Mr. Foley will cite Mr. Estrada's support from not only the Hispanic community, but Republicans and Democrats alike.
"Not only have former members of President Clinton's legal team publicly supported Estrada, Senator Mary Landrieu [Louisiana Democrat] praised his candidacy in her political ads, and Democrat Senators John Breaux [of Louisiana], Zell Miller [of Georgia] and Ben Nelson [of Nebraska] have publicly called for an end to the delaying tactics."
Mr. Estrada would become the first Hispanic-American to sit on the bench.
Bush summit
President Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will meet in Washington today, the former welcoming the National Governors Association into the White House State Dining Room. Afterward, Gov. Bush will stroll to the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel for a Hoover Institution address on the challenges and successes of school accountability in Florida.


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