- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Mum's the word
Sen. John McCain had no response yesterday to word of a challenge by Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, for his Senate seat in 2004.
It's still not known, for that matter, whether the 66-year-old Mr. McCain will take another stab at the White House next year. And as for Mr. Flake, he's also mum on a potential run for the Senate.
"Congressman Flake is inclined to run for re-election to his House seat, but he sure wishes Senator McCain shared the president's love of tax cuts," is all spokesman Matthew Specht would tell Inside the Beltway yesterday.
Just beginning his second term, the 40-year-old Mr. Flake, who never held elective office before coming to Capitol Hill, pledged to serve a maximum three terms. He'd still be keeping his word, although a Senate term lasts six years compared to two in the House.
We last quoted Mr. Flake during the summer, remarking on the catastrophic forest fires in Arizona. He noted that many environmentalists finally conceded that controversial forest thinning was needed to prevent such fires, although he questioned the position of one group, Forest Guardians, that thinning was OK so long as accomplished by "solar-powered" chain saws.
"I know my way around the hardware store pretty well," he chuckled, "but I've never seen the solar-powered chain saw section."

Foley's future
Florida Rep. Mark Foley is considering a 2004 challenge to the seat held by Democrat Sen. Bob Graham, who's weighing everything from retiring to running for the White House.
Sources tell us Mr. Foley is further buoyed since about 150 people lobbyists, lawyers and political consultants alike showed up to hear him speak off Capitol Hill last week. Foley spokesman Chris Paulitz said people were standing in the lobby for lack of chairs.
Financially speaking, Mr. Foley is in solid early position for a Senate campaign, ranked second $1.8 million after the 2002 campaign among House Republicans. By comparison, the top Democrat, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, has $2.6 million in his presidential campaign chest.

Reborn Eleanor
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the hard-driving "Warrior on the Hill," as she's nicknamed, still swears at her closed-circuit television whenever colleagues "drop grenades" on Congress. But she finds herself changing.
After decades of rejection, the former Sunday school teacher has returned to God.
So we read in Mrs. Norton's new authorized biography, "Fire in my Soul," by Joan Steinau Lester, with a foreword by Coretta Scott King. For her entire adult life, it's written, the congresswoman avoided religion, associating it with "conservatism and hypocrisy," believing it was used to rationalize slavery and segregation.
Now, she says, the notion that there is no God "is flawed."
"The universe is so magnificent and we are such tiny parts of it that it is presumptuous to think we could understand how it all came together," says Mrs. Norton. "What is wonderful and extraordinary about Christianity is quite simply Jesus. Regardless of whether miracles occurred, I can understand why people came to worship Jesus. His philosophy and humility are irresistible.
"And he was so human," she adds. "I think of Christianity when I go on the House floor and hear people gay-bash or come forward with undiluted capitalism, where it is every person for himself. I try to imagine this man 2,000 years ago who came forward with this notion of love. It was revolutionary."

Thorn garden?
Inside the Navy says the Pentagon, at the urging of White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., is accelerating efforts to replace the aging Marine Corps helicopters that transport President Bush at home and abroad.
We know the choppers as "Marine One," the call sign used whenever the elite helicopter squadron HMX-1 transports the president in the Sikorsky-made VH-3D Sea King.
"But these olive and ivory airframes, symbols of power and prestige, are getting old," writes Inside the Navy. "And given the post-September 11 security environment, Card wants a replacement aircraft called VXX to be developed years sooner than previously expected, according to a missive he sent Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Nov. 26, 2002."
The White House, according to a Pentagon official, was irritated by occasions when a helicopter was not fully functional and a backup had to be used. One obstacle is finding a replacement chopper that doesn't have a horrendous downdraft, like three of the models under consideration.
"The problem you're going to have with any of these three aircraft is they are going to blow the Rose Garden away," the Pentagon official told the publication.

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