- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

‘Pool spray’

Outgoing White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was accosted on the runway of Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday night and hosed down by firefighters to mark his last flight on Air Force One.

White House aides said it is traditional for members of the Air Force to be hosed down after their last flight. So as Mr. Fleischer was accompanying the president back from his five-day tour of Africa, senior administration officials were plotting to soak the spokesman, whose last day on the job is today.

The plane touched down at 7:57 p.m. and the president disembarked before boarding his helicopter, Marine One, and heading to the White House with first lady Laura Bush and their 21-year-old daughter, Barbara.

Then a pair of Air Force officials engaged Mr. Fleischer in a lengthy conversation at the foot of the stairs to Air Force One. While the spokesman was distracted, a pair of firetrucks approached and a hose was unwound from one of them.

As a firefighter raced toward Mr. Fleischer with the hose, the Air Force officials and a pair of White House aides who arranged the stunt — press wrangler Reed Dickens and Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin — suddenly bolted away from the spokesman.

Realizing he was about to be drenched, Mr. Fleischer sprinted away across the runway. When he figured he was a safe distance away, he stopped and taunted the firefighter by waving his hands in a beckoning gesture that essentially said, “Bring it on.”

Meanwhile, another firefighter sneaked up behind Mr. Fleischer, who bolted again and eventually was grabbed by a third firefighter. Since he was still out of reach of the fire hose, a portable fire extinguisher was used to douse the spokesman, who was wearing a powder blue T-shirt and navy blue sweat pants emblazoned with the name of his alma mater, Middlebury.

At this point, Mr. Fleischer threw up his hands in surrender and walked back to face the music, er, fire hose, which was used to give him a more thorough drenching.

“I guess this is a pool spray,” he joked, playing off the term used to describe presidential photo ops with the White House press pool.

To show that there were no hard feelings, Mr. Fleischer then shook hands with the firefighters.

Who’s lying now?

“The president’s critics are lying,” Clifford D. May writes at National Review Online, www.nationalreview.com.

“Mr. Bush never claimed that Saddam Hussein had purchased uranium from Niger. It is not true — as USA Today reported on page one Friday morning — that ‘tainted evidence made it into the President’s State of the Union address.’ For the record, here’s what President Bush actually said in his SOTU: ‘The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’

“Precisely which part of that statement isn’t true? The British government did say that it believed Saddam had sought African uranium. Is it possible that the British government was mistaken? Sure. Is it possible that Her Majesty’s government came by that belief based on an erroneous American intelligence report about a transaction between Iraq and Niger? Yes — but British Prime Minister Tony Blair and members of his Cabinet say that’s not what happened,” said Mr. Mr. May, a former foreign correspondent for the New York Times and president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“They say, according to Britain’s liberal Guardian newspaper, that their claim was based on ‘extra material, separate and independent from that of the U.S.’

“I suppose you can make the case that a British government claim should not have made its way into the president’s SOTU without further verification. But why is that the top of the TV news day after day? Why would even the most dyspeptic Bush-basher see in those 16 accurate words of President’s Bush’s 5,492-word SOTU an opportunity to persuade Americans that there’s a scandal in the White House, another Watergate, grounds for impeachment?”

Governor slips

Nevada’s fiscal crisis and the battle over raising taxes to cover the state budget appears to be taking its toll on the governor’s approval rating.

Since February, when the legislative session began, Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn’s approval rating has dropped 10 points, a new poll shows.

Forty-three percent of Nevadans surveyed now say Mr. Guinn is doing an excellent or good job as governor, down from 53 percent in February, according to polls conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the most recent published Saturday.

The Legislature has approved a budget, but it has been unable to muster the voter-mandated two-thirds majority necessary to pass a tax plan to pay for it. Mr. Guinn proposed a plan months ago requiring nearly $1 billion in new taxes over the next two years.

The governor appealed to the courts for help and, on Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that basic rights — specifically properly funded education — take precedence over the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases, set by voters in the 1990s. That ruling is expected to clear the way for lawmakers to approve a new tax plan this week.

The plan likely will include portions of Mr. Guinn’s proposal and could raise about $860 million to help balance the state’s record $5 billion two-year budget.

Mr. Guinn, who will not seek re-election in 2006 because of term limits, said the rating drop “is to be expected when you’re in as difficult a position as we’re in.”

Carter’s opinion

Former President Jimmy Carter says a “modest” force of perhaps 2,000 U.S. troops should join a coalition of West African nations to help stabilize Liberia.

Mr. Carter, who first visited Liberia in 1978 when he was president, said in an op-ed piece in the New York Times yesterday that war-torn Liberia “is ready to be rescued from disaster, and the time is ripe for persistent but modest American involvement in this process.”

Now that Liberian President Charles Taylor has said he will resign, a coalition of West African countries including Nigeria and Ghana, joined by the United States, should reassume the peacekeeping role in Liberia, Mr. Carter said.

In addition, the world community should provide economic assistance to revive Liberia’s economy, he wrote.

Mr. Carter noted his foundation, the Atlanta-based Carter Center, adopted Liberia as one of its peace efforts in Africa but was forced to close its office there after it became clear the Liberian president “was determined to maintain dictatorial powers and had little commitment to an honest government or to the well-being of the people.”

JFK memorabilia

Hundreds of items owned by President Kennedy and his wife, including a personal journal he kept during the 1960 presidential campaign, will be auctioned this week.

The memorabilia — which include clothes, photos, souvenirs, prayer cards from his funeral and other keepsakes — are owned by two women who worked for Jacqueline Kennedy while she was first lady, the Associated Press reports.

The items will be sold Saturday during an auction at Dawson’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Morris Plains, N.J.

Along with the president’s journal, which is expected to draw bids of up to $25,000, and other handwritten items, buyers also will be able to bid on autographed copies of his inaugural address, a pair of boxer shorts with a “Jack Kennedy” label sewn to the waistband, and dresses and shoes worn by his wife.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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