- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Limitless credit

While Americans have been tightening their belts, bureaucrats have been on a spending spree. And they are buying more than $200 hammers and $60 screws.

Alcohol, prostitution and gambling are three items federal employees have paid for with government credit cards, although Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, hope to curtail the abuse when they introduce the Credit Card Reform Act of 2003 today.

The legislation would call on every federal agency to develop strict penalties for abuse, require background credit checks on all persons issued a card, and require regular audits.

During the Clinton presidency alone, when government was supposedly “reinvented,” some 700,000 additional government credit cards were issued to federal workers. Thousands of these recipients were subsequently found to be abusing the cards to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Abuse was so rampant it caught the attention of the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News, which reported Uncle Sam’s workers were buying up Ozzy Osbourne tickets, lingerie, tattoos — even paying for tuition to bartender school.

Climbing and slipping

The Washington Post-ABC News poll is one and the same, conducted by telephone Oct. 9-13 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults.

But let’s examine how the poll’s results were presented to readers and viewers of both news outlets. First, the Post, which published the results under the headline, “Bush Rallying Support in Polls.”

“Bush aides expressed relief at several polls this week, including a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday, that found the president’s approval rating stabilizing after a steady drop since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was ousted in mid-April.”

The Post went so far as to compare Mr. Bush’s approval rating of 53 percent with President Clinton’s approval rating of 52 at equivalent times before their re-election races.

Now let’s look at ABC News’ analysis of the same poll, published beneath the headline, “Bush Slipping.”

“Persistent criticism on the economy and his Iraq policy alike are clouding President Bush’s political standing, creating vulnerabilities that combine to lock the incumbent and an unnamed Democrat in a dead heat for the 2004 vote.”

Congressman Hanks?

The Eisenhower Institute’s next author series will feature George Crile and his new book, “Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History.”

A veteran producer for the CBS show “60 Minutes,” Mr. Crile writes how the scandal-prone former Texas Democratic congressman managed to provide the CIA with hundred of millions of dollars to arm mujahideen in Afghanistan.

No sooner was the book published this year than Tom Hanks’ production company, Playtone, purchased the exclusive rights. Word is Mr. Hanks wants to play the lead role.

Polishing the news

“Biskup Thomas Wenski Rozpocznie Otwarcie Izby Reprezentantow Stanow Zjednoczonych Przez Modlitwe.”

Say what?

Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican who is Catholic, says he wanted residents of America and Poland alike to know that the Rev. Thomas Wenski, co-adjutor bishop of Orlando, will be guest chaplain in the House of Representatives tomorrow.

Just to be sure, he took the trouble to issue two separate news advisories: one in English and a “Polish version.”

Bishop Wenski, who like Pope John Paul II has Polish roots, will begin his day on Capitol Hill by offering a prayer for the congressmen.

Daily reminder

Robert C. Bonner, commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security, said if he needed any reminder, an aerial photograph of ground zero in New York hangs on the wall of his conference room at Customs and Border Protection headquarters.

“The smoldering rubble still moves me,” Mr. Bonner told a crowd at the Heritage Foundation, “a daily reminder to me and my senior managers that our work to protect America against further terrorist attacks is urgent and essential to the security of our homeland.”

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

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