- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Politics and 9/11

It’s August, Congress is in its customary recess, so why are so many senators and congressmen convening on Capitol Hill during these dog days of summer?

It so happens that more than 80 congressional committees and subcommittees have convened to investigate the September 11 terrorist attacks and its aftermath — each of the panels discussing what measures should be taken to prevent further such atrocities.

Some, however, are quick to criticize the number of hearings on Capitol Hill, charging that too many cooks are in the kitchen. How can one fight a war on terrorism, they ask, when all the generals are busy testifying before Congress?

An honest answer was provided this week by a former congressman during testimony before a House homeland security hearing. Former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, is now the vice chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, and he conceded to lawmakers:

“I will be quick to admit that it’s a lot easier to say this from outside the body than it is from inside the body: But I think you are at a crunch point, and I think you are exactly right when you say that if another incident were to happen — and the Congress had done nothing to put its own house in order — I think the institution, and maybe some of you individually, would be criticized for not acting.

“In other words, I think there is a political risk here.”

W makes 42

Burke’s Peerage has just completed its research on Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and found that he is definitely more “royal by blood” than any former U.S. president, including George Washington, who was related to 12 of the 25 British dukes and the late Queen Mother.

Mr. Kerry, it turns out, is related to all the royal houses of Europe. Although his father’s family was originally Jewish, Roger Powell, the leading British genealogist, is on record as saying, “Senator Kerry’s Jewish roots appear to have become almost extinguished in favor of his WASP ancestry.”

(As we wrote previously, Mr. Kerry’s grandfather, whose original name was Kohn and came from the former Czechoslovakia, gave up Judaism in favor of Roman Catholicism about 100 years ago.)

Finally, the researchers point out that although George W. Bush refers to himself as the 43rd president and to his father as the 41st president, “this is not correct. It is true that George W. Bush’s is the 43rd presidency, but he is actually the 42nd person to have been president.

“This is because President Grover Cleveland uniquely served two nonconsecutive terms as president. Thus, there have been 43 presidencies but only 42 presidents.”

Ladder-free DOE?

The following memo, distributed this week by the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for environmental management (EM) to fellow department officials, is titled “Tell Me What You Think Of This Idea.”

“Ladders are accidents waiting to happen. It’s only a matter of time before we see another ladder accident. In order to make EM an accident-free work environment, I am considering banning ladders from EM. Here is my rationale:

• In just the last year, 10 people have fallen off ladders.

• A 3- to 4-foot fall can be fatal ….

• There is no way to adequately control ladders, even after you lock them up, people still find a way to get to them.

• There are other more safer ways to elevate people (lifts, scaffolding, etc.), even if it takes a little more time.

• We need to get out in front of this issue; I will not accept another 10 falls.

“This is my proposal:

• Issue a EM policy that bans ladders from all EM sites, effective December 1, 2004. This will give sites three months to plan and prepare to change their mode of operation.

• During this time, sites will be required to develop a ladder-control policy that requires some sort of senior management control over use of an ladders until they are no longer in use.

• Sites will be required to make a declaration that they are ladder-free.

• We would use the month of December to conduct a site walk through to verify this.

• Effective January 1, 2005, EM will be declare a ladder-free work environment.”

Not dyed

“My mother was my Girl Scout leader, and George’s mother was his Cub Scout leader. In fact, that’s when some say her hair turned white.”

—First lady Laura Bush,addressing a group of women this week

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

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