- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Wheelchair derby

“It was — thank goodness — an uneventful motorcade to the airport.”

So writes Edwin Chen of the Los Angeles Times in the official White House pool report of President Bush’s motorcade Sunday afternoon from the Bush retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, to a local airport for the flight to Washington.

“‘Thank goodness’ because, at various points along the way, the presidential motorcade traveled at speeds that exceeded 75 mph, according to the speedometer,” Mr. Chen notes. “And this was mostly on a narrow, curving, and sometimes hilly two-lane road — sans sidewalk. More than once, we could hear tires squealing.”

Certainly there weren’t adoring fans lining these narrow, twisting roads?

“Adding to the thrill of the chase were the occasional clusters of people — including children — obviously out to catch a fleeting glimpse of [Mr. Bush],” the scribe says. “Among them, at one point, were more than a dozen seniors, in wheelchairs.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked later about what equates to “reckless driving,” said there was no special reason for such high speeds, surmising that the rush had been intended to minimize the motorcade’s inconvenience to the local residents.

“For the record,” Mr. Chen writes, “passengers in [the press vehicle] clocked the van’s speed variously at 50 mph (in a 25 mph zone), 60 mph (in a 35 mph zone) and above 75 mph (in a 45 mph zone.) The white-knuckles ride lasted about 25 minutes.”

King of terror

Despite the ensuing uproar, Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, stands by his insistence that 85 percent of the mosques in the United States have “extremist leadership.”

And Mr. King says that although most in the Islamic community are “loyal Americans,” their leadership is reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement when they hear anti-American rhetoric or plots.

Ghazi Khankan, director of the Westbury-based Islamic Center in New York (which Mr. King has visited several times), labels the congressman “out of touch with the Muslim community.”

But Mr. King says he bases his belief on extensive conversations with law enforcement officials in Washington and New York. (He acknowledges that he used this same information on Muslim leaders for a plot line in his new terrorist-related novel, “Vale of Tears.”)

“Most of the Muslim community is cooperating with police and local authorities,” he says. “But 85 percent of the mosques have extremist leadership in this country.”

Costly rerun

Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman is drawing fire for sponsoring legislation that sets up a $90 million program to research what countless other studies have already done — the effects of television viewing on children.

To justify such an expense, the Connecticut senator asserts that “no one is looking out, in a systematic way, for what our children are looking at.”

Not so, says Citizens Against Government Waste, citing myriad “clean television” advocacy groups scrutinizing every hour of television and video games — going so far as to boycott advertisers and write newspaper editorials.

Among several groups: Children NOW, the Children’s Digital Media Center and Common Sense Media. Lara Mahaney, of the Parents Television Council, says “to spend $90 million on something we already know is just a waste of money.”

For beach reading during the August recess, Mr. Lieberman might pick up the 2003 Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the effect of television on infants, toddlers and preschoolers (finding: Thirty-six percent of children under age 6 have a TV set in their bedroom).

Or the American Academy of Pediatrics study of the effect of television on children under 2 (recommendation: Do not watch TV at all).

Another Cheney?

Republicans, for once, are elated about their prospects in one notorious Democratic bastion of Northern Virginia, where unlike the 2004 presidential contest this congressional campaign is still about “undecided” voters.

Yes, seven-term incumbent Rep. James P. Moran, a former mayor of Alexandria plagued by controversy, leads Republican challenger Lisa Marie Cheney, a military defense expert, by a 44 percent to 29 percent margin, says a new Tel Opinion Research poll.

In any other district, Republican election observers would look at these numbers and patiently await the next election.

Except that this same poll finds that more than one in four voters — 27 percent — in the 8th Congressional District that borders Washington remain “undecided.”

“Clearly, these poll numbers show that the constituents of the 8th District of Virginia believe that the character issue is important,” Mrs. Cheney, who is not related to Vice President Dick Cheney, tells this column. “The voters expect elected officials to behave in accordance with the law, not behave as if they are above it. They are tired of the embarrassing, insensitive antics of Jim Moran and are looking for change.”

• Fans of this column will enjoy John McCaslin’s new book, “Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops and Shenanigans From Around the Nation’s Capital.”

You can purchase it through BarnesandNoble.com.

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

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