- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Here’s how it works

We’ve written about George W. Bush’s first political job in 1967, when he was press aide to Rep. Edward J. Gurney, a Florida Republican running for the Senate.

The future president herded reporters onto the campaign’s propeller-driven press plane and into their hotel rooms, and woke them back up again at 6 a.m. He was described as being “very cordial” with reporters and quite the organizer.

Even with his full contingent of press aides today, Mr. Bush still prefers to set the parameters for reporters. Consider yesterday’s exchange with members of the Fourth Estate during an Oval Office visit by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” Mr. Bush told reporters. “I will make a statement. The president will make a statement. I will then call upon an American correspondent to ask a question. The president will call upon a Georgian correspondent. We’ll have two questions per side.”

Except when both leaders concluded their statements, it was a Georgian reporter who tried to pose the first question.

“What do you think about … ,” the Georgian began.

“Hold on!” Mr. Bush interrupted. “Will somebody translate.”

“It’s in English,” Mr. Saakashvili pointed out.

“I understand. I understand. Hold on for a second,” Mr. Bush said. “The way this is going to work is this.”

“I’m from Georgia,” the visiting reporter tried again.

“I know you are, excuse me,” Mr. Bush said. “We’re going to start with the American press, and then there will be a Georgian press, and then there will be an American press, and then there will be a Georgian press. That’s the best way to maintain order, so we don’t have everybody yelling at the same time.”

Bombing Austin

Talk about a timely letter that President Bush opened yesterday from Aslan Abashidze, president of Adjara, a breakaway region of Georgia that claims status as an autonomous republic.

In short, Mr. Abashidze isn’t a supporter of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, the 36-year-old revolutionary leader whom Mr. Bush met with yesterday.

Georgians in Adjara, Mr. Abashidze wants Mr. Bush to know, have witnessed “a wave of escalating intimidation, threats and violence” instigated by Mr. Saakashvili and his federal security forces, including harassment of independent media in advance of parliamentary elections there on March 28.

Mr. Abashidze says Mr. Saakashvili has gone so far as to threaten to launch “airstrikes” against Adjara’s capital, Batumi.

“To put this in a parallel American context,” Mr. Abashidze writes, “this would be tantamount to a U.S. president threatening to use U.S. military forces to bomb Austin and invade and occupy Texas.”

Radio gamble

What conservative today doesn’t host a radio talk show?

A source tells us that former Reagan Education Secretary Bill Bennett, co-director of Empower America, will announce this morning that he, too, is going behind the microphone to broadcast virtue across the land.

Playing the numbers

Unauthorized resident aliens in this country illegally are using 265,000 Social Security numbers issued to others by the Social Security Administration.

The magnitude of the alien “identity theft” problem, including ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers) issued to foreign nationals, is contained in government records provided to Inside the Beltway by a federal agent whose responsibility is to protect the integrity of the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security numbers, taxpayer records and identities.

“If this [Bush] administration wants to give amnesty for votes, that’s their decision … but we can’t do it by allowing them to use your Social Security number or your wife’s or your mother’s,” he says.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the agent says during the mid-1990s illegal aliens discovered “a hole in the system whereby they could use a legitimate taxpayer’s Social Security number for employment purposes and then use an ITIN to file a return.”

“This presented a twofold problem for the IRS.”

“W-2 income from the illegal was submitted by the employer at the end of the year, but it was posted under the account of the legitimate taxpayer. This created numerous instances where the legitimate taxpayer was audited for not claiming earnings and had to prove they had not incurred the wages.”

There have been several instances, he adds, where the IRS “ignored” the legitimate taxpayers’ pleas and attempted to seize property based upon undeclared income.

“In one case I worked, the illegal had secured 5 ITINs for brothers and sisters so he could claim them on his federal tax return,” says the agent. “The problem was that all of the siblings lived in Guatemala and had never stepped foot in the United States.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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