- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

No nose for news

President Bush is no news junkie, or so he informs The Washington Times senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon.

“I don’t watch the nightly newscasts on TV, nor do I watch the endless hours of people giving their opinion about things,” Mr. Bush says in one of several intriguing chapters of Mr. Sammon’s new book, “Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters.”

“I don’t read the editorial pages; I don’t read the columnists,” Mr. Bush says.

In fact, the president says he gets his unofficial news by “scanning” four morning papers: “I get the newspapers — the New York Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today — those are the four papers delivered.”

Of equal interest, given controversy surrounding the president’s Texas Air National Guard flight training during the Vietnam War, are further revelations about the president’s historic flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln as it was steaming across the Pacific after a long stint in the Persian Gulf.

The White House, Mr. Sammon recalls, assured reporters that Mr. Bush was not playing the role of “daredevil” by making the unprecedented if not risky flight.

Yet shortly after his Navy S-3 Viking reached altitude, Mr. Bush not only became the first sitting president of the United States to pilot an aircraft (he took control of the jet as it was hurtling over the Pacific at 400 miles per hour), he actually flew “formation” with White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who despite having no aviation background had assumed control of his own highly specialized warplane.

“Bush maneuvered ‘Navy One’ [the presidential plane] into the wing position,” Mr. Sammon writes. “This meant the tips of the two planes were only five yards apart. One slip of the joystick could have sent them crashing together.”

How nervous were Mr. Bush and Mr. Card?

“The aging flyboys looked through their windows at each other and flashed each other the thumbs-up sign,” says Mr. Sammon.

Pass the Pinot

It all started, says Mike Burita of the American Beverage Institute in Washington, when a mom brought her children to a family restaurant and ordered a single glass of wine.

A short time later, the courts took her children away.

“Sound like the trailer for a bad movie?” says Mr. Burita. “It’s actually a priority for Mothers Against Drunk Driving [MADD]. This once admirable group has slipped into pure anti-alcohol zealotry with its ‘zero tolerance’ campaign against drinking anything at all before driving.”

MADD’s lobbying effort targets separated and divorced parents in particular.

“There should be a mandatory provision in every separation agreement and divorce decree in which minor children are involved that prohibits either parent from drinking and driving with minor children in the vehicle,” says MADD’s most recent Child Endangerment Report.

Violation of the provision, MADD continues, should include “incarceration,” “change of primary custody of the children,” “limitations on visitations,” even “termination of parental rights.”

Fat guys

Borrowing from the title of Bravo channel’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals presents “Veg Eye for the Fat Guy.”

PETA’s new vegetarian campaign targets a group of popular but portly celebrities, including “American Idol” star Ruben Studdard, sportscaster John Madden, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti and actor John Goodman.

Each celebrity will receive a vegetarian starter kit and PETA cookbook.

Smoke or suffer

As states including Maryland and Virginia consider passing stricter smoking laws, the New York State Conservative Party is urging all 212 members of that state’s Legislature to amend New York’s “onerous” smoking ban in all buildings, saying it has caused severe financial losses for businesses, some of which have been forced to close.

“New York’s government must resist the need to be our nanny,” the conservatives say in a joint statement.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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