- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Mandate mission

Yesterday, on the eve of President Bush’s State of the Union address, former Congressman (and actor) Fred Grandy, now co-host of “The WMAL Morning News” in Washington, moderated a panel of political observers examining Mr. Bush’s agenda for this year and beyond.

“I don’t think the president is sitting around stewing about his legacy,” said veteran ABC White House correspondent Ann Compton, suggesting such grandiosity isn’t Mr. Bush’s style or even a concern.

However, she pointed out, September 11 and the subsequent war on terrorism prevented this president from accomplishing what he otherwise might have set out to do during his first term, issues that only now he is addressing as he begins a second term.

Which is exactly the opposite experience of the previous pair of two-term presidents.

Ronald Reagan ran into Iran-Contra in his second term, and we all know what Bill Clinton ran into,” Mrs. Compton said. The differing obstacles nevertheless prevented each from making major inroads in their lame-duck years.

Now embarking on his final four years in office, and albeit with Iraq as a constant backdrop, Mr. Bush has a pile of major initiatives on his plate, not the least being Social Security and tax reform.

“President Bush might have to hold a retreat with congressmen every weekend to get this stuff through,” said Tim Curran, editor of Roll Call. “He can’t do this without Democrats, and he’ll have to [appeal to] some to get it done.”

Mr. Grandy said he counts exactly one Democrat in the Senate and one Democrat in the House who support Mr. Bush on Social Security privatization.

“There isn’t a plan” on Social Security, argued Craig Crawford, White House columnist for Congressional Quarterly and former editor of the Hotline. “He’s selling a black hole.”

Which reminded Mr. Grandy of the cartoon: “Change is good. You go first.”

God’s back

It’s difficult if not impossible in these secular days to lead the nation’s public school students in prayer, but being the nation’s top principal has its advantages.

“This was no wimpy pro-forma prayer,” said one of 300 guests who crowded into the Education Department auditorium for this week’s swearing-in of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

“It definitely said ‘take a hike’ to the ACLU, People for the American Way, atheist Michael Newhouse and all secular humanist activists who want to push religious faith totally out of any activities involving government and public education.”

Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, offered the resounding prayer in the presence of President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, six Cabinet members, White House aides Karl Rove and Andrew H. Card Jr., Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and several other members of Congress.

“Let us bow our heads as we acknowledge God’s holy presence,” began Mr. Towey, going on to pray that the heavenly Father “guide and inspire [Mrs. Spellings] in these important duties.”

Processing fee

Ralph Neas, president of People For the American Way, says he is “outraged” by a Justice Department fee approaching $400,000 to handle a Freedom of Information Act request dealing with immigrants detained in the wake of September 11.

“If you want to learn about secret trials carried out by your government with your money, you’re going to need deep pockets,” Mr. Neas suggests.

Tired of commuting

“As crazy as it sounds, driving carpool and helping with algebra homework sounds very appealing to me.”

Resignation letter of David Lopez, longtime chief of staff to House Republican Conference Secretary Rep. John T. Doolittle of California, who noted that for 20 years he has been a “commuter dad and husband,” flying from his home in Sacramento to Washington on a weekly basis when the House is in session.

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

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