- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

Name dropper

Some of the most revealing moments of the daily White House press briefing are compliments of White House correspondents when posing their questions to presidential spokesman Scott McClellan.

Take this week’s ear-opener:

Reporter: “My question is, is President Bush ready to replace Kofi Annan with my friend President Bill Clinton as the United Nations secretary general?”

“Your friend?” interjected a fellow reporter.

Rebels and such

Overheard commenting this week on the controversial remarks of late by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean was Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat, who offered that the former Vermont governor is often misunderstood.

Case in point. During his 2004 campaign for president, Mr. Dean said he wanted to be “the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.”

In no time, Mr. Dean was rebuked by his Democratic rivals, although he tried to explain that the best way to draw Southern whites back into the Democratic fold was by winning their support.

“I understood exactly what he was trying to say, he just said it wrong,” Mr. Jackson said in the company of this columnist.

The congressman explained that, as far as culture goes, a dividing line still splits the North and the South, much as it did 150 years ago.

To paraphrase Mr. Jackson: “You ask somebody on this side of the 14th Street Bridge to talk about ‘the war,’ and they’ll start talking about Vietnam. You ask somebody on the other side of the 14th Street Bridge, on Jefferson Davis Highway [in Virginia], to talk about the war, and they’ll immediately start talking about the Civil War as if it just happened yesterday. To them, that’s still the big war.”

Mr. Jackson conceded that he, himself, is a “big Civil War buff.”

Happy Juneteenth

President Bush sends greetings to Americans celebrating “Juneteenth,” the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

It was on June 19, 1865, he notes, that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, bringing news that the Civil War had ended and that the Emancipation Proclamation, signed more than two years earlier, had declared all slaves to be free persons.

The president says Juneteenth “is a day that stands for the dignity and equality of all citizens, regardless of race, so that all may share the blessings of freedom that America provides.”

Powell’s plunge

Unlike others we know in Washington, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell doesn’t often talk about his Vietnam War record.

But let the record show that Mr. Powell earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam. In fact, once when asked by student interviewers from Scholastic what he did to earn his medal, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff replied: “Something kind of dumb.

“I was walking on patrol through the jungle, and I slipped and fell into a trap that the enemy had put on the trail,” Mr. Powell said. “It was a covered hole in the ground that had sharp bamboo spikes at its bottom. I slipped into the hole, my foot went down, and a spike went through my foot. It was painful, but it wasn’t serious. I was OK again in a few weeks.”

Beyond that, Mr. Powell said he had plenty of enemy shots fired in his direction, and he watched several comrades take hits.

“I lost many friends during the Vietnam War,” he said, and “it hurt every time it happened, and I think of them all the time. I lost four of my college classmates in the Vietnam War. All were good friends.”

Yesterday, we learned that Mr. Powell has agreed to serve as honorary chairman of the national fundraising campaign to build an educational Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center near “The Wall” in Washington.

Latest salvo

We’re sorry to report that a war of sorts has broken out among the U.S. armed forces, started by our recent update on Air Force uniforms that, over the years, have been confused with those worn by bus drivers and mailmen.

Soon, mail was pouring in from every military branch — Air Force blue attacking Army olive, Navy white attacking Air Force blue, and so forth. Now, it’s the Marines under attack, compliments of Jim Evans, whose address we traced to the Air Force:

“Two Marines in dress greens approach an Air Force guy in blues in a bus station: ‘Hey driver, what time does the next bus leave?’

“Air Force answer: ‘As soon as you porters get my bags on the bus.’”

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

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