- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

Sign of the times

“Credito Sin Papele sde Gringos.”

Translation: “Credit Without Gringo’s Papers.”

So reads the sign out in front of Casa Furniture, 4618 King St. in Alexandria, just a few blocks from the Bailey’s Crossroads section of Fairfax County. Hoping to lure undocumented aliens, one might assume?

Forget the fact that “gringo,” according to Webster’s dictionary, is a hostile or contemptuous term for an American.

We telephoned Casa Furniture yesterday. A man who identified himself as the manager put us on hold for 20 minutes after we inquired about the sign. We finally hung up and called again. A woman informed us the manager was no longer available.

So, we jumped into the car and drove to Casa Furniture, where a Hispanic salesman told us he didn’t know what the “gringo” sign meant.

We asked to see the manager, but we were told he had just left the store. The salesman then ordered us to leave the premises.

Interpreting Ashcroft

What left-leaning American wasn’t critical of Attorney General John Ashcroft in the wake of September 11?

He was criticized for infringing on the civil liberties of U.S. citizens, terror suspects and prisoners of war alike.

But Mr. Ashcroft, we’re now told, was not the first attorney general to face a national security crisis — and resulting criticism from within. Betty Winfield, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia, says no fewer than 78 attorneys general have broadened the interpretation and enforcement of laws during domestic and foreign crises.

She developed four models of attorneys general during wartime and found that Mr. Ashcroft fit two of these descriptions.

“John Ashcroft exemplified the relationship between government power and civil liberties,” Ms. Winfield said. “He either ignored criticism of his actions or labeled those who decried them as aiding terrorists, being unpatriotic and ‘living in a dream world.’ ”

She says the four models of these attorneys general are: coordinator, extreme aggressor, extreme aggressor/fall guy, and leveler.

The coordinator facilitates the president’s wishes no matter how constitutionally questionable those actions may be, she says. They’re forceful during crises but are not closely identified with overt infringement of civil liberties. Thomas Gregory, President Wilson’s attorney general during World War I, fit this model.

Then there is the extreme aggressor, a person like Mitchell Palmer, Wilson’s attorney general during the “Red Scare” years, who becomes more ambitious and publicly initiates aggressive actions.

The extreme aggressor/fall guy takes the heat publicly or in the courts, she says, becoming an administration’s scapegoat: John Mitchell, President Nixon’s attorney general, fits the bill.

The leveler, she says, attempts to temper the administration’s drastic actions, quietly disagreeing with the president’s aggressive actions and trying to urge a different course. Francis Biddle, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attorney general during World War II, falls into this category.

As for Mr. Ashcroft?

Ms. Winfield writes that his actions reflected aspects of both an extreme aggressor and a coordinator, at times trying to “manipulate the media by timing pronouncements to distract attention from administrative blunders.”

Beyond war

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans has created the first national college scholarship program exclusively for veterans who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The scholarship program was inspired by former U.S. Ambassador to Spain George Argyros and his wife, Julia. It was on a visit to the Rota Naval Air Station in Spain that the couple first met with wounded soldiers who shared their combat experiences, their unyielding patriotism and an eagerness to return to their unit — in spite of traumatic and serious injuries, the association says.

“You just can’t help but be profoundly moved by devotion like that,” said Mr. Argyros, who was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association in 1993. It provides scholarship assistance to young people who have demonstrated integrity and determination in overcoming adversity, academic potential and the personal aspiration to make a unique contribution to society.

Pigeon oversight

Forget the pigeons and, for that matter, newlyweds.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Texas Republican, has introduced an amendment that would help the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) focus their funding on “serious” mental-health research.

His amendment proposes to “redirect millions of dollars from studies on how pigeons process visual concepts and how newlyweds are dealing with their first year of marriage,” said Josh Noland, the congressman’s press secretary.

“These may be worthwhile studies, but they do not address serious mental-health issues, which is the mission of NIMH,” he told this columnist. “The pigeon study has gone on for 15 years and continues to get funding despite failing to provide any significant findings.”

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

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