- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hint, hint

“Rove ran like a lump of sugar to avoid getting wet.”

Official White House pool report of President Bush’s rain-soaked arrival Tuesday afternoon at Fort Bragg, N.C., accompanied by White House senior adviser Karl Rove.

Skirting a statute

All told, 25 lawmakers on Capitol Hill had 10 or more days of unexcused absences in the 108th Congress, amounting to more than $500,000 in illegal salary payments.

And 17 of those 25 senators and representatives were out campaigning at the time, according to a recent study by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU).

If that’s not outrageous enough behavior, a Senate committee in recent days sent legislation to the floor to repeal the statute requiring congressional absentees to forfeit their pay unless they or a family member are ill.

“Rather than enforce this obscure but still-valid law, the Senate is moving to do away with it, and make it perfectly legal for senators to be absent from Congress and hit the campaign trail, all while collecting a salary from U.S. taxpayers,” the NTU notes. “Imagine a private-sector worker getting paid for not showing up to his job because he’s out looking for another one.”

To no avail, the NTU for the past decade has sought enforcement of what is called the “No Work, No Pay” law. Congress, however, has looked the other way.

Endless cycle

• Estimated amount spent lobbying Congress last year: $3,000,000,000.

• Number of former members of Congress or federal-agency heads who are now lobbyists: 240

Harper’s Index, July 2005

Hackett’s plan

Politicians and military officers alike yesterday weighed in on President Bush’s insistence during a speech Tuesday night that the increasingly deadly war in Iraq is winnable.

Now, how about an opinion from a Marine and politician in one?

Paul Hackett, a 43-year-old Marine Corps major who returned from service in Iraq on March 18, has become a Democratic candidate for Congress in Ohio’s most heavily Republican district. He is the first veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom to seek a congressional seat.

“No more lip service,” Mr. Hackett said on the heels of President Bush’s address to the nation Tuesday night on Iraq.

Instead, he says, the U.S. needs “a specific plan to complete the mission in Iraq.”

Which is?

“My plan is simple: Match each Iraqi unit to an American unit,” he says. “They will eat together, sleep together, train together and fight together. Our Americans will be a constant example of how professional soldiers conduct themselves.”

“By making this commitment, we can successfully exit Iraq once the roughly 140,000 Iraqi security forces are adequately trained and skilled enough to defend their government,” he continues. “I was in Iraq three months ago and we were teaching Iraqi soldiers by assigning four American advisers to a battalion of Iraqis. You would not send your kid to a school where 500 students learn from only four teachers.”

Mr. Hackett, at the same time, makes clear that the Iraqi people “are grateful that we eliminated their brutal dictator,” and cautions that while they are capable of running their own government and building a democracy, “it won’t look like ours, nor should it.”

Without naming names, he says U.S. leaders “cannot paint a rosy picture and expect us to believe it.”

“This war is wasting billions of tax dollars and countless American lives,” he says.

Toke and stroke

Country music legend Willie Nelson will hold the inaugural “Willie Nelson/NORML Benefit Golf Tournament” this Sunday at his personal Pedernales Golf Club in Spicewood, Texas.

All proceeds will benefit the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

NORML founder and legal counsel Keith Stroup, a longtime friend of Mr. Nelson, says enrollment in the actual tournament has been sold out for several weeks and an additional 50 people have purchased VIP tickets “just to come out and hang with us.”

In addition to Mr. Stroup, NORML’s newly anointed executive director Allen St. Pierre will head down to the links from Washington.

Mr. Nelson serves as co-chairman for NORML’s advisory board and has taped numerous public service announcements on behalf of the organization.

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

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