Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Special guests

Special folks — usually connected to major news events or issues — are always featured guests of President Bush for his State of the Union address, but Democrats are free to do the same to highlight their own priorities or make their own points.

So far, neither Democratic leader plans to bring special, high-profile guests to the House chamber for the speech tonight. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will not bring any newsmakers with him, an aide said, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California will stick with family and friends for the big speech, an aide said.

But members — who each receive one extra ticket and a few more if they are leaders — are allowed to invite whomever they’d like, according to the Committee on House Administration. Guests who lack normal congressional IDs simply must clear a basic security check.

With such an open guest policy, keep your eyes peeled for possible high-profile Democrats as guests tonight.

Lucas returns

Former Rep. Ken Lucas came out of political retirement yesterday to challenge freshman Rep. Geoff Davis for the congressional seat that he gave up after three terms to fulfill a campaign pledge.

Supporters delivered the conservative Democrat’s filing papers to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office, the Associated Press reports.

In his final re-election campaign in 2002, Mr. Lucas narrowly defeated Mr. Davis — a Republican and a political newcomer at the time — in the sprawling 4th District that stretches from the West Virginia state line to the suburbs near Louisville.

Mr. Lucas, a businessman and former Boone County administrator, then stuck by his term-limits pledge and retired from Congress at the end of his term.

In 2004, Mr. Davis defeated Nick Clooney (father of actor George Clooney) to win the seat, which had been held by Republicans for decades until Mr. Lucas’ initial victory in 1998.

Ensign in crash

Sen. John Ensign was treated at a Las Vegas hospital yesterday after his car was hit head-on by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, police said.

The Nevada Republican and an aide, who was driving, were taken to Sunrise Hospital with minor to moderate injuries, police said.

Ensign spokesman Jack Finn said the two had minor bumps and bruises and were released a few hours later. The senator received stitches in his elbow, he said.

They had been headed to McCarran International Airport when the car was hit, Mr. Finn said. A police spokesman said the crash, which occurred around 7:30 a.m., happened a few blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip.

Part of the family

President Bush says Bill Clinton has become so close to his father that the Democratic former president is like a member of the family.

Former President George Bush has worked with Mr. Clinton to raise money for victims of the Asian tsunami and the hurricane disaster along the Gulf Coast.

Asked about his father and Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush quipped, “My new brother.”

“That’s a good relationship. It’s a fun relationship to watch,” Mr. Bush said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

While attending Pope John Paul II‘s funeral, Mr. Bush said, “It was fun to see the interplay between Dad and Clinton. One of these days, I’ll be a member of the ex-presidents’ club. … I’ll be looking for something to do.”

He said ex-presidents share rare experiences that others cannot understand. “And so I can understand why ex-presidents are able to put aside old differences,” he said.

Mr. Bush said he has checked in with Mr. Clinton occasionally.

“And you know, he says things that makes it obvious — that makes it obvious to me that we’re kind of, you know, on the same wavelength about the job of the presidency. Makes sense, after all, there’s this kind of commonality,” he said.

Mr. Bush jokingly referred to speculation that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife, will seek the Democratic nomination for president. He had earlier referred to the former first lady as “formidable.”

“Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton,” he said, referring to how Bill Clinton had followed his father, and Hillary Clinton could follow him.

Patton and Pancho

How to respond to reported border incursions by armed drug smugglers wearing Mexican military uniforms? As recalled on Friday’s front page, when faced with similar circumstances in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson sent Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing‘s troops into Mexico on an 11-month expedition against Pancho Villa.

It was during that mission, Old West historian Roger McGrath notes, that Gen. Pershing took under his wing a young West Point graduate, Lt. George S. Patton.

Referring to the terrain they would encounter as they crossed the border in pursuit of Villa, young Patton wrote that it was “very bad for regular troops.”

“There are no roads and no maps and no water for the first 100 miles,” he noted.

Moreover, Patton wrote, U.S. forces might also have to battle former Mexican President Venustiano Carranza‘s regular army. “If we can induce [Villa] to fight, it will be all right, but if he breaks up [and fights a guerrilla campaign], it will be bad, especially if we have Carranza on our rear. They can’t beat us, but they will kill a lot of us. Not me, though.”

Mr. McGrath says he’s listened to stories of Pancho Villa for 35 years. His wife’s grandparents, the Malones, were an Irish family that operated mines in the Sierra Madre of Sonora and came to California to escape Villa’s depredations in 1915.

“For some, Villa was a Robin Hood who was trying to overthrow the corrupt Carranza government,” Mr. McGrath says. “True to a degree, but he also pillaged, raped, robbed, tortured and murdered.”

A professor emeritus of history at California State University at Northridge, Mr. McGrath said the biggest difference between 2006 and 1916 is the attitude of Americans.

Villa’s attacks “outraged American sensibilities of that era. … In those days, transgression on our sovereign soil really offended Americans.”

Young Mr. Blair

Euan Blair, eldest son of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is scheduled to start a six-month stint today as an intern in the U.S. Congress.

Young Mr. Blair, 22, will begin as an unpaid intern for Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and chairman of the House Rules Committee, and three months later he will join the staff of Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat and ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

“He’ll be doing the usual intern-type things,” a spokesman for Mrs. Harman told Agence France-Presse, saying Mr. Blair’s assigned chores could include filing and photocopying.

The internship was arranged with the assistance of the British Embassy in Washington, officials said.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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