- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good riddance

Everybody’s talking about yesterday’s big announcement by RosieODonnell that she’s leaving ABC’s “The View.” Not to worry.

The almost-as-outrageous Barbara Walters, who created the daytime gabfest, is hanging around to fill Miss O’Donnell’s large shoes. Take Miss Walter’s incredible remarks yesterday.

After Miss O’Donnell finally finished confirming that she was indeed providing viewers with a healthy respite from her foul mouth, she then announced that Miss Walters was upset about something, at which time the interviewer of the stars proclaimed (as if we didn’t know) that she does not like President Bush.

Miss Walters is upset because Mr. Bush’s motorcade prevented her from crossing a New York street to her apartment, and she was asked to wait for several minutes “behind a barricade” on the sidewalk with the ordinary people, who apparently couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of the president.

But then came her most amazing statement, pointing out that Mr. Bush “is a president,” for God’s sake, “not a king.”

Let’s get this straight. Miss Walters wouldn’t mind waiting behind a barricade to allow the motorcade of a ribbon-cutting “king” to pass by. But as for a president of the United States — who unlike the ribbon-cutters is busy keeping the terrorists out of New York and beyond — how dare he?

Today’s ‘journalism’

Videos, if you haven’t watched, are the hot new feature for Web news sites.

But when it comes to The Washington Post’s videography productions, which have garnered a “slew” of awards, including the first Emmy for video on the Web, Washingtonian magazine National Editor Harry Jaffe wonders where the line is drawn between reporting and cheerleading.

“Is it journalism?” Mr. Jaffe asks in the magazine’s May 2007 issue.

“In April, the visual gallery on the Post site featured ‘Edwards Family Values,’ a documentary following presidential hopeful John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, on the campaign trail. In a New Hampshire yogurt factory, a worker tells Mrs. Edwards, ‘I’ve really been inspired by you and your husband’ and hands her a check.

“The Edwards for President campaign should have paid for the video,” Mr. Jaffe opines. “Other candidates should demand equal time.”

Classified spending

Among other watchdog groups in Washington — as in watching how taxpayer dollars are spent — is the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), which finds that there are instances when not every dollar can be accounted for.

An analysis by POGO shows that two years after being approved, a massive $90 million earmark for the Pentagon, 2005’s third-largest defense earmark — Boeing got the first and second biggest amounts, totaling $378 million — has no paper trail.

The records show only that the money was destined for a “Classified Program” of the Defense Department’s research, development, test and evaluation bureau.

“Unfortunately, because the earmark is classified, we don’t know how the money was used,” says POGO Defense investigator Nick Schwellenbach, who determined the earmark went to the office of undersecretary of defense for policy, headed at the time by Douglas J. Feith. Beyond there, who knows?

(Maybe this helps explain all the UFO sightings of late, including last month’s revelation by former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, a U.S. Air Force veteran, that in 1997, he and several dozen other residents of his state witnessed an “enormous” triangular craft of unknown origin, estimated by some to be a mile across in size, hovering over Phoenix.)

Underground update

Speaking of accountability, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) passes along word of yet another frustrating delay for completion of the already-behind-schedule underground U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (CVC).

Now it’s the fire protection system that has extended the project’s scheduled completion date by about two months — “to June 2008, and further delays are possible,” warns Terrell G. Dorn, director of physical infrastructure issues.

Last month, it was estimated that the total cost of the project would be about $592 million and could be as much as $600 million with an “allowance for risks and uncertainties.”

But Mr. Dorn now tells Congress that in light of the “uncertainty over the project’s expected completion date, we have not updated these estimates” for this month.

An additional appropriation of $36 million was extended for fiscal 2007 but awaits approval, while $20 million has been requested for fiscal 2008 “to cover remaining costs.”

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Mr. Dorn says the visitor center is 93 percent complete, compared with 91 percent last month.

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

washington times.com.

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