Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Minding Monica

Congress learned this week that in the fall of 2000, a U.S. intelligence Predator drone captured Osama bin Laden on tape.

“At that time, the Predator could not be armed, but the tape is revealing,” says Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican. “It was relayed in real time to CIA headquarters, and the CIA was watching bin Laden as he moved, when he moved.

“The tape proves that the Clinton administration had bin Laden in its sights, as it did several times during its eight years in office, but did nothing,” the congressman charges.

That said, before the September 11 commission issues its final report, it ought to call 37-year CIA veteran Anne Allen to testify — if for no other reason than to put the recent explosive testimony by former counterterroism czar Richard A. Clarke into proper perspective.

We first heard from the former CIA official six weeks after September 11, on the heels of former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright insisting in this column that the Clinton administration did not have the public support or proper intelligence to root Osama bin Laden from his terrorist camp in Afghanistan.

“You got my blood boiling,” Miss Allen told Inside the Beltway. “We had repeated — and ignored — warnings throughout the ‘90s. National security is the primary job of a federal administration. This was a disaster in the Clinton administration, and now they don’t even have the grace to keep their mouths shut.”

Comrades laugh

President Bush didn’t come right out and call the nation’s top newspaper editors a bunch of communists yesterday, but he came pretty close.

“Thank you for having me here, members of the Politburo,” Mr. Bush deadpanned to newspaper executives at the head table of a gathering of the Newspaper Association of America, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press. “I mean, my fellow Americans.”

The crack prompted laughter at the gathering of editors and publishers at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. The Fourth Estate evidently found it funny to be compared to the chief political and executive committee of the Communist Party.

Losing the gold

The nation’s estate tax, one of the oldest levies on the books, has claimed its share of victims, including singer Pat Boone, whose father saw his estate holdings evaporate in retirement.

“As he aged, I noticed that his savings were dwindling,” Mr. Boone, national spokesman for the 60 Plus Association, a senior citizens lobby, said of his father, who was a building contractor in Nashville, Tenn., when he retired at age 80. “So I created a fund for him to help, but he was a proud man. But later, when he asked about someone buying his gold coin collection, I knew that his money was quickly going away.”

As in going to Uncle Sam?

“I mean, somehow the government has the right to take half of what Daddy was able to take in. And I know that is not right for us and for millions of other Americans. This is money that was earned,” said Mr. Boone, whose 60 Plus Association is dedicated to the repeal of the estate tax.

Where the funds go

The Bush administration is sponsoring an event with MTV, but it’s not next year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

Federal agencies — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development — are listed as “platinum” sponsors of the June “Youth and Health: Generation on the Edge” conference in Washington. It not only involves MTV and Planned Parenthood, but also the left-wing advocacy group, which says that President Bush “can’t be trusted to tell the truth to Americans.”

On June 1, “Advocacy Day,” activists are scheduled to lobby Congress. The next day’s schedule features a “Celebrate Youth” event, honoring Bill Roedy, president of MTV Networks International.

One House Republican staffer noted that the U.N. Population Fund — prohibited by law from receiving federal funds — will be featured at the conference. “Many members are concerned about the amount of taxpayer funds from federal agencies that will be used for this conference,” the staffer said. “Subsidizing conferences featuring groups which are themselves prohibited by law from receiving federal funds is, to say the least, highly questionable. America remains a nation of free speech, but the federal government is not in the business of funding all conferences or subsidizing all speakers.”

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

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