LAST TO KNOW
Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, learned of his federal grand jury indictment charging him with seven felony counts of making false statements "from the CNN news ticker," a well-placed Republican source on Capitol Hill tells this columnist.
Embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, has been ambushed, literally, during an unscheduled taped interview with Jason Mattera of the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).
After applauding Mr. Jefferson’s efforts on behalf of New Orleans victims of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Mattera shocked the congressman by asking: "I was wondering if you could give me some advice? In your opinion what is the best way to stuff $90,000 in a freezer: a Hefty or a Ziploc bag?"
Mr. Jefferson, to say the least, was not amused and is soon seen walking out of the video, which the YAF shot on July 30 in a Capitol Hill hallway and posted this week on YouTube.
A 16-count federal indictment accuses the congressman of racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Among other evidence, authorities say he stowed $90,000 in his home freezer.
GOT THAT DONE
The so-called "Do-Nothing 110th Congress" actually did accomplish something before skipping town for its summer recess, designating the U.S. postal facility at 42222 Rancho Las Palmas Drive in Rancho Mirage, Calif., as the "Gerald R. Ford Post Office Building."
Even then, the measure was ordered to a third reading, read a third time, and then passed.
Not to make light of attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, but given the latest announcement by the White House that the nation is spiraling out of control toward a record annual budget deficit of $482 billion, we did a double take when spotting Senate Resolution 649, introduced last Friday.
After all, the resolution designates Sept. 18, 2008, as "National Attention-Deficit Disorder Awareness Day."
Rather than President Bush‘s budget woes, the measure draws attention to the chronic neurobiological disorder that affects both children and adults.
The life of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn took an intriguing turn when the outspoken Russian, whose funeral will be held Wednesday in Moscow, moved his family to Cavendish, Vt., where they would spend 18 years before the author was welcomed back home to a former Soviet Union of which he had been so critical.
"I put this story in the epilogue of Rendezvous With Destiny, due out at the end of this year," District public relations mogul and Ronald Reagan chronicler Craig Shirley tells this columnist, attaching a 2004 clipping from the New York Times.
"Left wing gulags were not only in the Soviet Union but astonishingly in grade schools here in America as well," he points out.
The newspaper article by John Tierney, headlined "A Cold Morning In Vermont," reads in part:
"Ignat Solzhenitsyn understands why so many people have warm thoughts of Ronald Reagan, but one of his earliest memories is on the frigid side. In 1980, Ignat was an 8-year-old transplanted to Vermont by his father, the famous chronicler of Siberia’s gulags. As Ignat tells the story, on the morning after the presidential election he got a taste of American political re-education at the progressive private school he and his brothers attended.
"In response to the Reagan victory, the school’s flag was lowered to half-staff, and the morning assembly was devoted to what today would be called grief counseling. The headmaster mourned ‘what America would become once the dark night of fascism descended under the B-movie actor,’ recalled Mr. Solzhenitsyn, who is now the music director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. ‘At one point he interrupted himself to inquire if anyone present did not share his gloomy view of the Reagan victory.’
"The only students to raise their hands were Ignat and his two brothers, Yermolai and Stephan. After a stony silence, he recalled, they were sent outside, without their coats, to meditate on the error of their ways underneath the lowered flag. Vermont in November was hardly Siberia, but there was frost on the ground, and they spent an hour shivering and exercising to stay warm. Still, Ignat said, their political exile was a relief from sitting in the auditorium listening to the party line."
No, Army Gen. Wesley Clark has not come out of retirement, but he’s sounding like he has in expressing his support of Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama for president.
"We know Karl Rove and his shadowy army of outside groups have no plan to surrender. They’re planning to roll out a rapid-fire barrage of ‘swift-boat’ style attacks against all of our Democratic candidates," he warns.
With the apparent suicide last week of Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins, the federal government will soon decide whether to close its lengthy anthrax-poisoning investigation, which came on the heels of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
An additional question to be answered is whether U.S. mail destined for the White House, Congress and federal agencies in specific ZIP codes will continue to undergo irradiation.
This columnist has just finished reading a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report dated July 31, 2008, showing that about 1.2 million containers of federal mail, each weighing up to 20 pounds, were irradiated from November 2001 through April 2008. The cost for the irradiation: about $75 million.
In January 2008, the U.S. Postal Service abandoned its plans to build an irradiation facility in Washington, citing costs and other considerations, and will continue contracting for the services.
One positive note from the GAO: mail volume and delivery is decreasing with the advance of electronic correspondence.
Perhaps it’s the depressed economy. Or maybe because it’s an election year. And don’t forget it’s August, too.
Whatever the reason, tempers are flaring on Capitol Hill — to the extent that apologies are being issued left and right.
"Madam Speaker, yesterday the House voted on a motion to censure the gentleman from New York, Mr. Rangel," Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, stood up to say last Friday, referring to Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel.
"Members had no advance notice of the vote, and I did not familiarize myself with the substance of the motion as much as I would have liked," he said. "If the vote were taken again, I would vote ‘present’ rather than ‘aye.’"
"Madam Speaker, during floor debate on the legislation to regulate tobacco yesterday, I made some remarks that unfairly and inaccurately personalized the issue, and I am here today to apologize to my friend and colleague, John Boehner," Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan similarly announced Friday, referring to the House Republican leader from Ohio.
"I have the utmost respect for his professional abilities, as well as great affection for him personally. I did not intend for my remarks to be taken in any way as personal criticism. As a friend, I just did not want to see anything bad happen to him, or for his family to be burdened unnecessarily in any way."
"Again, I hope Mr. Boehner will accept my apology."
HILLARY AND HANNAH
Ask one well-known Washington pundit and she’ll tell you the time is ripe for Sen. Barack Obama to bring his old adversary back into the fold.
"At this point, if Barack Obama really wanted to cause excitement with his vice president pick and do the unexpected … he will put Hillary Clinton on the ticket as his veep running mate," Cheri Jacobus opines on the GOPUSA blog.
She explains that if Mr. Obama had chosen Mrs. Clinton from the get-go "it would not have been a positive dynamic. The press would all be quite bored with it by now, and the ‘Bill factor’ would be front and center throughout the summer.
"But if Obama picks her now, the press, Democrats and a host of others will all go crazy and the faux unity of the party will have Democrat conventioneers in Denver fainting like teeny-boppers at a Miley Cyrus [Hannah Montana] concert," Miss Jacobus says. "Bring on the smelling salts."
MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews confirms that he is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in his native Pennsylvania.
Mr. Matthews noted in a conversation with this columnist that his network contract is set to expire next year, and he is currently weighing his various options, including becoming a Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in 2010.
He also made a point of saying that his brother, Republican James R. Matthews, the Montgomery County (Pa.) commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2006, would play a key role should a campaign be launched to unseat Mr. Specter, Pennsylvania’s longest-serving senator, who has already announced that he is seeking a sixth term in office.
The MSNBC host is no stranger to politics, having served as a speechwriter to President Carter and top aide to then-House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O’Neill Jr.