A Circus, a Commode, and Michael Chertoff's Charm Offensive
What's really happening in Washington this week.
Are we safe? Let's talk (and talk, and talk) about it: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff took a beating for bobbling Hurricane Katrina and the Dubai Ports deal. Now comes the inevitable charm offensive. Today he speaks at 11:20 a.m. at the International Association of Fire Fighters' legislative conference. Then he's got to dash over to the Heritage Foundation for a 1 p.m. discussion titled "Maritime Security: Real Issues, Real Answers." Tuesday, he's the keynoter at the National Chemical Security Forum at the downtown Hilton. Then on Thursday he talks to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Chertoff isn't the only one on the security speaking circuit. Washington hosts no fewer than three Homeland Security conventions this week. Something called "The Performance Institute" has booked Homeland Security Undersecretary George Foresman to keynote its "Homeland Security Summit." American University and Washington College of Law are teaming up on a "Symposium on Emerging Issues." The Business Roundtable wants us to understand "the value of corporate America's role in disaster response." But the IAFF, the firefighters group, is the biggest draw: In addition to Chertoff, it has lured Andy Card, Ken Mehlman, Howard Dean, and three would-be presidential candidates.
Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah: Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan foreign minister, has a thing for repetition. There is, for one, the obvious matter of his name. But also consider his itinerary as he visits Washington this week. Today, he's at the Heritage Foundation. Topic? "Afghanistan Compact: A Progress Report From the Bonn Agreement to the London Conference." If you miss it, fear not. He's at George Mason University Wednesday evening, speaking on "Afghanistan From the Bonn Process to the London Conference and the Path Ahead." After a night's rest, Abdullah will be back at it again Thursday morning at American University, where he will be discussing—wait for it—the "Afghanistan Compact: A Progress Report From the Bonn Agreement to the London Conference."
Metaphor alert: Members of Congress, having spent all of the people's money and run the federal debt limit up to $9 trillion last week, are taking a much-deserved vacation this week. But even in their absence, clowns and lumbering beasts will be parading across Capitol Hill. The "Pachyderm Parade" heralds the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus' arrival in town. For more information, call the "elephant walk hotline," (202) 448-9283.
The apocalypse: a preliminary forecast: The green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office are doing their part to prepare for an avian influenza scourge that could kill tens of millions of Americans. This evening, CBO hosts a discussion titled "A Potential Bird Flu Pandemic: Possible Macroeconomic Effects and Policy Issues." No word yet on the timing of the rebuttal discussion hosted by the White House's Office of Management and Budget, "A Potential Bird Flu Pandemic: Not To Worry."
Smoking 'em out of the courts: President Bush, in Wheeling, W.Va., gives yet another speech aimed at building support for the war in Iraq. If it is like the first installment last week, the speech won't be revelatory. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, again showing her superior judgment, will miss the speech; she'll be in the Bahamas, ostensibly for a meeting of the "Caribbean Community" foreign ministers.
But something else the administration is doing today could be noteworthy. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington will hear a pair of habeas corpus cases involving hundreds of "enemy combatants" imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. The administration says that recently passed legislation stripped the federal courts of the power to consider cases brought by these detainees even if they were filed before the law was passed. Seems the statute was rather ambiguous on this point: The Republican sponsors of the law agree with Bush that it kills the old cases; the Democratic co-sponsor says it does not.
Tom and Ronnie's excellent adventure: The Tom DeLay trial returns today, with Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle appearing at the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas, to fight a lower court ruling throwing out a grand jury indictment of DeLay for conspiracy to violate the state's Election Code. Still to come: DeLay's trial on a money-laundering indictment.
Like scandal but can't afford the ticket to Austin? Stick around. On Friday, there will be pretrial motions in Washington in the case of David Safavian, the former Bush administration official charged with obstruction of justice for lying about his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which included a Scotland golf trip. Safavian, facing an April 18 trial, wants the charges dismissed; don't count on it.
Do I hear $20,000 for the Louis-Philippe commode? At a Treasury Department warehouse in Compton, Calif., there's to be a public auction of the loot received by former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., in a bribery scandal that landed him an eight-year sentence. The Duke's take included the 19th-century commode and various other antique furnishings, use of a yacht, and house payments.
And next week: easy weight loss with no dieting: The U.S. Botanic Gardens hosts a lecture by horticulturist André Viette titled "Easy Gardening With No Work," 6:30 p.m., 100 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Madness: Washington plays host to the NCAA Tournament Friday and Sunday at the Verizon Center (né MCI Center). But this isn't Washington's only case of March Madness. Embattled Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., badly trailing in his re-election race, has decided to call in Bush to campaign for him in Pennsylvania. Problem is, Bush is one of the few politicians more unpopular in the state than Santorum. The senator, according to a recent Pennsylvania poll, has the approval of just 42 percent of Pennsylvanians and trails Democratic challenger Bob Casey by 14 points. The president, by contrast, enjoys the approval of 35 percent of Pennsylvanians.
Dana Milbank writes the Washington Post's Washington Sketch column.