Cheney bombed in stealth suit

The veep's flip-flopping testimony is cited in court, Bush stalls on defense aid and Democrats warn that the honeymoon is over.

By Salon Staff

Published February 8, 2001 12:42PM (EST)

With Bill Clinton gone, government attorneys may have expected a break from having to fend off lawsuits against White House officials. No such luck.

In dispute is Vice President Cheney's role in killing a costly stealth jet contract as defense secretary under the previous Bush administration. Contractors are now claiming that Cheney acted improperly to end the project, and that his subsequent statements about the incident were conflicting. The suit could end up costing the government $2 billion.

President Bush could get in trouble with defense boosters by delaying action on a Joint Chiefs of Staff request for $7 billion in emergency aid to shore up military readiness. Rehabilitating the armed forces was a centerpiece of Bush's presidential campaign -- and a key point in the Republican Party's criticism of Clinton.

Two of Clinton's projects will survive in the Bush administration after all. Hours after activists raised a ruckus over Bush's announced plans to close the White House office on AIDS and the office on race relations, Bush's spokesman said the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Those offices will remain open under Bush, but with changes in procedure and focus.

Bush is focused like a laser beam on pushing his proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut through Congress, and takes the plan to Capitol Hill on Thursday. Meanwhile, once-pliant Democrats are telling Bush that the honeymoon is over, and that he can expect resistance if his policies don't match his conciliatory rhetoric.
-- Alicia Montgomery [6 a.m. PST, Feb. 8, 2001]

The Hill, a D.C. weekly that covers the business of politics, hit newsstands Wednesday with a lead editorial calling for President Bush to lower the security barricades in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and open the street back up to motorists. Within hours, a man brandishing a gun was shot by Secret Service agents just a few hundred feet from the White House.

Bad timing, for sure. But Albert Eisele, editor of the Hill, wasn't willing to back away from the editorial so easily. To a certain degree, gunman Robert Pickett proved its point. "The kind of protection they have now doesn't prevent what happened there today," he said. And, as the editorial points out, any attempt to create a "zero risk" zone will ultimately fail.

The Hill has proselytized for reopening Pennsylvania Avenue since shortly after former President Clinton, at the behest of the Secret Service, closed off the street in front of the White House, between 15th and 17th streets, in 1995 -- after someone had shot directly into the White House from the sidewalk. The result, Wednesday's editorial says, "tied up downtown traffic, shut out tourists, scared away businesses and inconvenienced residents."

The paper does offer two solutions to the current cutoff. One would "bend" the avenue away from the White House, in an arch, which would "increase the distance ... to the executive mansion, and prevent trucks and vans from using the street." Another plan calls for burrowing a tunnel under the existing two-block stretch.

"My first thought," said Eisele, upon hearing of the Wednesday incident, "was at least it wasn't a truck bomb." The argument for keeping the street blocked off, of course, is fear of something greater than a pistol-packing loner. Still, Wednesday's incident only hinders the paper's cause. "This doesn't help the mind-set of the Secret Service people," Eisele said. Any upshots? Well, he said, he has fielded an awful lot of phone calls. "It's proof people read us," he says.
-- Kerry Lauerman [2:30 p.m. PST, Feb. 7, 2001]

Oscar: Enemy of democracy

With the Florida recount now a distant memory, the Center for Voting and Democracy can now focus on more contentious and important matters like ... the Academy Awards.

Led by former independent presidential candidate John Anderson, the center put out a news release this week detailing the process by which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chooses nominees for best picture, making a very important connection in the process.

"The Academy uses a very inclusive voting system: proportional representation," the release states. "This is designed to create a diverse slate of nominees that reflects the preferences of the broad spectrum of film artists who make up the organization's various branches. "

That's when the plot thickens. When it comes time to choose a winner, the academy switches to plurality representation, "where you don't have to earn a majority of votes ... the same system we use to elect the president of the United States." And just in case the center's point wasn't entirely clear, it states: "It is also the system used to eliminate participants in the CBS show 'Survivor.' George W. Bush and Richard Hatch can both thank plurality voting for their victories."
-- Anthony York [2 p.m. PST, Feb. 7, 2001]

Salon Staff

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