A 'Commitment' Goes Only So Far

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert takes a ride in a hydrogen vehicle to demonstrate his commitment to alternative energy sources, and then...
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert takes a ride in a hydrogen vehicle to demonstrate his commitment to alternative energy sources, and then... (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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By Al Kamen
Friday, April 28, 2006

The Republican House leadership, hopping aboard the new anti-oil-addiction campaign, staged a fine media event yesterday at a BP gas station at Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE that featured a hydrogen-powered car.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), along with other top House Republicans, was photographed in and around the snappy blue General Motors HydroGen 3 van.

The event followed one by Senate Democrats on Wednesday, who rode in their gas guzzlers to an Exxon station a block from their offices to blame Republicans for high fuel prices.

Hastert, who appeared to have walked to the station, left in the very fuel-efficient vehicle, apparently headed for his office. But he went only a block or so before he got out and stepped into his pre-positioned gas-guzzling armored SUV to take him back to his office. Alert photographers, suspecting a ploy, had followed the speaker and captured the bait-and-switch.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean , showing why he deserves a raise, explained that Hastert "wanted to ride the van" -- really he did -- "to show his commitment to new energy-efficient vehicles."

The problem, Bonjean said, was that Hastert's security detail wouldn't have it. Way too dangerous. Perhaps the security folks thought the vehicle was related to the ill-fated Hindenburg?

In any event, "the security officials demanded that he ride in the much more secure armored SUV," Bonjean said.

Okay. But next time they gin up one of these events, could he at least do more than just drive around the corner?

Good News Comes in Waves

Let's face it, the media continue to emphasize the bad news out of Iraq and absolutely refuse to highlight the important good news coming out of there of late.

Fortunately, the Republican National Committee puts out a weekly "Iraq Facts" page on its Web site that focuses on all the good news out of Iraq. This week's "Other Good News" section tells us: "Baghdad is to get its first water park and wave machine -- thanks to a Scottish company" called Murphy's Waves.

The RNC cites a report on the Web site of Scotland's Glasgow Daily Record a couple of weeks ago, quoting Murphy's international sales manager, Jim Stuart , who says he's "delighted to be involved in this project and it shows that rebuilding in Iraq really is happening."

The wave-machine pool project has been in the works for a couple of years, he said, when someone from a company called Baghdad Pools called and said he wanted to build a "fun pool for the city."

What better way to cope with the coming brutally hot summer in Baghdad with temps hitting 120 degrees? In the prewar days you might have had air conditioning, but electricity is still not up to prewar levels -- even to WWII levels.

So why not ride the great waves?

Are You Expendable?

The State Department, anxious to fill openings in Iraq, recently sent out a cable detailing job opportunities for spouses and other family members in Baghdad. Some -- office managers, housing coordinators, cashiers and such -- appear fairly safe, since they are in the Green Zone.

But then there is "Expendable Supply Manager."

The job doesn't appear to pay much, and it sounds as though they aren't going to care enough to provide any security for you.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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