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Costly Words: 'I Don't Like President Bush'

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson was back home in Dallas on April 28 giving a speech to minority real estate folks and offering a most interesting take on how business is done in Washington.

Jackson, former head of the Dallas Housing Authority, recounted a conversation he had in the nation's capital with a minority publisher.

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the bidder, according to an account of the speech in the Dallas Business Journal. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the GSA [General Services Administration] list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him.

"Then he said something. . . . He said, 'I have a problem with your president.' I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush. ' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.' "He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

Dallas Business Journal reporter Christine Perez asked HUD spokeswoman Dustee Tucker , who attended the speech, about the value of the yanked advertising contract. Perez was told that could not be provided.

"Because it was not awarded per what the secretary said, we don't have any record of it," Tucker said. "It was probably all verbal at that point." Tucker didn't return calls yesterday. But Democrats, led by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), called for Jackson's head.

Aside from violating the Constitution's prohibitions on government retaliation for speech, we're told Jackson's peculiar view may violate federal procurement law, which requires "complete impartiality and . . . preferential treatment for none."

OPM -- Mugged by China

Last year, for Public Service Recognition Week, the Office of Personnel Management handed out coffee mugs with the OPM seal and the mantra "Working for America" emblazoned on it. But the mugs were made in China.

This year, OPM gave away plastic non-spill coffee mugs -- "Made in America." There were also leather memo-pad holders and very sharp dark-blue tote bags, both with "Working for America" on them (the totes have the OPM seal). Those were made in -- you guessed it -- China.

Computers' Loyalty Questioned

Speaking of how just about everything -- and not just low-tech stuff -- is made in China these days, it seems the State Department has decided to buy 16,000 computers from Lenovo, a Chinese-owned company.

This set off the security sensors at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, especially over 900 of the computers that are to be part of a classified network that would carry Pentagon as well as secret State Department information.

That, in turn, set off the sensors in the office of Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.). Wolf last week wrote the secretary of state to say he was "distressed to learn that your department may be jeopardizing this [$4.2 billion] investment in a secure [information technology] infrastructure."

"These computers should not be used in the classified network," Wolf wrote.

Feeling Avian? Wash Hands, Stay in Bed

The Department of Health and Human Services public affairs office is fully prepared for the bird flu pandemic. No, not a real one; the really scary one on ABC-TV last night, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America."

The HHS staff, after previewing the movie, issued an internal memo with talking points such as:

· "[The show] is a movie, not a documentary. It is a work of fiction designed to entertain and not a factual accounting of a real world event."

· "There is no influenza pandemic in the world at this time."

· "The . . . virus has not yet appeared in the U.S. [and should it] appear in the U.S. it does not mean the start of a pandemic."

The bottom line: Don't panic. "You can keep a supply of food and medicines on hand in case you have to stay home," the talking points recommend, and don't forget things "like frequent hand washing and staying home when sick."

The HHS memo says "the film does depict scenarios that could unfold should a severe pandemic ever develop, including . . . disruption of supplies, medicines and other essential services" and "the expected months-long delay in developing an effective vaccine" once the flu strain "emerges."

But don't panic.

We Can't Repeat What Rice Said

The State Department released its transcript of an interview Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did with the Associated Press editorial board.

"I've got one quick political question," one person asked. "If Vice President Cheney were to step down and President Bush asked you to become vice president, would you do it?"

"Secretary Rice: (Inaudible.)"

INAUDIBLE? WHAT?

We're told Rice said that Cheney won't step down and she wouldn't do it. Rice was also asked if she would run for vice president. She made a face and shook her head.

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