Whose Line Was It, Anyway?

By Al Kamen
Monday, October 2, 2006

Remember that great "Mission Accomplished" banner on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, when President Bush dramatically landed there to give his speech announcing the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq?

The White House said the banner was not its doing and must have been the Navy's idea.

Now we find out, in Bob Woodward 's new book "State of Denial," that wasn't the case. None other than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld , on the record, tells Woodward that "I took 'Mission Accomplished' out" upon reading a draft of the speech. "And I fixed it and sent it back. They fixed the speech," he said, "but not the sign."

The book also reminds us what a small town this is. On election night 2004, GOP communications guru Mary Matalin was with Bush and Vice President Cheney and talking with her husband, Democratic strategist James Carville , who was close to -- but not in -- John Kerry 's campaign.

Kerry, Carville told her, was going to challenge 250,000 provisional ballots in Ohio, which could change the result there or tie things up for a long time. Matalin promptly told Cheney, and they met with Bush. The Kerry camp made the announcement shortly thereafter.

Another War, Another Book

And now, yet another must-read book on a U.S. military venture. If you think Woodward's book has good stuff, then try "The McNamara Ascendancy, 1961-1965, Volume V," just out from the Pentagon's Historical Office.

A Pentagon news release says it's a "full-length, scholarly account of the dynamic, often controversial early years of the McNamara era," as Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara marched the country into Vietnam.

Okay, maybe Woodward's is a better read.

Did We Mention the Prizes?

Don't forget to enter the In the Loop Congressional Election Contest! Predict the makeup of the Senate and the House after the Nov. 7 elections. Send your guesses on the breakdown of R's and D's in each chamber to: intheloop@washpost.com.

You must include your home, work or cellphone number to be eligible. Administration officials and Hill folks may enter "on background." Hurry! Entries must be submitted by midnight, Oct. 10, four weeks before the elections.

The 10 participants closest to the actual numbers will receive a mention in the column and official "In the Loop" T-shirts. Don't delay.

Some Bills Don't Pass; Some Pass Twice

Despite what the Democrats say, Congress, and especially the Senate, are not nothing-doers. They wasted nary a minute last week working 'round the clock to pass measures vital to all Americans.

The House on Wednesday passed a bill setting up commissions to deal with prosecuting terrorism suspects. The Senate on Thursday passed the same bill, with the same language, but the Senate insisted on passing into law a bill with an "S" (for Senate) number on it instead of taking up the House bill. That meant the House then had to take up and pass its bill again, consuming about an hour of debate.

Okay, maybe they wasted a little time.

The Ever-Optimistic President

The hectic final days of a congressional session are always marked by some confusion and mistiming, no matter how much both sides prepare.

Last week was no exception. For example, the White House issued a statement from President Bush at 7:19 p.m. Thursday that he was "pleased that the Senate swiftly confirmed Mary Peters as secretary of transportation."

"Mary is an innovative thinker," he said. "Her leadership will enable the Department to maintain a safe, reliable and efficient transportation system. I congratulate Mary and her family on her confirmation and thank her for her service to our Nation."

Twenty minutes later, there was a second e-mail with Bush saying: "I applaud Congress for passing legislation that will provide our men and women in uniform with the necessary resources to protect our country and win the War on Terror. . . . I look forward to signing this bill into law."

Twenty-eight minutes later, we got this: "The votes on [Pentagon] Appropriations and Mary Peters' nomination have not yet been taken. The statements by the President were sent in error. The Press Office regrets the mistakes."

Going Up, Down by the Station

Our colleague Dana Hedgpeth's column today describes a complex going up above the train tracks at Union Station. It's to be named Burnham Place, after the architect of Union Station, Daniel Burnham . The idea is to sell housing to politicians and aides who want to live near the Capitol, and office space to trade associations, law firms, accountants and consultants.

Think of the dealmaking possibilities. Maybe it should be called Abramoff Plaza.

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