George Allen as Egypt's James Madison?
Egyptians, understandably a bit exhausted after toppling the Hosni Mubarak regime, are now grappling with the task of writing a new constitution. Fortunately, we've got just what they've been waiting for: some crucial advice from former Virginia governor and senator and now senatorial candidate George Allen on the key ingredients to ensure a robust democracy.
"Egypt's new constitution should be built upon the solid foundation of what I call the four pillars of a free and just society," Allen wrote in an opinion column Wednesday for Politico. "When I served as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I saw that these principles are at the heart of every successful free society."
"The first pillar is freedom of religion," Allen said, which we have in our First Amendment. "The second pillar is freedom of expression," he said, also in the First Amendment.
"The third pillar is private ownership of property," he advised, which is in our Fifth Amendment's due-process clause. "The fourth pillar is the rule of law," said Allen, who, if he returns to the Senate, still has a chance to be the first Jewish presidential nominee, at least according to Jewish law. (His mother was, as he found out just a few years ago, from a very prominent Tunisian Jewish family.) Allen was widely seen as a strong contender for the 2008 nomination until that unfortunate "macaca" thing derailed him in 2006.
The "rule of law" concept is outlined in the Constitution's Article III and Fifth Amendment, among other places. The basic notion refers to "the rights of citizens to challenge the legal basis for government actions," says Walter Dellinger, acting solicitor general in the Bill Clinton administration, who is now in private practice and who wrote the famed treatise "Constitutional Law: The Five-Minute Crash Course."
Allen doesn't mention another thing the Egyptians should keep in mind: They don't have to scramble to get the document written. After all, the U.S. Constitution was approved at the convention in 1787 but wasn't ratified until the next year. And the Bill of Rights, which contains the first three of Allen's "pillars," was ratified in 1791, four years after the convention. The country was pretty much okay in the interim years, so folks in Cairo can just kick back for a bit and think things through.
Hold the salsa
Speaking of Allen, it is time once again to caution everyone about undue reliance on Wikipedia.
We went to the site Wednesday afternoon to check some information and noticed something amiss. Wikipedia had Allen's full name as George Quesadilla Allen. Was someone trying to say he was a cheesehead, or maybe of Latino heritage? Or could it be a hacker's tag line or signature? The rest of the bio seemed to be accurate.
We asked a colleague, Web producer Greg Linch, to check it out. Linch viewed the Wikipedia revision history for Allen's page and found that the errant alteration - Allen's middle name is Felix, after his mom's dad - occurred Monday. The user who made the change appears to have used a computer in the World Bank's office here in the District, according to an IP-address search. It's also possible the IP address, which is a way devices are identified on a network, was hijacked from outside the building.
Trust but verify, as Ronald Reagan used to say.
No one's a winner, yet
Sad news. No one won the Loop Who Gets It First Contest, which was to guess which federal agency or individual will get the honor of receiving the first subpoena from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
The honor of receiving the historic first subpoena went Wednesday to Bank of America for documents, e-mails and names related to Countrywide Financial's VIP and Friends of Angelo program.
The investigation aims to expose all lawmakers or other government officials who may have received sweetheart deals from the firm's controversial home-loan program. Countrywide is now owned by Bank of America, which says it will comply with the subpoena.
We received many fine entries from inside the Beltway - where we expected most entrants would be. But it turns out a fair number came from Texas, Massachusetts, California and Canada. There was even one from Chengdu, China.
The "winners," in terms of those most mentioned as likely first recipients of a subpoena:
Attorney General Eric Holder, for various things, especially his failure to file charges against the New Black Panther Party for intimidating white poll watchers and hypothetical white voters in an all-black Philadelphia precinct; Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson, for trying to regulate carbon dioxide emissions when everyone knows clean air is grossly overrated; Bill Clinton, for allegedly trying to get failed Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak to drop out of the Pennsylvania race in favor of Arlen Specter; Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, for pretty much everything; and, naturally, President Obama, to obtain that Kenyan birth certificate.
A smattering of readers predicted subpoenas for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, over network neutrality; Energy Secretary Steven Chu, for scuttling Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a fine resting place for nuclear waste; and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, for the BP oil-spill debacle.
Now the good news: The Countrywide subpoena surely won't be Issa's last, so we're going to hold the entries and award those coveted In the Loop T-shirts to the first 10 people who guessed the lucky recipient of the second subpoena.
Thanks to all for entering, and good luck on the second go-round.