Might appear unseemly to some, but a spirited disagreement has broken out among Hill Republicans about what coin or bill should bear the likeness of America's 40th president.

At lunchtime Monday, Marcus C. Dunn, legislative director for Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), sent an e-mail to top Hill staff asking for co-sponsors to Miller's bill to put Ronald Reagan on the half-dollar coin. The bill had been drafted in the fall and held pending Reagan's death.

A couple of hours later, Rick Dykema, chief of staff to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), sent an e-mail to the same group, saying Rohrabacher had a bill to put the late president on the $20 bill. "Not only is the $20 bill much more prominent than the half-dollar coin," Dykema said, "we believe that replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill will prove to be more defensible and less controversial than replacing John F. Kennedy on the half-dollar coin or FDR on the dime." (Nancy Reagan scotched the dime maneuver a while ago.)

"Honestly, we didn't think of it as a JFK versus Reagan battle," Dunn quickly replied. "The Kennedy coins are not going to be suddenly recalled and melted," he said. They'll continue to circulate -- new ones just won't be made.

Rohrabacher, meanwhile, introduced his bill yesterday. With Tennessean Jackson's family all gone, it seemed there'd be no problem. But, sure enough, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) thought maybe Reagan deserves a higher denomination.

Another suggestion is to bump first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton off the 10-spot, since he wasn't even a president. But lots of lawmakers admire him.

What about the quarter? The back side's already been messed with, and it's only got George Washington on the front. He'd still be on the $1 bill. And besides, there's precedent, since Reagan already kicked him out of the local airport.

But it looks as though Hamilton's the most vulnerable. Hmmm . . . Jefferson's revenge?

Alumni Ties That Don't Bind

Eyebrows shot up at the Yale class of '59 reunion last weekend when Winston Lord, former ambassador to China, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, ripped into the Bush administration's foreign policy.

At a policy symposium, Lord told his classmates he was generally supportive of his fellow Bonesman's foreign policy on China and North Korea. But his overall assessment was decidedly different.

Lord, a McCain Republican and political appointee under Presidents Reagan and Bill Clinton, said he voted for W. last time around and supported the Iraq invasion.

This administration's foreign policy has been "incompetent" and "dishonest," Lord said, our source recalled, adding that, as a result, now "America was less secure."

Democracy, he added, "was given a bad name and our standing in the world was greatly diminished."


Easier Than Pulling Teeth

It's simply not true that the Bush administration is hostile to congressional oversight. Why just a couple of weeks ago, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld answered an eight-month-old request by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for Defense Department e-mails and other records pertaining to Air Force decision-making about a controversial $23.5 billion tanker leasing deal with Boeing Co.

Okay. It took eight months. But Rumsfeld fully agreed to allow Congress to see the documents. Just a couple of teensy restrictions. The Pentagon, not Congress, will decide which documents the lawmakers can see.

Oh, and the senators, along with a "limited number" of Senate Armed Services Committee staff members, must schlep over to a special room in the Pentagon and can look at the documents for only six hours a day, for five days. No copying permitted. No note-taking, either.

One other thing, Rumsfeld said. The senators will not, alas, be able to see any documents related to the tanker-leasing deal that mention him, or the deputy defense secretary, or the president, or anybody who works for the president's executive office or the Office of Management and Budget, or the Pentagon's attorney, or that discuss budget options or base closings.

In short, they can see anything that mentions nothing of any conceivable interest.

Predictably, McCain is fuming. The General Accounting Office, the Congressional Research Service and the Defense Science Board more or less agree with him that the tank deal's a waste of money. The Pentagon's inspector general found numerous improprieties, and a former senior Air Force official has been indicted.

McCain not only wants to kill the deal, he wants to know how and why the Air Force agreed to it in the first place. Internal Boeing documents, obtained under threat of subpoena, showed its intense lobbying efforts and White House involvement in the deal.

Who knows what internal Pentagon documents -- which McCain now wants the Senate Armed Services Committee to subpoena -- might show?

But there's no need for that, Rumsfeld says. "Should a senator bring to our attention an allegation of impropriety contained in the documents made available for review, we would forward that information" to the IG.

See? Nothing if not cooperative.