First there was the Mystery of the Bulge, a blogger-generated "controversy" about whether President Bush wore a hidden wire during his first debate with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). The implication, of course, was that Bush advisers Karl Rove or Karen Hughes were coaching Bush during the debates. The White House has laughingly dismissed Bulgegate as absurd.
But now there's a new mystery that some eagle-eyed viewers noticed just after the debate between Vice President Cheney and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). It happened while the families were up on the stage, congratulating and hugging their candidates and then wandering about desperately pretending they don't despise one another.
Cheney, we're told, reached into his pocket and appeared to pull out a pill and swallow it. Given his ticker ailments, might this be a nitroglycerin pill for his heart? Tums? A jelly bean? The bloggers doubtless were gearing up for Pillgate.
A Cheney campaign spokeswoman said Friday it was a "breath mint."
Easier Landings for Pheasant Hunters
Speaking of Cheney, there's some great news for him from the Department of Transportation. Despite these tight budgetary times, the federal government has awarded a $2,065,000 grant to upgrade Gettysburg Municipal Airport in Gettysburg, S.D.
It's a very small, single-runway airport. There is no commercial service because only a tad over 1,200 people live in Gettysburg. In fact, the airport is mostly used for medical helicopters and private planes, according to its local manager. The vast majority of the private planes are propeller driven.
But there's much excitement over plans to make the airport jet-ready. The grant will pay for improving the lighting system by installing new medium-intensity lights and a lighted vertical guidance system so pilots can land more safely. The "Precision Approach Path Indicator system is necessary to enhance the safety margin for night operations," the DOT notice says. The cracked and deteriorated runway is also going to be rebuilt so the airport will be better able to handle small jets.
And why would this be good news for Cheney? Because that airport is just minutes from one of his favorite luxury hunting lodges, the Paul Nelson Farm, where he's gone three or four times as vice president, spending several days each time to hunt the ring-necked pheasant.
On prior trips, Cheney's plane landed at the airport in Pierre, about an hour's drive away. Now he might be able to take a small jet, even at night, and save the drive.
Let's see, that grant comes to not even $1,700 for every man, woman and child in Gettysburg.
Getting on Rush Limbaugh -- Even Without Rush
It's not easy to book someone onto Rush Limbaugh's show. You often have to wait until Rush leaves town, it seems, judging from our e-mail last week from Peggy O'Ban, senior public affairs adviser at the Agency for International Development.
Her e-mail on Wednesday said that "whatever you think of Rush Limbaugh, he has 30 million listeners -- nuclear compared to anyone else on radio (or TV news)." She added: "Roger Hedgecock is guest hosting for Rush today (which is why we are on -- Rush rarely takes guests unless it's a president or king of something big)." Small-time kings need not apply.
"He will interview Patrick Fine, USAID Mission Director in Afghanistan, at 12:30 PM (or after . . . don't give up if he doesn't come right on)," she said. "Call into the show with some brilliant questions."
Protecting Spec. Darby
The anti-secrecy Federation of American Scientists newsletter, "Secrecy News," notes that Congress, in the just-passed 2005 Defense Authorization Act, praised Army Spec. Joseph Darby for showing great courage in exposing the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, and said he should be thanked "for standing up for what is right."
"The need to act in accord with one's conscience, risking one's career and even the esteem of one's colleagues by pursuing what is right is especially important today," Congress said.
It called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to "make every protection available to Army Specialist Joseph Darby and others who demonstrate such courage."
"The congressional language did not spell out," FAS dryly observed, "why Darby would be in need of protection, or why acting in accord with one's conscience is 'especially important today.' "
Snubbing the Spaniards
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher calls to say the wire accounts of a call from Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moritinos to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell were wrong. The call was not to formally protest the absence of our man in Madrid, Ambassador George L. Argyros, at a grand reception for former coalition partner Spain's national day last week. The call, Boucher said, was to talk about the Middle East.
But the Spaniards were none too happy with the no-show and scoffed at early word that the problem was that Argyros couldn't get back in time from a hunting trip. But Argyros said Thursday he intentionally snubbed them because Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, then the opposition leader, now prime minister, didn't stand for the U.S. flag in the national day parade last year.
Nothing like diplomacy.