WASHINGTON -- I had to call Attorney General John Ashcroft recently
if he had instructed his advance team to remove naked lady statues and
calico cats from his vicinity because they were wicked.
I know it sounds loopy. But with these guys, you never know.
Andrew Tobias, the financial writer and Democratic Party treasurer,
written in his Web column in November that an Ashcroft advance team "had
shown up at the American Embassy in The Hague to check out the digs, saw
cats in residence, and got nervous. They were worried there might be a
calico cat. No, they were told, no calicos. Visible relief. Their boss, they
explained, believes calico cats are signs of the devil. (The advance team
also spotted a naked woman in the courtyard and discussed its being covered
for the visit, though that request was not ultimately made.)"
Mindy Tucker, then Ashcroft's press secretary, told me he had laughed
and said it was silly.
I laughed it off, too. Everybody knows that black cats, not calico, are the sign of the devil.
But then a few days later, a friend who had worked with Bobby Kennedy
Justice and had attended the ceremony naming the building for RFK, told me
that the Art Deco statue of Justice, 12 1/2 feet high, buxom and partly nude
under a toga, which had been in the Great Hall since the department was
built as a WPA project, had been hidden behind a "blue-nosed blue curtain."
Again I called Tucker. She said the curtains concealing the aluminum
of Justice and her male counterpart, the Majesty of Law, were just up for that one event.
Now it turns out the prudish curtains are a permanent fixture of the
Ashcroft era -- at $8,650, $1,375 more than the two statues cost.
On ABC.com, Beverley Lumpkin, ABC's Justice Department reporter, revealed
Ashcroft had decided to throw the equivalent of a blue burqa over the exultant "Minnie Lou,"
as the statue is fondly nicknamed, after seeing pictures of her breast hovering over his head
as he announced plans to fight terrorism.
His new spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock, said the drapes, a shade she
"TV blue," are more photogenic than the statues and the "yellow marbly color
of the background." She said Lani Miller, an advance woman, had decided to
expurgate art for aesthetic reasons, and that Ashcroft was not involved.
"He doesn't look at his press coverage a lot, himself," Comstock said.
spends his time dealing with threat assessments and more important business."
But if he pays no mind to his press, why would he hide historic art
"TV blue" curtains? Couldn't he just move his podium over a little?
Everyone here knows that cover-ups are what get you in trouble, but they just keep doing it.
Dick Cheney has pulled a TV blue curtain over Enron and the rest of
energy industry's blueprint for fashioning America's energy policy.
His highfalutin rationale is that the White House must "preserve the
principle" of getting "unvarnished advice from any source." Translated,
"unvarnished advice" means a corporate wish list and "any source" is the
wealthy white guys who gave us big campaign contributions.
Who'd have guessed privacy would be the watchword of this administration?
Justice Louis Brandeis, in a dissenting opinion for a 1928 wiretapping
decision, defined privacy as "the right to be left alone," to be secure in
your private life. Bush judges don't believe in that.
Cheney loftily argues that "privacy" means you can do things while hiding
the cloak of anonymity. But no one has ever said there was a right to remain private
in the course of trying to influence federal policy. That's one reason lobbyists have to
register and why there are strict ex parte rules requiring disclosure of contacts with
lobbyists at many federal agencies.
The vice president and president are really concerned about the privacy
They want to do what they want to do, and be accountable to no one. The stonewalling
on the energy task force and the unilateralism on Camp X-ray are two sides of the same coin.
The theme of Bush I is now the theme of Bush II: Trust us, even if we
let you verify. We know we're right. We answer to no one.
I, for one, want some answers.
Let's start with those calico cats and Enron rats.