Anti-drinking campaign falls off the wagon

We might have learned from Prohibition, but the federal campaign against teen drinking has turned up dry.

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University found little progress in curbing alcohol abuse in kids last year, with beer the beverage of choice. The annual surveys have shown consistently over the past decade that 50 percent of 12th-graders say they have imbibed.

Congress set the national drinking age at 21 in a 1984 highway bill. But in yet another example of that old favorite Potomac two-step, lawmakers claimed the political benefits of their vote, while not ensuring the states enforced it properly.

Anti-alcohol groups are lobbying Congress to force states to increase enforcement and finance advertising campaigns to alert parents of the dangers of their kids drinking. States say that Congress needs to provide the money if it wants its laws enforced.


The Marine Corps has touched off a furor over orders given “casualty assistance officers” to stop wearing their iconic dress-blue uniforms when notifying families of a Marine’s death. The Marines said the dress uniform is getting “a negative connotation” because of the grim duties and should be used only for formal funerals.

Marine Corps families are venting against the new policy via Web sites, telling the brass they think it’s disrespectful for family-assistance units to bring bad news to families while dressed in fatigues. The appearance of Marines in dress uniforms at a neighbor’s door signals to friends of the family that they need to come to their assistance, one said. Another complained that fatigues degraded notification duties to an “everyday event.” No sign the Marines are reversing the policy, which took effect Feb. 9.


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is reveling in the speculation that he’s running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.

“Why rule out anything in this country,” he says when asked about the prospect. The GOP tub-thumper still sends blood racing in the hearts of Republican conservatives, and he vows to use his upcoming tour promoting his book, “Winning the Future: a 21st Century Contract with America,” to rev up the rank and file about the 2008 campaign. He notes that his tour will take him to Iowa and New Hampshire, as usual the first states to vote in 2008.

Should he run, Gingrich would face a political furor involving his personal life, including two divorces. He says he’s no saint and insists it’s not hypocritical for him to voice the agenda of Christian evangelicals. “I’m a sinner, and I expect that you are one, too,” he says.


Under pressure from rural lawmakers in larger states, the Federal Aviation Administration is changing its rules next month to let private pilots fly state and local politicians to remote political events as long as that’s OK under state laws. Under 1996 FAA rules, private pilots were permitted to fly only federal lawmakers on such trips, and state and local officials thought that was unfair.


Unusual for leaky Washington, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction is winding up its business next month without convening once in public and without releasing any information about what it has been doing.

Unlike the very public 9/11 Commission, the secretive panel headed by retired Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va., and federal appeals court judge Laurence Silberman, has spent the last year probing in closed sessions how exile groups misled America’s spies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. The panel says it’s up to the White House to say anything about what it found.

(E-mail Lance Gay at GayL(at)