INSIDE THE BELTWAY: A concerted PR campaign is crucial if Bush's Star Wars program is ever going to take off

Martin Sheen, the actor who portrays President Bartlet on the hugely popular TV series, The West Wing, and who has thus only a slightly less-legitimate claim to the presidency than does George W. Bush, had some sharp words for the latest test of a US missile defense capacity, the Star Wars program so loved by the current administration.

Martin Sheen, the actor who portrays President Bartlet on the hugely popular TV series, The West Wing, and who has thus only a slightly less-legitimate claim to the presidency than does George W. Bush, had some sharp words for the latest test of a US missile defense capacity, the Star Wars program so loved by the current administration.

Martin Sheen, the actor who portrays President Bartlet on the hugely popular TV series, The West Wing, and who has thus only a slightly less-legitimate claim to the presidency than does George W. Bush, had some sharp words for the latest test of a US missile defense capacity, the Star Wars program so loved by the current administration.

On a recent program, he told an advocate of Star Wars it reminded him of Peanuts' Charlie Brown, optimistic every September that when Lucy held the football for him to kick off, she would not yank it away at the last second. She always did. Likewise, the missile tests always failed. When the Joint Chiefs found solace in a miss of only a few hundred miles, Sheen reminded them the right phrase was, 'Good grief.'

The West Wing notwithstanding, it looks as though Lucy will get another chance to lure Charlie Brown into believing that this time he will kick the ball. Undaunted by billions of wasted dollars and years of failure, our new (and also former) secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, an otherwise rational fellow, is in Europe these days, seeking to rationalize Star Wars to our NATO allies by bribing them with promises of their very own little missile defense systems.

The European governments are dubious about George W. Bush's new version of Star Wars for a number of reasons. In the first place, it manifestly doesn't work. Second, we have a treaty with Russia not to build one.

And third, if we do it anyway, the Russians might get mad and take it out on those nearby with some of the missiles they still have lying around.

Clearly, a worldwide PR/PA campaign is needed and will shortly be under way. Expect to see not just Rumsfeld, the Joint Chiefs and an ex-defense secretary or two (James Schlesinger, where are you now that we need you?), but also every ex-Cold Warrior not now in the government involved, along with think-tank hawks and Democratic sword-rattlers.

We will be treated to dissertations by Henry Kissinger and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the phrase 'rogue nations' will re-emerge, and some defense industry unions might even climb on board. Docile media will drop references to Star Wars, spending the surplus will be made popular by Republicans on the Hill to whom it was once anathema, and local (in key congressional districts) grass-roots campaigns will 'spontaneously' appear as cities seek to be the first protected.

I say merge the two Bush initiatives and come up with a Faith-Based Missile Defense. Let the churches handle it. Prayer will surely work as well as any system we might finally build - and would save us billions.



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