John McCaslin
The Democratic National Committee, under the guidance of Clinton pal and money man Terry McAuliffe, has written an intriguing history of the donkey and elephant, the accepted symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties. The DNC points out that although the Democratic Party has never officially adopted the donkey as its party symbol, it does endorse various donkey designs. But the Republicans, to the amazement of the DNC, have actually adopted the elephant as their official symbol. "The Democrats think of the elephant as bungling, stupid, pompous and conservative," the DNC admits, obviously unconcerned about offending the animal-rights community. "Adlai Stevenson provided one of the most clever descriptions of the Republicans' symbol when he said, 'The elephant has thick skin, a head full of ivory, and as everyone who has seen a circus parade knows, proceeds best by grasping the tail of its predecessor.'" FREE JOE LIEBERMAN Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, whose stance against TV sex and violence melted after Tinseltown showered Al Gore's campaign with contributions, can redeem himself, but only when the "real" Joe Lieberman stands up. So says Empower America co-director Bill Bennett, appearing at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "I still think the real Joe Lieberman is in a straitjacket somewhere in a hospital up in New York state. He was kidnapped early, and this impostor, who didn't believe anything Joe Lieberman used to believe, was the running mate," says Bennett, who once stood with the real Joe to bestow "Silver Sewer Awards" to those who "pollute" the culture for personal gain. "If we see the return of the real Joe Lieberman," says Bennett, "sure he can take these issues up again. He's a good speaker and he's a serious man and he can say he had a bit of a battle with campaignitis." HALLOW'S GRAVITAS "I have searched high and low, in every dictionary I could find, for the word gravitas," writes Jack Dorwin, of Livingston, Texas. "It is nowhere to be found. "I strongly suspect that the Democrats coined that word for the sole purpose of being critical of George W. Bush. Chris Matthews used it again today in reference to Vice President Dick Cheney being 'Bush's sidekick with gravitas.' I think it's a bunch of baloney. If you know of a reference which establishes gravitas as a legitimate English word, I would appreciate your publishing it. Otherwise, it is definitely time someone exposed this myth." Well, Mr. Dorwin, as syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell observed, before Cheney was picked as Bush's choice for vice president practically nobody used the word gravitas. Now, everybody and his brother is using it, the political spin being the president lacks gravitas, or weight, and Cheney supplies what Bush lacks. Even Rush Limbaugh, the columnist noted, has had fun airing recordings of politicians and media people who repeat the word gravitas like parrots, day after day. Finally, this column has just completed an exhaustive search of the word gravitas, particularly as it relates to Cheney. Weren't we surprised to discover that it was this newspaper's own political correspondent, Ralph Z. Hallow, who opined way back on Feb. 2, 1994: "Dick Cheney, at 52, has that sedateness of manner some people call 'gravitas,' a certain reassuring seriousness and dignified authority you would demand from Central Casting if your were ordering up an actor to play the president of the United States." HISTORIC LEGACY If you're one of the millions who thought President Clinton didn't leave the nation with a lasting legacy, think again. So says the Democratic National Committee, under the new leadership of Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe. Compiling "Landmark Dates in Democratic Party History," the DNC charts the legacy of the party from 1792, when Thomas Jefferson fought for the Bill of Rights and against the elite Populist Party. From that point forward, the elections of Democrats from James Madison and James Monroe to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are among the party's landmark dates, and beneath deserving Democrats is written their legacy. Monroe, for example, is credited for establishing the Monroe Doctrine. Martin Van Buren, on the other hand, has no legacy whatsoever beneath his name. Ditto for Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. Woodrow Wilson is credited with three accomplishments: leading the country through World War I, establishing the Federal Reserve Board, and passing the first labor and child welfare laws. Franklin Roosevelt has myriad accomplishents - nine total - for his legacy, while John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson get three each, and Jimmy Carter is awarded two: negotiating the Panama Canal and Camp David peace treaties. Finally, there's Bill Clinton. Wouldn't you know he's awarded the biggest legacy of them all, or at least according to the DNC: economic package, Student Loan Reform Act, National Service Act, the Brady law, National Voter Registration Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, NAFTA, the crime law, School-to-Work Opportunities Act, GATT, Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, Telecommunications bill. . . . And that's just his first term. HUNGRY SOLDIERS Sen. John McCain continues to warn about the "shocking disarmament" of the U.S. military under the Clinton administration. "In the wake of our stunning victory in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, most Americans don't realize that the armed forces that won those battles no longer exists," McCain, a POW during the Vietnam War, writes on behalf of Citizens Against Government Waste. McCain offers these statistics: -- Nearly 12,000 military personnel are on food stamps. -- The Army's strength has been cut in half - 40 percent of its helicopter fleet can't peform its missions. -- The 1999 Navy personnel shortage topped 18,000. -- The Air Force is projected to be 2,000 pilots short in 2002. SMOKING GUNS AND DADS Who better to speak out on the terrible tragedy of school shootings than Republican Rep. John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr., who before coming to Congress was a criminal court judge in Tennessee. So are guns the problem? "I was told the first day that I was a judge that 98 percent of the defendants in felony criminal cases came from broken homes," the congressman says. "During my years as a judge, I went through approximately 10,000 cases, because . . . 98 percent of the defendants plead guilty and apply for probation or other considerations. I would get . . . 12-page reports that went into the backgrounds and life histories of the defendants before me. "I would read over and over and over again things like defendant's father left when defendant was 2 and never returned, or defendant's father left to get a pack of cigarettes and never came back." BACK TO THE SOD It's that time in a new administration when ambassadorial posts are awarded, often to the highest bidder. Richard J. Egan, the newly nominated ambassador to Ireland, is the first "blue-chip" GOP donor to win an ambassadorial appointment from the Bush administration, the Center for Responsive Politics observes. "If past practices by recent presidents from both parties are followed, he'll be the first of many to come," the center adds. Egan, chairman of the board of EMC Corp. in Massachusetts, gave $338,100 to Republican Party committees and candidates during the 1999-2000 election cycle. The biggest contribution was $250,000 in "soft money" to the Republican National Committee on July 28, 2000. In December, he was among the first big donors to the Bush-Cheney Inaugural Committee, writing a $100,000 check to the fund just before Christmas. The center notes that the Bush campaign also identified Egan as one of its "Pioneers" - a group of individuals who raised at least $100,000 for George W. Bush's presidential campaign. GO FIGURE Legislation has been reintroduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to repeal federal provisions that ban federal financial aid to students who have been convicted of any federal or state drug offense. As the law now stands, Frank observes: "Someone who commits murder or armed robbery is not automatically barred from financial aid eligibility, but if you have even one nonviolent drug conviction, you can't get any aid for a year."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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