John McCaslin
DETERIORATING STATE It's a good thing for George W. Bush -- and the rest of the nation -- that the Senate has reconvened after its annual Easter recess. Nearing the 100-day mark, an "alarmingly high" number of senior posts in the Bush administration remain unfilled, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson having no confirmed staff as of this week, according to the Brookings Institution's Presidential Appointee Initiative. Worse yet, in seven Cabinet departments, no top official other than the secretary has even been officially nominated. As for officials who've been nominated, now 13 weeks into the administration, only 29 of President Bush's top 488 executive branch appointments have been confirmed by the Senate, far fewer than previous presidents, including Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. "The current limbo is hobbling the ability of President Bush to initiate policies to address the issues that face our country," comments Brookings Vice President Paul C. Light. LONGEST TERM "Talk about your job security," observes National Press Club President Richard Ryan, introducing the nation's comptroller general, David Walker, to reporters this week. While administrations and members of Congress come and go, says the scribe's president, Walker -- and the six comptroller generals that came before him -- is granted a rare luxury of 15 years to perform his job, the longest term available in federal government. Walker was appointed in 1998 by President Clinton, which means he doesn't have to start looking for another job until 2013. " That's long after President Bush, and perhaps another president or two have departed the political scene," says Ryan. "It is one year longer than the term served by members of the Federal Reserve Board, and five years longer than the director of the FBI." And what does the comptroller general do for so long? He's the nation's chief certified public accountant and heads the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. TAKE TWO Taylor Gross did a double-take -- literally -- while departing the White House late Tuesday night. Preparing to travel aboard Air Force One with President Bush through Texas this week, Gross, the director of radio for the White House Office of Media Affairs, didn't leave the White House until 9 p.m., descending the steps -- alone, he assumed -- leading to 17th Street NW. The next thing he knew, he came face-to-face with actress Allison Janney, star of the popular TV drama series "The West Wing." "This is kind of surreal," the surprised Gross told the actress. Suddenly, from a distance, he heard the show's director shout, "Cut," realizing only then for the first time that he'd actually stumbled into a scene of the show as it was being taped. "Sorry about that," Gross shouted back to the director and crew, all of whom were laughing. NOT MOYNIHAN It was a nice day for a quiet stroll Wednesday across Capitol Hill. Unless you were Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who must long to be alone with her thoughts. Walking the two or so blocks from the Russell Senate Office Building to the U.S. Capitol, the freshman New York Democrat was closely trailed by a contingent of Secret Service agents, senatorial staff, newspaper and broadcast reporters, and photographers. TAKE ANOTHER WEEK Actual congressional memo: Update from the House Republican Study Committee: House Spending Report. Each week, the Republican Study Committee tracks how much money the House authorizes to be spent. For the week of April 16-20, 2001, because the House was out of session, no new spending was authorized." CRYSTAL CITY, ANYONE? Paul Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council, has "postponed" the Minority Executive Directors Retreat scheduled for July 15-18 at the Hilton Turtle Bay in Oahu, Hawaii. "To his credit, Kawata acknowledged it would give the wrong perception to people if AIDS executives travel to Hawaii for this retreat, while 400 AIDS patients in Alabama can't get AIDS medications, among other AIDS funding problems," AIDS activist Michael Petrelis told this column. A recent cover story in the Washington Monthly, written by Wayne Turner of the AIDS group ACT UP/DC, brought renewed attention to AIDS junkets to exotic locales. As Turner reported, AIDS executives and researchers have traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands and the beaches of Rio de Janeiro to network with colleagues.

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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