John McCaslin
WHO NEEDS FICTION Marguaret Peterson, of Sacramento, Calif., says she paid a visit to the Sacramento Public Library recently, where a Signet paperback "jumped off the shelf at me." The book in question was the 1999 novel "Capitol Scandal" by Sarah Gregory. It's the story of a Democratic congressman and an intern with whom he was having an affair. Then something horrible befalls the intern. "Her body is found in Rock Creek Park," says Peterson. "In fact, Rock Creek Park is mentioned in the second paragraph. The park is the choice of 'Washington runners of the lean and mean variety. ...' "One big difference between the book and real life is that victim Courtney Lee's body is found by Page 3, when a predawn jogger stumbles over it," says our reader. "The congressman, by the way, is from a prominent Texas political family." PINUP BOY When Rep. Susan Molinari of New York departed Congress four summers ago to pursue a career in news broadcasting, fellow female lawmakers presented her with an unusual going-away gift: a somewhat revealing (ie. chest hair) pinup calendar titled, "Susan Molinari's Hunks of the House 1998." In other words, a dozen of the "manliest" men in Congress. Not surprisingly, 10 of the 12 hunks were Republicans, the party preference of Mrs. Molinari. Only two were Democrats. Guess who's among them? That's right, Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-CA), aka "Mr. Blow Dry." The colorful calendar was the idea of fellow Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican. "Some (hunks) were hard to cooperate with," Ros-Lehtinen told this column at the calendar's introduction. "Then there was one (hunk) who gave me a photo where he was standing next to Bill ("Mr. Virtues") Bennett, of all people." Certainly not Mr. Condit. Wouldn't you know, among the other hunks in the calendar was a good friend of Condit, former Rep. John R. Kasich (R-OH). In fact, the two lawmakers attended a pair of rock concerts -- the Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam -- together. It was at the latter concert that Condit took his infamous float across the mosh pit. SURFER GIRL Were those red flip-flops on the feet of Sen. Barbara Boxer as she tended to business on the floor of the Senate on two separate occasions last week? "It raised some eyebrows," one Senate observer said of the casual footwear. "They were open-toed shoes," countered David Sandretti, Boxer's press secretary, explaining that the Democratic senator from California had a "foot injury." "This is not a fashion statement," he insists. HANDS ON Education Secretary Rod Paige certainly has hit the ground running. In the first 180 days of the new administration, the secretary has visited 20 elementary, middle and high schools and four college campuses in 20 states stretching from California to Maine. Meanwhile, in Washington, both houses of Congress have passed versions of President Bush's education bill by overwhelming bipartisan majorities -- 384-45 in the House and 91-8 in the Senate. BUMBLING BALLOTEERS "In the same spirit of his acclaimed satire, 'Clinton and Me: How Eight Years of a Pants-Free Presidency Changed My Nation, My Family, and My Life,' 'The Dumbest Generation' reveals what people inside the election business have known for years: Ignorant voters aren't a problem, they're a target demographic. From the bumbling balloteers of Florida to the crush of Dumb-and-Dumber culture filling the neighborhood multiplex, Graham hilariously sees a nation of people who should be 'denied the right to vote in any election not sponsored by TV Guide.'" --Summary of celebrated political humorist and consultant Michael Graham's new take on the greatest threat to democracy since World War II the ignorance of the average American voter -- in "The Dumbest Generation" (Warner Books, iPublish.com). GO FIGURE House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt makes a good point when comparing education and the shortage of teachers in the United States to incarceration and the number of prison guards. "I was at a prison near Beaumont, Texas," says the Missouri Democrat. "They have 13,000 inmates and they have 7,000 employees. And I said to somebody, 'That's a pupil-teacher ratio of about 2-to-1.' "If you had a 2-1 pupil-teacher ratio in every grade school in this country, I think you'd, over time, not have many people going to prison," he says. NO SYMPATHY If you wouldn't mind, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), tell us how you really feel about the costly ($186,000 per year) energy bill that Vice President Richard B. Cheney is complaining about for the 33-room vice-presidential mansion? "Oh, pity the vice president. His electric bill is too expensive," Dingell begins. "What is our unfortunate vice president to do?" Suggests the liberal dean of the House: "Perhaps he would be well served by turning off some more lights around the house as Lyndon Johnson used to do, or maybe turning his air-conditioner off when he is not at home." NEEDY BUREAUCRATS Good grief. Wait until you read what constitutes a "lower-income employee" of the federal government. In 1999, Congress authorized agencies of the federal government to use their own funds to help their "lower-income employees" offset the costs of child care. Since then, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission gathered and reviewed information relating to child-care assistance programs implemented by other federal agencies and, based on that guidance, plans to implement its own program in 2002. That said, this column has obtained a six-page policy-issue paper on the NRC proposal, presented to each of the agency's commissioners for final approval. The policy issue includes a "definition" of a low-income employee: "Any full-time permanent NRC employee, headquarters and regional, who has a child in a qualifying facility or licensed child care home and whose Total Family Income does not exceed $65,000 would be eligible to apply for assistance under the program." Observes one NRC insider: "This program is not limited to the greater Washington area, but is nationwide. Hence, it would apply to NRC 'low-income' employees working in lower cost-of-living areas." As for the NRC's definition of low income, the insider adds, it "seems extremely generous." TAXING QUESTION Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are among the eager Americans rushing to bank teller lines to cash tax-rebate checks under President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax-cut package -- even the congressmen who opposed the president's generous gesture in the first place. A collective $38 billion is being returned to Americans, and as for the politicians' take, CQ.com has uncovered what certain members of Congress plan to do with their cash: -- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA): "I, like many people in my part of the country, am going to have to use it to pay our energy bills." -- Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL): "My daughter is getting married. I think I will use my rebate to buy the wedding cake." -- Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA): "With the start of the school year just around the corner, there are lots of books and supplies that I need to buy my kids." -- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI): "I'm in the middle of moving into a new home, so I will probably use it to pay for moving costs and home improvements. But being from Michigan, I would love for people to put their money toward buying a new automobile." -- Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL): "Americans need to increase their savings. I am putting my rebate into my savings." -- Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT): "I don't know what I will do with the rebate check. But you can be sure that I will spend it so that the American economy can benefit from it." Shays had better hurry. House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt hinted over the weekend that tax increases are a very real possibility if Democrats gain control of the House in 2002.

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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