Bilingual Tenors

John McCaslin

4/17/2008 10:22:47 AM - John McCaslin

Several readers wrote to us yesterday in praise of the U.S. Army Chorus — the vocal counterpart of the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" — after its stirring performance of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at the conclusion of the White House welcoming ceremony for Pope Benedict XVI.

It so happens that the highly talented chorus has also serenaded Queen Elizabeth II and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, among numerous world leaders. In fact, the visiting dignitaries are often greeted in their native tongues, as the chorus is able to sing in more than 26 languages.

49 Smiths

Finally, something of significance — record-breaking, in fact — has being accomplished by the 110th Congress, all thanks to the Republican minority. And the Democrats are none too pleased.

As Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, points out, a filibuster is a way to stop the Senate from acting — or as he specifically phrases it "an effort to make sure the Senate does nothing."

"You saw the movie with Jimmy Stewart, 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.' He took to the floor as a freshman senator and stood there speaking in a filibuster until he collapsed in physical exhaustion," Mr. Durbin notes. "Well, it does not quite happen that way anymore. What happens, of course, is someone says: I am going to stop the Senate, and you are going to have to come up with 60 votes to stop me."

Now, consider that the Democrats have 51 votes in this current Senate, while the Republicans have 49. As a result, "any time we want to move forward with a piece of legislation to which a Republican senator objects, we need their help to stop a filibuster. They know that," the senator continues.

In the entire history of the U.S. Congress, the minority party has initiated no more than 57 filibusters during any two-year period. "That is the record, 57 in two years," Mr. Durbin confirms.

Until now.

Barely a few months into the second year of the current Congress, he reports that the Republicans have thus far "initiated 65 filibusters, and we are still counting."

8,800 punches left

Good news from the architect of the Capitol's office, which says the long-awaited $621 million underground U.S. Capitol Visitor Center remains on target for a November opening.

Terrell G. Dorn, director of physical infrastructure issues for the office, has just informed the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch all that remains is an "extensive punch list, which now includes 8,800 tasks."

Otherwise, he says, the project is "99 percent complete."

Ink pays

If you plan on being one of the tens of thousands of Americans who will be attending any number of Republican or Democratic presidential campaign rallies this summer and fall, try to get one of the candidates — John McCain, obviously, or Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton, or both if this tug-of-war keeps up — to autograph whatever you might be holding in your hands.

Consider that a first-edition copy of Mr. Obama's 2006 best-selling book, "The Audacity of Hope," costs about $5 these days, given it's no longer a new release. But be entrepreneurial enough to have the Illinois senator sign the book — perhaps when he's working the rope line, as somebody at Jackson State University in Mississippi did during Mr. Obama's March 10 "Stand for Change Rally" — and you can earn a hefty amount of money for the effort.

As of yesterday, a signed copy of Mr. Obama's book was up for sale on the eBay auction block, and so far had generated 15 bids with the highest being $191.49.

Meanwhile, when Mrs. Clinton was campaigning last month in Pennsylvania, a supporter held out his otherwise-ordinary "Hillary for President" campaign poster for the candidate to autograph — "Hillary," she signed — which now on eBay has attracted 13 bids, the highest thus far $52 plus $10 postage and handling.

Short handing

We had written yesterday that President Bush didn't buy into man-made "global warming" during his first seven years in office, so why expect him to now as a lame-duck president?

To which Scott Stanzel, deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary, responded almost immediately after the item appeared: "It seems you've bought into the traditional misinformed short handing of the president's views on climate change. Going back years (to June 2001), he has acknowledged that humans are having an impact on our climate."