Political scrapbook

Posted: Mar 30, 2001 12:00 AM
CHECK YOUR NUNCHAKUS Tourists visiting the nation's capital, absent-mindedly or not, have tried entering the White House carrying all sorts of personal items and baggage. So the following prohibitions have been posted for visitors before entering the White House, forbidding the ordinary and . . . the not-so-ordinary. "Prohibited inside are animals, oversized backpacks, balloons, beverages, chewing gum, electric stun guns, fireworks or firecrackers, food, guns or ammunition, knives with blades over three inches or eight centimeters, mace, nunchakus, smoking, or suitcases." Nunchakus are weapons of Japanese origin, consisting of two hardwood sticks joined at each end by a short length of chain or cord. LIBERALS FOR BUSH We had to laugh when Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) spoke out this week against nonprofit corporations created solely to promote political candidates, often operating outside the law with impunity. "Take, for example, the organization Republicans For Clean Air," he said. "Despite its innocuous name, this was an organization created for the sole purpose of promoting the candidacy of George W. Bush during the last Republican primary election." Before long, the senator warned, "you are going to have a proliferation of these organizations: Republicans For Clean Air, Democrats For Clean Air, People Who Do Not Like Any Party For Clean Air, Liberals For Clean Air, Conservatives For Clean Air, Citizens for Dirty Air - I don't know what it will be." BLACK GOLD Interior Secretary Gale Norton will accompany at least a half-dozen senators to Alaska this weekend, where they will get a firsthand look at the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Washington delegation begins its Alaska trek in Valdez, the terminus of the 800-mile Alaska pipeline, will overnight in Fairbanks, then journey north to Prudhoe Bay, Deadhorse and eventually into the refuge and the Eskimo villages of Kaktovik and Nuiqsut, "where they are going to have a little bit of a potlatch for us," notes Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski. Potlatch is a ceremonial feast in which Eskimos traditionally distribute lavish gifts that require reciprocation. Whether that will be oil and the prosperity brought with it remains to be seen. FINANCING CAMPAIGNS Economic slowdown or recession, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, chairman of the Republican National Committee, says February was another record-breaking month for donations to the RNC. The RNC raised $7.3 million last month from more than 160,000 contributions, for an average donation of $45, a "groundswell of support" that Gilmore credits to President Bush's leadership. The RNC raised $17 million since Jan. 1, $14 million of it so-called hard money, according to the GOP's latest financial report. Federal law requires the RNC to file such reports with the Federal Election Commission on a quarterly basis, but the RNC is doing so monthly. The Democratic National Committee does not," the RNC sees fit to point out. HIDDEN BUNKERS Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is awarded an "A" in efficiency and "F" in policy for becoming the first Bush Cabinet member to provide federal services in multiple languages. Appearing in this month's Federal Register is (take a deep breath) the Treasury Department's "Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients on the Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons." When Jim Boulet Jr., executive director of English First, finished reading the regulations, he handed O'Neill the unflattering report card. Quoting from the guidelines, "meaningful access" must now be provided "free of charge" to all non-English speakers, including those "whose language does not exist in written form." And as Boulet notes, notice of these translation services "in appropriate languages" is to be inserted into "brochures, pamphlets, manuals and other materials disseminated to the public and to staff." Furthermore, he observes, the Treasury Department rejects the idea that the non-English speaker might bring along an English-speaking child or neighbor to translate because the "client's untrained interpreter is often unable to understand the concepts or official terminology he or she is being asked to interpret (and) his or her mere presence may obstruct the flow of confidential information." Notes Boulet: "Now, it is not immediately obvious why a Limited-English-Proficient (LEP) person would have more confidence in a government translator than in a trusted friend, priest or minister." The pro-English advocate adds that such "radical language requirements are the sort of thing that might have been released under the reign of Bill Clinton. In fact, this Bush administration policy-guidance document reads like a virtual Xerox of similar documents issued under the Clinton departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Transportation." He likens it to Alec Guinness, the British POW colonel in the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," saying some people will work day and night to ensure the success of an enemy strategy. "This is why the Bush administration must root out the Clintonistas still carrying on the fight from their hidden bunkers throughout America's federal agencies. Bush Cabinet officials will continue to get bad advice from these folks as long as they stay in office." CHEAP STEAKS No matter how large a tax cut Americans are dealt by Congress and the White House, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the senior Democrat from West Virginia, says there are other ways to save money. When he left for work one recent morning, he says, his wife asked him: "Do you need any money?" "I said, 'No, I have $3.75, and I am taking my lunch so I don't have to go down to the senators' dining room and spend 30 or 40 minutes waiting on somebody to help me with food and then have to spend $8, $10, or $12 to pay for it. I just take my little lunch, and there is my $3 I have for the day.'" Byrd grew up in a coal miner's home, and has always preferred his lunch from a brown paper bag containing "coal miner's steaks," or slices of bologna. BUSY EITHER WAY It's interesting hearing lawmakers from both sides of the aisle argue about campaign finance reform. You'd think they toiled under separate domes. Take Sens. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT). In arguing for reform, Hollings says once was the time when the U.S. Senate began voting at 9 o'clock Monday morning "and debate would ensue, and we would work until generally around 6 o'clock on Friday. It was a full work week." Now, he says, "Monday is gone. And Fridays are gone. And Tuesday mornings are gone . . . to collect money. So I travel the country, up to Minnesota, everywhere and anywhere I can, to collect money. That takes my time on weekends, weekdays, any nights that I can. So I am part of the corruption I am trying to cure." Hatch, on the other hand, doesn't consider himself corrupt. He's too busy. "I generally get to the office around 6 a.m. I don't know how many days when I am home before 7 or 8 o'clock at night," he says.