Political Scrapbook

Posted: May 16, 2001 12:00 AM
YUPPIE PROBLEM Blame high prices at the gas pumps on "rich yuppies," says Tennessee Rep. John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. "Some wonder why gas is going toward $3 a gallon ... and why utility bills are going way up," says the Republican congressman. "Well, it is primarily because rich, yuppie environmentalists are slowly but surely shutting this country down economically." The member of the House Resources subcommittee on forests, national parks and public lands says, "children in our schools have been brainwashed in recent years by extreme left-wing environmentalists," while the "Sierra Club and some other environmental groups have gone so far to the left in recent years they are making socialists look conservative." DITCH DIGGER Wyoming Sen. Michael B. Enzi wore several hats before digging a ditch to Capitol Hill: He served in the military, worked as an accountant and owned a shoe store. But it's not his present job or any other that's important, says the Republican, but how one performs it. "My dad was a traveling shoe salesman most of his life and I got to travel with him in the summer," Enzi tells us. "When we were making those trips, people would say: 'Are you going to grow up and be a salesman like your dad?' "Before I could answer, my dad would always jump into the conversation and say: 'I don't care whether he is a doctor or a lawyer or a shoe salesman or a ditch digger. But what I always tell him is, if he is a ditch digger, I want that ditch to be so distinctive that anybody can look at it and say, 'That is a Mike Enzi ditch.'" WHO SHRANK RUSSIA? Atlantic Monthly Contributing Editor Jeffrey Tayler, who has lived half his adult life in Russia, doesn't paint a very flattering picture of the country in the May issue of the magazine. He says Russia's internal problems are so severe that her descent into "social catastrophe and strategic irrelevance" is unstoppable. Russia is destined to "shrink demographically, weaken economically, and possibly disintegrate territorially," he writes, adding that in due time "Russia will concern the rest of the world no more than any Third World country with abundant resources, an impoverished people, and a corrupt government." TRAMPLED DEMOCRATS Hanging chads continue dangling in the mind of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who more than six months after Election Day is calling on all persons with stories pertaining to voting-rights irregularities to call 1-866-512-VOTE. Last week, the DNC's Voting Rights Institute held its first hearing in Riviera, Fla., with McAuliffe and DNC National Development Chairman Maynard Jackson addressing not only voting irregularities but short- and long-term fixes to voter reform. "Every citizen of this nation has the right to register to vote, enter a polling place without impediment, cast their vote and have that vote counted," says McAuliffe, "ensuring that the thousands of voices that were silenced during the last election cycle because their votes were not counted will never have their democracy denied again." Jackson was more blunt, calling the Florida hearing the beginning of a nationwide grass-roots movement to guarantee every American the right to vote without being "trampled upon." Late last week, eight major newspapers completed a review of 171,908 disputed Florida ballots from the 2000 presidential election, finding that George W. Bush would have won a hand recount requested, albeit unsuccessfully, by Al Gore. PROFESSOR BYRD Congressional pages serving on Capitol Hill had better have a grasp of American history when crossing the path of the Senate's in-house historian, Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. I often ask the young pages who serve us . . . 'Who is Nathan Hale?'" says the 83-year-old Democrat. "If an American history book does not tell us about Nathan Hale, I do not think it is much of a history book." In fact, Byrd often asks the pages "to let me see their history books" -- to make sure that Capt. Hale, who gave his life while spying on the British during the Revolutionary War, earned his rightful chapter. If a Senate page doesn't know about Capt. Hale, Byrd will tell them: "Nathan Hale said: 'I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.'" Byrd says when he started school 79 years ago in West Virginia, his history book taught him not only about Nathan Hale, but about his other American heroes -- Francis Marion (the "Swamp Fox"), Nathanael Greene, Daniel Morgan, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison. "I will never forget those books," he says. "They shaped me. They shaped my attitude. They shaped my outlook." Byrd in recent days offered an amendment appropriating $100 million for the continuation of a program he initiated last year to promote the teaching of American history. GRAY OUTS David Kralik, of Americans for Tax Reform, is referring to the California power crisis as "gray outs," not blackouts. The public, he explains, needs to "put two and two together and recognize it's California "Governor Gray Davis' . . . fault that Californians have no power and he ought to be held accountable for his actions next November." FRONT LINE OF DIPLOMACY Stressing the need to upgrade security at U.S. embassies around the world, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) says that since the end of World War II, more American ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty than generals and admirals. In the past year alone, the State Department counts more than 50 significant incidents involving either violence or intrusion at U.S. embassy compounds.