Political Scrapbook

Posted: Jul 18, 2001 12:00 AM
PLENTY OF COMPANY A top Republican lawmaker says Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-CA) can survive politically despite the turmoil surrounding him and his affair with missing intern Chandra Levy. In an interview with the Washington Times, Virginia Republican Rep. Thomas M. Davis III says of Condit: "I hesitate to write him off at this point. There have been more egregious acts by members of Congress who have gotten re-elected." Asked for examples, Davis cited then-Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA), who was censured for having sex with a young male page, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who received a reprimand for improperly intervening in the judicial process on behalf a homosexual prostitute. Reminded that neither of those cases involved a missing person - or, God forbid, a dead body - Davis simply replied: "Mary Jo Kopechne." NOT CADET MATERIAL With every new day comes another revelation of just how busy a social calendar Rep. Gary A. Condit appears to have kept. One woman from the California Democrat's district, whose name we've agreed to protect, informs this column that Condit ironically enough is the lawmaker who rejected her daughter's application to the Air Force Academy, citing a lack of "social activity." NEW EXHIBIT The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and now Washington's latest exhibit -- "Timothy McVeigh's Notes from Prison." From his prison cell, McVeigh answered five of 60 questions submitted to him by Rita Cosby of Fox News. The three-page, 401-word statement, postmarked April 23, 2001, asserts that his bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building "was morally and strategically equivalent of the U.S. hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq or other nations." The notes, on loan from Cosby, will be on display "indefinitely" at the Newseum in Arlington, Va. RUNNING FROM REALITY President Bush has his work cut out for him on the problem of drug use among teens. We're told that the first look at the 2000-2001 school year reveals a troubling turn in student drug use, which had been falling for three years. The use of certain drugs is on the rise for some students, according to the 14th annual Pride Survey, which is an official indicator of performance of the White House drug policy. Results of the survey will be announced by, among others, Edward H. Jurith, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, at the National Press Club Thursday (July 19). NO LONGER FICTION We're told one of author Jack Uldrich's first actions as the newly elected chairman of the Minnesota Independence Party was to invite recently converted independent Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont to Minnesota. You might say Jeffords jumped right out of Uldrich's pages. "Those people who have read my book know the main character is a former moderate Republican who becomes an independent so I have a great deal of admiration for Senator Jeffords and would love for him to help build our party," says the author of "The Gibraltar Conspiracy," who, when he's not writing, serves as a top official in Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration. GO FIGURE Confused by how many people live in America? You're not the only one. The U.S. Census Bureau is aware that a number of recently published documents leave people with the impression that an adjustment of the 2000 census would add 6.4 million missed individuals to the result of the count. Census officials, on the other hand, say initial estimates from the 2000 census indicate there were only 4.3 million people undercounted and 1 million overcounted, leaving a net measured undercount of 3.3 million people. But even this undercount is "still preliminary," warns the bureau, which is spending the remainder of the ummer re-examining the numbers. In all fairness, it's not easy counting Americans when only 67 percent of America's residents returned their 2000 census forms. As bad as that percentage sounds, the return rate actually ended a 30-year decline in census participation. The Census Bureau reported on Dec. 28, 2000, that it counted 281,421,906 persons residing in the United States, an increase of 33 million (13.3 percent) since the 1990 count. Census officials called the population jump fast and unexpectedly high, and as a result some in Washington are reassessing immigration policy. Still, there's room for more people in Washington itself. The District of Columbia, the 2000 census found, has just over 572,000 residents, a drop of almost 6 percent from the 1990 census. If the nation's capital were to become the 51st state, it would rank 50th in population, ahead of only Wyoming. BALLOTT BOONDOGGLE Who in Congress hasn't introduced legislation to eradicate pregnant and dangling chads? Incredibly, nearly 50 bills have been introduced so far in this Congress calling for voting reforms in the wake of Florida's presidential-election woes, according to Amanda Harrigan, a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. She had good reason to count. If the 50 or so bills were enacted, she points out, taxpayers would be forced to shell out an additional $7 billion, paying for everything from the creation of 18 commissions to a new federal holiday. GUN MYTH Word that the Justice Department, under Attorney General John Ashcroft, is drafting a legal finding asserting that individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms, is being applauded by gun owners and constitutional scholars alike. "For too many years," explains Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms member John Michael Snyder, "millions of law-abiding firearm owners have been subjected to the gun-grabber myth that the Second Amendment recognizes only a collective right, rather than an individual right, to keep and bear arms. We applaud the Bush effort to disabuse the political universe of this inaccuracy." BYRD DOGS There's no better time, as we approach the dog days of summer, to pay tribute to the few friends that can be counted on in Washington. "For my wife and me, 'Billy Byrd' is a key part of our lives at the Byrd house," says Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. VA), referring to his four-legged Maltese. "As I said, if I ever saw in this world anything that was made by the Creator's hand that is more dedicated, more true, more faithful, more trusting, more undeviant than this little dog, I am at a loss to state what it is." "Dogs fill an emotional need in man," Byrd says. "They are said to be man's best friend and, indeed, who can dispute it?" Certainly not Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose Portuguese water dog, Splash, is at his side even beneath the Capitol dome. In fact, Congress so regards man's best friend that its members have opened up the U.S. Capitol to dogs of every shape, color and size, so long as they remain leashed. "President Truman was supposed to have remarked: 'If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog,'" Byrd notes. "No wonder so many political leaders have chosen the dog as a faithful companion and canine confidant." Particularly presidents. The current White House occupant, President Bush, seeks solace from Barney and Spot. His dad, George Bush, confided in Millie. President Clinton used to confess to his best friend, Buddy. Former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole not only huddled with Leader, he was perhaps his most trusted aide on Capitol Hill. President Truman reasoned with his Irish setter, Mike. And President Ford always counted on his golden retriever, Lucky. "Of course, there was President Franklin Roosevelt and his dog, Fala," Byrd recalls. "They had such a close relationship that his political opponents once attempted to attack him by attacking his dog. Eleanor Roosevelt recalled that for months after the death of her husband, every time someone approached the door of her house, Fala would run to it in excitement, hoping that it was President Roosevelt coming home." Richard Nixon, finally, had no friend as devoted as Checkers.