Political Scrapbook

Posted: Jul 20, 2001 12:00 AM
COME CLEAN The consensus is there's more than one Gary A. Condit in the House. Forty-two percent of American voters believe at least half of all members of Congress have extramarital affairs, says Republican pollster Chris Ingram, president of 411 Communications, who recently completed a survey on Congress and infidelity for Heintz Media Productions. "The fact is that while the electorate thinks Congress is full of adulterers like Gary Condit, the bottom line is no one cares on Election Day -- as evidenced by the fact that 95 percent of Congress members typically get re-elected every two years," Ingram says. "First it was Bill Clinton, then Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston, and now it's Gary Condit," he adds. "The results proved to indicate that the American voter has become jaded with regard to politicians having affairs. And the lesson to the next politician who gets caught with someone other than their spouse is simple: admit it because the American voter expects you to be an adulterer." A majority (55 percent) of voters surveyed believe that at least one-quarter of Washington lawmakers are unfaithful, while two-thirds believe at least 10 percent of members cheat. BEAGLE EARS Regarding our item earlier this week on U.S. presidents and their best friends -- dogs -- "you neglected to include LBJ's beagle," writes Hank Lengfellner, a reader from Jacksonville, Fla. "I guess best friends don't lift their best friends up by their ears." You can say that again, Mr. Lengfellner, who is remembering the public outcry of insensitivity after President Lyndon B. Johnson picked up his pet beagle by its ears. The late, great newspaperman Jeremiah O'Leary once observed: "President Lyndon B. Johnson had a pair of beagles called Him and Her (or He and She). These animals grew to look more and more like LBJ the more he pulled on their ears." NATIVE TONGUE Long overdue, a congressional provision finally authorizes the Treasury Department to strike 29 Congressional Gold Medals to be awarded beneath the Capitol Rotunda later this month to the original "Navajo Code Talkers." Initially, 29 members of the Navajo Nation were recruited to serve in World War II transmitting intelligence messages as Marine Corps radio operators. Used in the Pacific theater and at Iwo Jima, the code talkers passed over 800 error-free messages in a 48-hour period in a language and code that was undecipherable by the Axis powers. The number of enlisted code talkers later increased to more than 350. The congressional provision authorizes the subsequent enlistees, or a surviving family member, to be awarded silver medals. CHIEFS OF STAFF More than 4 million visitors each year pass beneath the U.S. Capitol dome, "the most recognizable symbol of freedom and democracy in the world," says Reagan White House Chief of Staff Kenneth M. Duberstein. Duberstein -- along with Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta -- has joined the board of directors of the public-private partnership designated by Congress to raise private funds in support of the Capitol Visitor Center, the largest addition to the building since the Civil War -- and likely the last. The fund hopes to raise the estimated $100 million that will be necessary to complement federal funds earmarked for the addition. So far, more than $35 million has been committed by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gerry Lenfest and the Annenberg Foundation, among others. OAKS AND AIR Contrary to popular belief, the trees you plant might not help the environment after all. The Environmental Protection Agency says some trees release as much as 10,000 times more biogenic (naturally formed) volatile organic compounds -- creating ozone and other unhealthy particulates -- than more atmospherically friendly "low emitters." "These compounds are particularly important because they create ozone and fine particulate matter, which are damaging to the human respiratory system," says the EPA's California Air Resources Board, which studied more than 1,400 tree species and rated them for their various pollution effects and pollen production. Now, the EPA is telling people to consider a tree's impact before planting. "Low emitters" include the Chinese hackberry, avocado, peach, ashes, sawleaf zelkova and the Eastern redbud. Some "high emitters" are the London plane, California sycamore, liquidamber, Chinese sweet gum, golden rain tree and the scarlet, red and willow oaks. GENERATION UNWORTHY He was adamantly opposed to renaming Washington National Airport in honor of former President Ronald Reagan, and when Congress voted overwhelmingly this week to name the Washington headquarters of the Peace Corps after the late Georgia Sen. Paul Coverdell, Rep. James P. Moran once again voted nay. "I am sure that Paul Coverdell is a far more accomplished politician than I will ever be, and that many in this body will ever be," explained the Virginia Democrat before casting his vote. "But I do not consider him to be a great man, I do not consider many people in our generation to be great -- and certainly not this generation of political leaders."