McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Aug 16, 2001 12:00 AM
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE Mauro Mujica, chairman of the board and CEO of U.S. English Inc., says the United States is threatened to be "torn apart" by Uncle Sam's ever-increasing official policies of multilingualism. This from a person who emigrated to America from Chile and grew up speaking Spanish. "Now don't get me wrong," Mujica says. "I still use Spanish in my home and in many of my business relationships. And I fully defend the right of individuals to speak any language they want, any time. But history clearly shows that one of the fastest ways to undermine the unity of a nation and fan the flames of divisiveness and chaos is by eroding the bond of a common language." For those in doubt, he points out that American voting ballots are required to be printed in foreign languages in more than 375 polling districts; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission punishes businesses that expect their employees to speak English; the Internal Revenue Service offers non-English tax forms and advice (a Clinton-era executive order requires all federal agencies to provide programs and services in any language to anyone living in the United States); and the Social Security Administration is even promoting its Spanish services for older Americans who still haven't picked up the English language. None of which beats the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is performing U.S. citizenship ceremonies in foreign languages. TAKING AIM If you thought the controversy surrounding the underage drinking incident of Jenna and Barbara Bush has died down, think again. Because they're the 19-year-old twin daughters of President Bush, their story, which made international headlines earlier this summer, has sparked an ongoing social and political debate on virtually every subject linked to alcohol - from entrapment and teen-age stress to America's strict alcohol laws. Regarding those laws, the group Alcohol in Moderation (AIM) notes that Bush's daughters are old enough to marry, vote, possess a firearm or die for their country in the military, yet they're not old enough to consume, purchase or serve alcohol. That's a far cry from the laws of other industrialized nations, AIM says. In Europe, Britain, despite very liberal drinking laws, enjoys the safest roads and fewest drunken-driving offenses. Concludes AIM: "It can be argued that over-regulation - such as a drinking age of 21 - can send drinking underground, and instead of young adults learning to drink responsibly in a controlled environment of the home and properly run bars, students and their contemporaries have to sneak and lie to obtain alcohol and then consume it out of the public eye, often in the worst place of all, their cars." CONDIT'S ODDS Don't hold your breath if you're waiting for Rep. Gary A. Condit to resign over the recent revelation of his sexual escapades. After all, he might have lost his reputation, but it's almost impossible for a congressman to lose re-election. Paul Jacob, executive director of U.S. Term Limits, says the chances that a congressional incumbent who has been in office for more than two terms will be re-elected are between "99 and 100 percent." "Sure, once in a while an incumbent senator might get knocked out of office," says Jacob. "But it's rare indeed for a member of the House to lose in his district. And it is especially rare after the incumbent has survived his freshman and sophomore terms in office. The advantages of incumbency are just too great." Even for Condit, after the way he has tap-danced around the police and FBI during the Chandra Levy missing-person investigation? "If he does run again, he might or might not win," Jacob says. "But the whole sordid mess reminds us once again that it really does take a big scandal to rattle the cage of congressional incumbency. Unless a representative retires, dies, gets squeezed out of power by redistricting, or lies to police about a missing person who might be dead, he has a permanent lock on power." SALACIOUS INSIGHTS Suffice it to say the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the public-interest law firm that successfully pursued law-license sanctions in Arkansas against Bill Clinton, won't be rushing out to buy the former president's promised book. The Atlanta-based legal firm is slamming the $10 million to $12 million book-advance deal signed by Mr. Clinton as "a pure example of contemporary American public life - disgrace pays." "The Clinton book deal confirms the darker angels of our national consciousness, that the market will pay for salacious insights into the most corrupt presidency of the second half of the 20th century," says Phil Kent, the SLF's president. "It pays to be bad." TAKE TWO And why shouldn't President Bush take a monthlong vacation? Most Americans take scant time off and could benefit from more vacation time, experts say. An International Labor Organization study this year found that the United States has overtaken Japan for the highest average annual hours worked - just under 2,000 hours per year - taking two vacation weeks tops. The typical vacation in Europe is four to six weeks. Deborah Figart, an economics professor and co-author of the book "Working Time," says it's great that the president "can recoup his energy with long vacations. Now he should encourage policies so that other hardworking Americans can also have time for rest, family and other activities." POLITICS ASIDE Retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Clinton, says President Bush's drug-czar nominee carries "a lot of baggage" but is "brilliant" at the same time. "The challenge to (John P.) Walters will be - and I've told him this - when you come into (the confirmation process), say, 'Whatever you think I said before, I am here to endorse President Bush's strategy,' " McCaffrey says. "He has a lot of baggage, but that was then and this is now." This was a marked shift from McCaffrey's assault last spring, when he unloaded on his named successor by urging Congress to "carefully consider" the nominee's views on drug treatment. Critics have contended that Walters is a "law-and-order conservative" with zero tolerance - not for illegal drugs, but for treatment. But during his tenure as deputy director to White House drug czar Bill Bennett in the previous Bush administration, Walters supervised four years of drug budgets that increased federal support for treatment programs more than any other administration - including all eight years of Clinton administration budgets combined. McCaffrey applauded the anti-drug proposals voiced by President Bush when nominating Walters. Bush vowed to follow in his father's footsteps. "As of today, the federal government is waging an all-out effort to reduce illegal drug use," the president said in a recent Rose Garden ceremony, by attacking the problem through treatment, education and reduction in demand - not supply. There are an estimated 5 million drug addicts in America, but only 2 million are seeking treatment. "The president's remarks in the Rose Garden made a lot of sense," McCaffrey says.