McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Sep 12, 2001 12:00 AM
VIRTUAL WALL Anybody who's visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington knows what a moving experience it is to read the 58,226 names on The Wall. Now, beginning with a Capitol Hill ceremony on Wednesday (Sept. 12) hosted by Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund will help start a nationwide effort -- "Put a Face with a Name" -- to collect a photograph for every name on the memorial. The pictures will be archived on The Virtual Wall (, a commemorative Web site honoring those who were killed or remain missing in Vietnam. CONDIT'S CAREER California voters might consider congressional term limits for their Washington representatives, too, now that Rep. Gary A. Condit refuses to budge from his seat. At the state level, term limits aimed at ending "careerism" among legislators were introduced in 18 states by 1995, with an average of 68 percent voter support. Although groups in some states such as California have been trying to repeal them, the effect of term limits has been overwhelmingly positive, according to new research from the Cato Institute. In "Assessing the Term Limits Experiment: California and Beyond," Cato senior fellow Patrick Basham focuses in particular on the experiences of California, one of the oldest term-limited legislatures. Basham finds that term limits has stimulated political competition, increased the number of elected women and minorities, and "shows signs of weakening the careerism that characterized postwar legislative life and suffocated nearly all attempts at significant policy innovation." FEMALE DEPRESSION Anybody who has read a newspaper in recent years knows how difficult life can be for interns in Washington. Twenty-year-old Kerry K. Doyle, of Marietta, Ga., who is majoring in history and political science at St. Louis University, says she arrived in Washington this summer to intern for the National Organization for Women. Doyle now reveals that she found its "dig-up-the-dirt opposition research so depressing" that she ultimately jumped the left-leaning ship, interning instead with the Independent Women's Forum. ENGLISH IN AMERICA Operating on a special consultative status with the United Nations, Global Volunteers, an international development organization, teaches English (among other duties) in 19 countries around the world, including Mexico, China and Vietnam. Now, in what the organization is calling a "historic first," its volunteers have been called upon to teach English closer to home -- within the United States. The immigrant population in this country has swelled so quickly that 20 percent of U.S. school children now speak a language other than English at home. Even in far north Minnesota, growing immigrant populations have overwhelmed local communities. In the west-central Minnesota town of Pelican Rapids, for example, an influx of immigrants over the past decade has swollen the population by 26 percent, with one in four elementary students living in homes where English is either not spoken or spoken very little. In nearby Worthington, the minority population grew from 6 percent of the overall population to 23 percent between 1990 and 2000. Global Volunteers says community leaders in both Minnesota towns requested that the organization's volunteers teach English to the immigrant children. SEND FOR HOUDINI Al Gore certainly was desperate to become president. Very desperate. "At 12:30 a.m. on the Friday after Election Day, the phone rang in the Tallahassee hotel room of Ron Klain, a top Gore aide," Newsweek reports. "It was Al Gore, calling from Washington, D.C. Gore had not only been thinking about the problem, but he'd done something about it. "He'd called Erin Brockovich. Not Julia Roberts, who played Erin Brockovich in the movie about a town's legal fight with a polluter -- but the real Erin Brockovich." Gore, with the Florida recount debate heating up, thought "she should come to Florida and lead our efforts to collect affidavits," explains Klain, adding that the vice president told him: "What Erin Brockovich's good at is going to real people and getting them to tell their stories. That's her specialty. I think Erin Brockovich would be great." After Gore hung up the phone, says the magazine, Klain tried to go back to sleep, "bemused by the conversation." "Barely two days into the post-election morass, and Gore was recruiting somebody he'd heard about in a movie." Or, as Klain puts it: "Bring in a camel with three heads. It just seemed like the whole thing's a huge menagerie at this point. Erin Brockovich -- of course!" GENERATION GAP America's largest employer -- Uncle Sam -- is in trouble. His workers are having problems communicating. "For the first time in history, federal employees are working closely with colleagues as young as their children and as old as their parents," reports Government Executive, whose readership includes more than 60,000 top federal government decisionmakers. Today's federal work force, which includes veterans (born between 1922 and 1943), baby boomers (born between 1944 and 1960), Generation X'ers (born between 1961 and 1980), and Generation Nexters (born after 1980), is "struggling to overcome the challenges created by this vast generational diversity," says the monthly. "Baby boomers and Generation X'ers dominate the federal stage and, though they are closest in age, have the most problems getting along," says Government Executive. "Self-assured boomers seek recognition and favor long hours and teamwork. X'ers, on the other hand, seek independence, personal growth, flexibility -- and want to go home at 5 p.m." BANG "There goes the budget surplus." -- Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, one of President Bush's White House State Dinner guests, viewing Wednesday night's extravagant explosion of fireworks above Washington in honor of visiting Mexican President Vicente Fox.