McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Nov 22, 2001 12:00 AM
Congress thus far has provided the U.S. Postal Service with $100 million for irradiation equipment and $75 million for the protection of postal employees against future biological terrorist attacks. Which is cheap, considering Postmaster General John E. Potter recently testified that the Postal Service would need a whopping $5 billion to recover from October's anthrax attacks alone. VOTING 101 A task force appointed by the National Council of State Legislatures has issued a list of voter responsibilities for Election Day, which hopefully will help prevent voter confusion like that experienced in Florida and elsewhere during the 2000 presidential election. Among the responsibilities: 1. "Know how to operate voting equipment." 2. "Ask questions when confused." 3. "Check completed ballot for accuracy." STRONGER NATION Speaking of the 2000 presidential election, it turns out many more Americans than George W. Bush came out on top. "Americans were more satisfied with their democratic process after the 2000 election than after the 1996 contest," says John Samples, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Representative Government, quoting the findings of an election commission headed by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. In an executive summary on election reform, Samples says the "anger and bitterness associated with the struggle over the 2000 presidential election have now passed for all but the most dedicated partisans." "In the end, that struggle did little or no damage to the American republic," he contends. Rather, "the greatest threat lies ahead in what Congress does, or does not do" in addressing election reform. Centralizing control of elections, as has been proposed, would damage the constitutional republic, according to Samples, by removing any sense of individual voter responsibility and hinder the process of discovery that is a vital aspect of federalism. "Along the way," he says, "many Americans may come to believe that their fellow citizens are either not capable of assuming the minimal obligations of citizenship or not to be trusted on Election Day." PRICE OF LIFE There's some confusion over the cost of vaccinating every American against deadly smallpox, with the Senate calling on Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson to provide more precise estimates of such a tremendous undertaking. One thing is for certain, it won't be cheap. The Bush administration's bioterrorism budget request, submitted to Congress last month, included $509 million for the production of 250 million doses of smallpox vaccine. But new studies suggest the cost could run as high as $2 billion. HUMAN PLASTIC Don't leave home without it. A new "smart visa" card would utilize biometric information, such as facial recognition, fingerprints, iris scans and hand geometry to identify every foreigner who seeks to enter the United States. Under legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the Immigration and Naturalization Service and State Department would be required within one year to ensure that foreign nationals use such tamper-proof visa cards to enter and leave the United States. EYE OF THE STORM The White House photo office certainly wasn't shy about photographing the disgraced Richard M. Nixon during his final two days in office. We learn this week that 45 rolls of 35 mm still photographic film, capturing more than 700 images of the embattled president's final 48 hours in office Aug. 7-9, 1974, were shot by official White House photographers. The National Archives this month placed every photograph of the historic two days - from the scene inside the White House press room as the president gave his resignation speech, to crowds gathered outside the White House gate awaiting the final word - onto CD-ROMs, which are free for the taking. AMERICAN RESOLVE In the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, surrounded these days of terror by camouflaged members of the D.C. National Guard, sits the Folger Shakespeare Library. "I write to let you know that we're here, that work goes on in the Reading Room and that no one - not a single fellow or seminar participant - stayed away or left early in September," Folger librarian Richard Kuhta writes to his group of Shakespeare readers, including reader John Arnold of Alexandria, Va. "With such fearlessness exhibited by my fellow Renaissance scholars, I know this country will prevail," Dr. Arnold tells this column. As for the recent events, we can't help but recall what Shakespeare wrote in "The Merchant of Venice," Act 3, Scene 3: "Thou call'st me a dog before thou hadst cause, but since I am a dog, beware my fangs." MOVE OVER, CHINA Capitol Hill's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has left immigration-control groups with a mixture of frustration and optimism. "We are made optimistic by the new appreciation for common sense on immigration policy increasingly evident in Congress," says the leading immigration group ProjectUSA, which notes membership in the House Immigration Reform Caucus - founded by Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., months before the attacks - has grown from fewer than a dozen representatives to nearly 60 since Sept. 11. "We can now imagine Congress putting an end to our selfish and irresponsible immigration policy - a policy that now has U.S. population doubling within the lifetimes of today's children," says Project-USA. As for frustration, "those of us who have been warning for years that America's reckless mass immigration policies present a clear terrorism threat are frustrated that we weren't listened to in the first place - that it took the deaths of 4,000 of our fellow citizens to bring action on a few of the many problems associated with mass immigration," the group says. And as Washington scrambles to fix its myriad immigration-related problems, ProjectUSA offers these reminders and warnings: -- Mass immigration is responsible for 100 percent of U.S. population growth - "a growth rate higher than that of China's." -- Importation of a cheap-labor underclass during economic expansion risks severe social upheaval during economic contraction. ("A country should do its own work," the group says.) -- Mass immigration on the scale the United States is now experiencing increases the likelihood of serious ethnic conflict and political Balkanization. PASS THE SALT Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri are being condemned for visiting Mexico this past weekend and conveying to Mexican President Vicente Fox their intentions to "legalize" the status of nearly 4 million illegal Mexican workers in the United States. Scott A. Lauf, executive director of, a nonpartisan immigration, foreign policy and trade group, says it is "frightening to see that the Democratic leaders of Congress have not learned the tragic lessons of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks." "Terrorists abused our weak immigration laws and open-borders policies to secure visas to enter America to kill Americans," he explains. "At a time when national security and border control should be the nation's top priorities, Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Daschle are having a little fiesta in Mexico and giving the green light for more illegal aliens to sneak across the border. Is this their idea of homeland security and an economic-stimulus package? "They must have drank too many margaritas," says Lauf. Among other measures, the immigration group is urging Congress to create a new U.S. border-security agency and a new entry-exit system to track foreign visitors, students and workers. It also wants U.S. troops placed on the nation's borders to supplement the U.S. Border Patrol and all illegal aliens currently in the United States aggressively tracked down and deported.