McCaslin's Beltway Beat: Bullfeathers

Posted: Feb 15, 2002 12:00 AM
A Roosevelt, a Rockefeller and an Eisenhower appeared on Capitol Hill this week to oppose oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Speaking on behalf of their ancestors were Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt IV, chairman of the League of Conservation Voters; Larry Rockefeller, founder of Americans for Alaska; and Susan Eisenhower, president of the Eisenhower Institute. "Not only did Teddy Roosevelt establish five national parks and set aside vast pristine areas as nature preserves," noted Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a rare Republican who opposes President Bush's proposal to tap ANWR, "but he also left us a conservation ethic." Not entirely so, says James Pruitt, professor of history at the University of Maryland University College, who tells this column that some in the ANWR debate, including the Wilderness Society and now Collins, have their role models mixed up. "They must be confusing T.R. with John Muir," the professor says. "Muir was a strict preservationist who believed that nature had to be preserved in a pristine state untouched by man. Roosevelt on the other hand was a conservationist." Roosevelt, Pruitt explains, "worked to find a way of using America's natural resources for the benefit of Americans while, at the same time, working to conserve them for future generations. Roosevelt believed that the two goals were not incompatible, but indeed complementary. Roosevelt declared large tracts of wilderness as nature preserves to protect them from clear cutting, but he also had no problem building dams to harness the rivers of the West to provide irrigation for farmers. "If we can drill in ANWR without destroying the environment, as I believe we can, T.R. would be the first one calling for it," he says. ARMING DEMOCRATS Could it be that Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, outspoken leader of gun-control legislation and frequent critic of the National Rifle Association, is hosting a pheasant shoot? "Please join us for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairmen's Council Pheasant Shoot with the Honorable John D. Dingell at Whistling Hill, Boonsboro, Md., Monday March 11," reads the invitation bearing Lowey's name. "Dogs, guides and 12- and 20-gauge shells will be provided. All participants are expected to provide their own shotguns." But wait, what about Democratic Party faithful who don't own shotguns? Not to worry, says Lowey; the DCCC's Nicole Mizirl is making arrangements to arm the gunless Democrats. Just be sure to "please bring your $2,000 registration fee to the event or have it sent to the DCCC no later than March 8th." Is this legal? "It is imperative that you obtain a hunting license," says the DCCC chairman, "purchased at any sporting-goods store, including Dick's Sporting Goods or Wal-Mart." What Lowey failed to mention in the invitation, I'm told, is that Maryland requires all hunters to complete a state-certified hunter-safety education course. Unfortunately for the Democratic hunters, very few hunter-safety courses are given this time of year in Maryland. DEMS WITH GUNS Contrary to popular belief, not all liberals view the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, as outdated - not even the dean of House Democrats, every liberal's liberal, Rep. John D. Dingell. "Like Martin Luther, who said he didn't think the devil ought to have all the good music, I say that criminals ought not to have all the guns," the senior Michigan Democrat once observed. In fact, when a Republican of all people - Rep. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois - tried in 1999 to impose a 72-hour criminal background check at gun shows, it was Dingell who cried fowl, er, foul. The Democrat not only argued that 24 hours was sufficient time to sniff out a criminal, he enlisted other leading Democratic congressmen - Robert E. "Bud" Cramer of Alabama, Charles W. Stenholm of Texas, Chris John of Louisiana, James L. Oberstar of Minnesota and John Tanner of Tennessee - to sign a letter stating that the three-day waiting period proposed by the Republican violated law-abiding citizens' "Second Amendment Rights." It so happened that toward the end of President Clinton's second term, Dingell had almost single-handedly killed whatever chances Clinton and his own Democratic Party had at passing broader gun control. That came as no surprise to Clinton. After all, it was a bitterly cold morning in 1993, shortly after arriving in Washington from Arkansas, that two Democrats handed Clinton a hunting license, earplugs and a semiautomatic shotgun and took him duck hunting on Maryland's Slaughter Creek. One was Rep. Bill Brewster of Oklahoma, who after leaving Congress became a NRA board member. The other was Dingell. 'A' LIST Waging war against terrorists doesn't stop Washington's most powerful players from pausing for refreshment. And chances are this year that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will be the life of the party. This column has stolen a peek at "The 2002 Washington A List," published every year by Washington Life magazine. Each year, the list of 60 or so power couples, compiled in secret committee, welcomes some new faces and bids adieu to some familiar others. Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce, for the first time have made the A list - thanks, in large measure, to Osama bin Laden and his gang of thugs, who not only elevated the popular Pentagon chief into the limelight, but also exposed his charming chutzpah. Other newcomers: Her Majesty Queen Noor al Hussein of Jordan, who has been spending more time in Washington that Cindy and John McCain (who remain on the list), Supreme Court Justice and Mrs. Stephen G. Breyer, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Koppel, Sen. and Mrs. John Edwards, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul. Most noticeably scratched off the list? EPA Administrator Christie Whitman; Sens. Fred Thompson, John W. Warner and Dianne Feinstein; and former senatorial powerbrokers Howard H. Baker and his wife, Nancy Landon Kassebaum. "Last year, with the election dragging on, the selection committee could only surmise who would be important in the new (Bush) administration," Washington Life Editor in Chief Nancy Bagley tells this column. "Some were thought to have a more important role than it turns out they have. "But then again, they could easily be back next year," she says.