Beltway Beat: Greetings from Beaufort

John McCaslin
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Posted: Mar 27, 2002 12:00 AM
Washington political observer Marc Beauchamp is spending his spring break in Beaufort, S.C. "Yesterday, I took a horse-drawn carriage through the charming historic neighborhood that moviegoers will recognize from 'The Big Chill,' 'The Great Santini' and 'Prince of Tides,'" he writes. "During the filming of the latter, Barbra Streisand apparently didn't endear herself to the locals. "She rented one of the historic homes and promptly erected a 10-foot-high black fence, to deter the curious. Then, according to my carriage driver, around (6 a.m.) one morning she was awakened by the sounds of jets flying overhead from the nearby Marine air station (this being during the Gulf War). "According to my guide ... Streisand then complained by phone to the local commanding officer and told him she didn't want it to happen again. He reportedly responded, 'I'll see what I can do about it.' The next morning the jets roared over at 5 a.m." FOREIGN LOOT Familiar faces of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln won't adorn all the new currency set to roll out of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. That's because Uncle Sam's official moneymaker was given the go-ahead by Congress to produce currency, postage stamps, and other security documents for foreign governments (taxpayers will be reimbursed for the full cost of the production). The idea is twofold: to provide foreign governments with cutting-edge, anti-counterfeiting, stable currency systems, while helping facilitate international commerce. FUNERAL INQUIRY As Rep. Mark Foley sees it, the federal government regulates bank accounts and all manner of other businesses that move money, goods and services interstate. So why should today's funeral industry be the exception "when the burial of a loved one is every bit as important?" asks the Florida Republican, the first legislator to call for a federal inquiry into recent cases of fraud and desecration at crematoriums and cemeteries. Foley has asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to examine federal laws to see if any were violated in the most recent cases, the most prominent being in Georgia and in his own Florida district, where multiple Jewish cemeteries were recently desecrated. In addition, the General Accounting Office , the investigative arm of the legislative branch, has accepted Foley's request to conduct its own investigation. "Although I'm the last lawmaker to suggest that Washington solve all problems," says Foley, "I cannot sit back and watch families from all across the country continue to suffer needlessly. This atrocity must end now." LONGING FOR HIPPIES If U.S. troops are waging war, it's only a matter of time before protesters march on Washington. But talk about a new breed of protesters ... . The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition has scheduled an April 20 protest "to present a vision of a world truly free of terrorism - one in which peace and the needs of people and the planet are given top priority." Participants include the Communist Party USA, International Socialist Organization, Young Communist League, Young Democratic Socialists, Young People's Socialist League, Atheists for Justice and Peace in Palestine, and last, but not least, Queers for Racial & Economic Justice. WAR DEBATE Another salvo has been launched in the ongoing letter-writing battle between the Republican assistant majority whip and the Democrat at-large whip. Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia got things rolling by asking colleagues to put politics aside and support President Bush in the U.S. war on terrorism. Rep. Tom Allen of Maine countered that Barr never fully supported President Clinton's military skirmishes. Barr fired back that Clinton's last demonstration of "force" coincided with his impeachment. Allen's response? "I resent the implication that ... the deployment of U.S. troops is somehow divisive and partisan. Public support for the war on terrorism will be enhanced and extended ... [only with] a full airing and discussion of the commander-in-chief's views on the goals, conduct, progress, and exit strategy of the war. Stifling debate will undermine our common goal." GOOD OL' DAYS This column's belated tribute to the late Mike Mansfield evoked many personal and professional memories of the Senate majority leader's honesty and integrity. Don Larrabee, a retired newspaperman living in Bethesda, Md., recalls when Mansfield "saved my life and the integrity of my news bureau through a generous act of courtesy." Larrabee was Capitol Hill bureau chief for various regional newspapers, most of them in New England, "and spent every day in the Senate Press Gallery, where you got to know the principal characters fairly well." "Those were the days," he says, "when the postmastership was the most important federal job in town. The president made the appointment, the Senate had to confirm, and the story was front-page news back in Worcester or New Bedford, Mass., or Bangor, Maine." Near the close of one congressional session, a long list of local postmasters awaited Senate action, and when the superintendent's logbook recorded the nominees as "confirmed," Larrabee dashed to his typewriter and wrote separate "headline" stories for no less than a dozen newspapers. "The Western Union office had finished dispatching the pieces," he recalls, "when the superintendent announced over the loudspeaker that a mistake had been made. The floor leader, Senator Mansfield, had withdrawn the motion almost as soon as he had made it. I was in the embarrassing position of having reported (inaccurate stories) to my evening papers." Larrabee ran downstairs and sent word for Mansfield via a doorkeeper. "The senator was surprisingly prompt, and I told him my dilemma," he says. "He explained that the chairman of the Senate Post Office Committee, Olin Johnston of South Carolina, as a courtesy, needed to be notified when the postmaster list was being called up for action. Mansfield said he ... was still trying to locate the chairman, to no avail. I understood his problem and I hoped he understood mine. "I made my way back to the Senate Press Gallery and took a seat in the front row with my eyes glued on the Senate floor. Senator Mansfield was slow to return from the cloakroom, but when he did, he glanced toward the press gallery, caught my eye and gave me an 'OK' sign with his fingers. My reputation had been saved." OLD ENVIRONMENTALISM Robert Redford's fascination with politics didn't go unnoticed during a tribute to the actor at the 74th Academy Awards on Sunday night. In fact, Redford might have given the most incredible performance of his career when narrating radio ads last week for the Natural Resources Defense Council, claiming that higher government fuel-economy standards means "safer" cars. "For the NRDC and Mr. Redford to claim that more stringent fuel-economy standards would increase vehicle safety is absolutely ridiculous," says Sam Kazman, the nonpartisan Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) general counsel and fuel-economy expert. The ad campaign aired during last week's Senate debate over whether to raise fuel-economy standards. The CEI countered with a full-page ad in the Orem Times, the closest newspaper to Redford's Utah ranch. If that's not enough of Redford for one week, Washington bureaucrats at the Department of Energy were not only treated to a special screening of the PBS film "In the Light of Reverence," they were lured to last week's matinee with this quote from Redford: "This beautifully crafted film is a wake-up call for everyone who cares about the environment and human rights." Says one Energy official who sent us Uncle Sam's movie flyer: "Hard to believe that it is the Bush Department of Energy that is showing its employees a PBS film and touting it with a quote from left-wing shill Robert Redford. One wonders how the film's sponsor, DOE's Office of Public Accountability, will account to the public for the use of taxpayer resources and federal employees' time for such a purpose."