Beltway Beat: Sorry, Bill

Posted: Apr 24, 2002 12:00 AM
Every time we write something nice about Bill Clinton, the telephone rings. Last week, we made the mistake of applauding his musical skills. "Mr. Clinton is not, and never has been, an 'accomplished' musician," says reader Bill Lloyd, a retired member of the U.S. Army Band (1948-50) and longtime musical instructor. "He's a musical hack and a political hack. In bands, there are first alto saxes, second alto saxes, tenor sax and baritone sax. No such thing as first-chair tenor sax. (Sorry, Bill, but that's where Bubba told us he was sitting.) "When JFK ran for president in 1960, Mort Sahl quipped, 'Do we really want a president who drives a car with twin pipes?' When Clinton ran for president, I quipped: Do we really want a president who is a 'shades-wearing' rock-and-roll saxophone player?" ROLE FOR BUBBA You probably heard that former Clinton wants to help broker peace in the Middle East, a role that political satirist Mark Russell proposed several weeks ago: "I see Bubba standing in front of (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat's bombed-out headquarters saying, 'Hey, little buddy, I feel your pain.' Clinton moves in with Arafat and the Israelis pull back as a diplomatic gesture to a senator's husband." SMILE AND SAY OSAMA Is that a camera in that tourist's hand, or could it be something sinister? And what's really being carried in that student's backpack? First, the tourists: In 1999, the most recent year for which the Immigration and Naturalization Service has statistics, 23 million tourists from 28 countries entered the United States on the visa waiver program. "No visas, little scrutiny, no knowledge where they go in the United States or whether they leave," says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., one of the most outspoken and concerned lawmakers on Capitol Hill when it comes to the issue of our open borders and national security. Another startling fact Feinstein draws our attention to is the more than 100,000 blank passports stolen in recent years from government offices of participating countries in the U.S. visa waiver program. "Passports from visa waiver countries are often the document of choice for terrorists," the senator says, and they sell for as much as $7,500 (per visa) on the black market. Finally, and something that has particularly alarmed lawmakers on Capitol Hill since Sept. 11, are the more than a half-million foreign nationals who enter the United States every year with student visas. In the fall of 2001 alone, during the same months that terrorists were striking this nation, 660,000 foreign students entered the United States. "That is just last fall," Feinstein reminds us. As for the past decade, INS statistics reveal, 16,000 foreign nationals carrying student visas arrived from such terrorist-supporting states as Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Syria (how many of these students decided to remain in the country illegally is anybody's guess). "The foreign student visa system is one of the most under-regulated systems we have today," says Feinstein. "It has become all too clear that without an adequate tracking system, our country becomes a sieve - which is what it is today - creating ample opportunities for terrorists to enter and establish their operations without detection." FIGHTING FOR A VOTE D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington's nonvoting delegate in the House, is drawing attention to a relatively unknown list in her tireless quest for voting rights in Congress: the city's war toll. "Even more than our taxes," says Norton, "our contributions in sacrifices by the men and women in the District who have fought and died for their country, tell a unique story: In World War I, more D.C. casualties than three states; in World War II, more D.C. casualties than four states; in Vietnam, more D.C. casualties than 10 states." RAGIN' TIGER American television viewers can, if they wish, see a whole lot more of Clinton chum James Carville now that he has been hired by CNN to counter what conservatives such as his wife, Bush White House adviser Mary Matalin, have to say. There's just one problem, says fellow Louisianan Cara Lege: "James Carville gives us real 'Ragin' Cajuns' a bad name, and I am outraged that he claims to be one. Only students of, and graduates of, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette are Ragin' Cajuns. I continue to fume each time I see his name associated with us." For the record, Carville graduated from Louisiana State University, home of the Tigers. CASTING CALL The American Fly Fishing Association and the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation are inviting members of Congress, their staffs and key Bush administration officials to participate in the annual Congressional Casting Call. Except no scripts are required. Scheduled for dawn next Monday (April 29), during the height of the American shad run along the Potomac, members of Congress are paired with guides and rowed out to choice fishing spots where they can catch - and release - hickory chad, American shad, white perch, catfish, smallmouth bass and striped bass. Members who miss the early-morning departure from Washington's Fletcher's Boat House can take part in a two-hour casting clinic on the grounds of the Capitol that afternoon. The goal of the events is to show how legislation surrounding the conservation of America's fisheries can lead to increased recreation. RICE FOR BRAINS Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of the Polling Company in Washington, is still shaking her head over the results of her new poll showing the nation is vastly unaware of who - or even how many - justices sit on the United States Supreme Court. Nearly two-thirds of 800 Americans polled could not name a single member of the current court and just 32 percent knew that there are nine justices. Only five persons in the entire survey could name all nine. In contrast, a whopping majority - 75 percent - knew there are three Rice Krispies characters and 66 percent proudly cited their names: Snap, Crackle and Pop. "While pundits left and right breathlessly claim that 'Americans are gravely concerned' about the composition and opinions of the Supreme Court, one might expect some fundamental knowledge among the masses," Conway says. "Sure, Kellogg's spends more in advertising than the court, but no one runs around proclaiming (apparently unknowingly) that Snap, Crackle and Pop are threatening their right to choose or steal elections." Sandra Day O'Connor was the most frequently cited justice by both men and women (27 percent and 22 percent respectively), while the total name recall for Justices Stephen Breyer (3 percent) and John Paul Stevens (2 percent) was lower than the poll's margin of error. Blacks were more likely to remember Clarence Thomas (26 percent) than other justices, but were no more likely to offer his name than whites or Hispanics. And if you thought we government junkies here in the East are more likely to know the makeup of the nation's highest court, think again. Americans in the Mountain and Pacific regions were more likely to know the correct number of justices (39 percent and 37 percent respectively). The nine justices are: Sandra Day O'Connor, Clarence Thomas, William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Stephen G. Breyer, and John Paul Stevens.