Cyber Stumping

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 16, 2002 12:00 AM
Once upon a time, a political candidate had to stump from the back of a caboose. In this day and age, politicians are increasingly reaching voters online, according to the George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet. "We expect that in the 2002 election over 90 percent of major-party candidates will have Web sites, up from 69 percent in 2000," says institute director Carol C. Darr. And for good reason. By the end of 2001, more than 72 percent of Americans, or some 200 million of us, were online. Moreover, the "endless space on the Internet presents a marvelous opportunity for candidates who wish to explain their positions in full," while voters "can zoom to online oases whenever they choose." IT'S SOUP Oh, the gumbo we ladle in life. Word this week is that Martha Stewart's lawyers in June "stunned" a House congressional panel by asking its members and chairman, Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, to issue a statement supporting her. "We were stunned" by Stewart's request, said Ken Johnson, spokesman for Tauzin and his House Energy and Commerce Committee. And for good reason. You see, the investigative subcommittee beneath Mr. Tauzin could wind up subpoenaing the celebrity homemaker later this month to determine whether she engaged in insider trading by selling nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems stock just hours before its value plunged. All of which puts Tauzin and Stewart in the stew, so to speak. You see, barely a month before the domestic tycoon's attorneys asked the committee "to issue a statement in effect clearing her," the tough-guy Republican chairman and Stewart donned aprons together on national television. Not that we're insinuating a conflict of interest here, or that Stewart was trying to butter up the powerful chairman. "That show first aired several months ago," Tauzin's spokesman, Ken Johnson, informed this column in May. "I guess you could say that like Mary Tyler Moore, Billy continues to be popular in reruns." In this particular Martha Stewart segment, the congressman was sharing his personal recipes for barbecue shrimp and Louisiana gumbo. "Gumbo is like politics," Tauzin explained. "You throw everything into a pot, stir it up, then see how long it takes to bubble." We'd say it's bubbling, sir. Stewart has been given until Aug. 20 to hand over the information requested by the committee. If she fails to do so, Johnson says she will be ordered to appear in person on Capitol Hill - clad in her apron, if need be. RIGHT OF PROTECTION The congressman who co-sponsored legislation dismantling the Immigration and Naturalization Service says the Justice Department's plan to register foreign nationals from terrorism hotbeds starting Sept. 11 is a good first step, but it doesn't go far enough. He wants foreigners fingerprinted first. Attorney General John Ashcroft is being urged by Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) to require an expanded registration overseas when foreigners first apply for visas, including fingerprints and photographs of every applicant. "Expanding our current policy is a step in the right direction," says Foley. "But registration must begin before suspected terrorists reach our shores. Entrance into the United States is not a guaranteed right." FORE! Reserving tee times at Washington area golf courses could be more of a challenge in the not-so-distant future, given a "looming wave" of retirements from the federal work force. Well over half of the current federal work force may be eligible to retire within the next five years, including more than 70 percent of senior government managers, reveals Bethany Hardy, press secretary at the Partnership for Public Service, an organization committed to recruiting and retaining bright and talented people in the U.S. government. And don't count on the much-touted renewed sense of public duty since Sept. 11 to attract potential bureaucrats to Uncle Sam's employment lines. "Even after the September 11 tragedies, the federal government is seldom viewed as the employer of choice for the best of our country's labor pool," says the partnership, pointing to a nationwide poll it commissioned finding that private-sector jobs remain significantly more attractive to college graduates seeking challenging work and financial reward. The good news is that other polls have indicated more and more recent graduates remain interested in contributing to their society and community in some capacity, if not on the federal payroll. INSIDE INFORMATION The hard-drinking, chain-smoking, two-fisted newspaperman of legend is pretty much gone with the wind, and a White House correspondent today is more likely to be looking for a salad bar than scouting out a bar where he can get an honest shot of bourbon. But there's still the remembrance of some things past. Sex, sort of, was at the bottom of a breathless gossip item in The Washington Post on Tuesday, reporting how Joe Curl, a White House correspondent for The Washington Times, was scolded by the president of the correspondents' association for taking liberties with the pool report. The pool report is the account given to the other reporters by the reporter who rides as their surrogate in Air Force One. Often he never sees the president, but his job is to tell the other guys what goes on inside the president's plane. Some pool reports are more boring than others. What got Joe a scolding was a written aside, a play on an Austin Powers joke, that President Bush would bomb Iraq if Saddam Hussein didn't pony up a million dollars. He added, prominently: "Not!" But what some of the guys are really smoked about is that in an earlier pool report, Curl had a little fun reporting, accurately, that reporters, the president's staff and the Secret Service bodyguards had spent the flight watching an R-rated movie with the "fully naked female displaying her full nudity (in a frontal manner)." Shortly afterward, the fully frontal flicks were removed from the Air Force One video library. Somebody really knows how to hurt the guys. That's why reporters sometimes guard information as if it were classified, and are horrified at a certain kind of leak. Old Asia hands still talk about the time that Time magazine did a two-page spread on "the girls of Peitou," a village near Taipei celebrated for its bordellos, which were particularly plentiful, elegant, welcoming, always open and always worth a stopover between Tokyo and Hong Kong. As soon as the magazine appeared the government closed Peitou, and the offending correspondent was never forgiven.