Grieving Park

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 21, 2002 12:00 AM
Before leaving on their summer vacation, Congress agreed that it would be appropriate that the Pennsylvania crash site of Flight 93 be designated a unit of the National Park System. Now, we're told, a 15-member commission is being empaneled and given three years to enact the planning, design, construction and long-term management of a permanent memorial at the Flight 93 site. IMPROBABLY COOL We see where Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has shown up on yet another "cool dude" list: in the latest issue of AARP's (American Association of Retired Persons) magazine, Modern Maturity, in a feature titled "The Seven Faces of Elder Cool." In some cases, "quasi-cool can arrive due to shifting cultural forces, and yesterday's fuddy-duddy may wake up to discover that he is considered a pillar of stolidity," says the AARP story, identifying Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, actors Sean Connery and William Shatner, country music legend Johnny Cash, comedian George Carlin and longtime news anchor Walter Cronkite among examples of "elder cool." "Last year's terrorist attacks brought about one of these sea changes, the most striking evidence being the improbable ascendancy of Donald Rumsfeld, the no-guff 70-year-old secretary of defense," to the status of rock-style celebrity "complete with Internet fan clubs and a multigenerational following," says the article. "In a national crisis, hopeless squares like Rumsfeld and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani morph into squinty icons of American resolve." Others Washingtonians qualifying as "elder cool": Secretary of State Colin Powell, former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn and last but not least, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain (the latter qualifies because of his status as a "perpetual outsider"). ONE MAN'S OBSESSION It was more than four years ago, Feb. 6, 1998, that President Clinton - a Democrat if there ever was one - signed Public Law 105-154, renaming National Airport "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport." But one Democrat in particular, Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia, was outraged. In fact, Moran, whose congressional district encompasses the airport, declared that if Democrats ever regain control of Congress while he's still a member - his own party gives him two more years - he'll introduce legislation to remove "Ronald Reagan" from the name. In the meantime, the Virginia Democrat is simply ignoring Reagan's existence. "In his current newsletter to constituents, Jim Moran of Alexandria mentions his support for 'National Airport' three times instead of calling it by its real name: The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport," observes Robert Carleson, Ronald Reagan's welfare director in California who went on to become U.S. welfare commissioner. Yet in the same newsletter, Carleson notes, Moran doesn't have a problem referring to the "Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge," the "George Washington Memorial Parkway," or even the "Jefferson Davis Route 1 Corridor." Says Carleson: "This petty politics should make all of us who truly respect an ailing Ronald Reagan disgusted." NICE TRY, BILL Speaking of taking down what's gone up, a Georgia town has removed religious symbols from its city hall in an attempt to settle a lawsuit brought by the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State and soldiers for the American Civil Liberties Union. Not only did the Ringgold City Council last week take down framed copies of the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, but it also removed an empty frame. You mean nothing was in it? The empty frame was included in the display, advised Ringgold council member Bill McMillon, "for those who believe in nothing," and anybody who takes issue with the display of the Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer "can go stand in front of it and believe anything they want to." PREFERRING VIRGINIA Virginia leads all 50 states with the fastest growing Middle Eastern immigrant population. So reports the Center for Immigration Studies, which in the aftermath of Sept. 11 has been studying the integration of Middle Easterners into American society. The center finds that California has the largest Middle Eastern immigrant population, with nearly 400,000. Still, of states with the most Middle Eastern immigrants, Virginia has the fastest growing population, followed by Texas, Michigan and New York. Among the other findings: -- Middle Easterners are one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in America. The number of immigrants, legal and illegal, from the Middle East has grown more than sevenfold, from fewer than 200,000 in 1970 to nearly 1.5 million in 2000. (The Immigration and Naturalization Service last estimated that 150,000 - or about 10 percent - of Middle Eastern immigrants are illegal aliens. Preliminary Census Bureau estimates show a similar number.) -- Assuming no change in U.S. immigration policy, 1.1 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) from the Middle East are projected to settle in the United States by 2010, and the total Middle Eastern immigrant population will grow to about 2.5 million. -- By 2000, an estimated 73 percent (1.1 million) of all Middle Eastern immigrants were Muslim. -- Interest in coming to America remains very strong in the Middle East even after September 11. In October 2001, the State Department received approximately 1.5 million applications from the Middle East (not including Pakistan) for the visa lottery, a program which awards 50,000 green cards each year to randomly selected applicants. COWBOY LOGIC "If people want to die hijacking planes, it makes sense to this old cowboy that they die before they get the job done." -- Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), saying he has never encountered a door that couldn't be opened or a pilot who has ever seen an air marshal, which is why, in his opinion, commercial airline pilots should carry firearms in the cockpit. A CUT ABOVE The world continues in awe of the sudden warrior prowess of Bill Clinton, who vowed in a speech in Jerusalem last month that if "Iraq came across the Jordan River, I would grab a rifle and get in a trench and fight and die." This particularly thrilled his Jewish audience, but the Arkansas Democrat Gazette adds a revealing postscript. Jim Kennedy, one of Clinton's spokesmen - when you get $250,000 for a speech, you need more than one spokesman - told the Little Rock newspaper that he could confirm the quotation, but he "does dispute that the ex-president ever said, 'I would do anything for Israel except get a circumcision.'" Lovers, like warriors, have got to stay in fighting trim.