Retirement years

Posted: Oct 04, 2002 12:00 AM
This columnist has returned from a much-needed vacation, spent geographically as far away as possible from Washington's never-ending dose of political shenanigans. This required a long journey to the southern tip of the African continent, where I found shelter, but not seclusion, at the Cape Grace, a small luxury hotel in the charming city of Cape Town, South Africa. "Nobody will ever find me here," I remarked to a young woman riding the hotel's elevator. "Where are you from?" she asked. "Washington, D.C." "Oh, are you with Bill Clinton?" she whispered. "Do you mean politically speaking?" "No, are you with his group?" she asked. "Meaning am I a Democrat?" "No, no," she giggled. "You didn't hear it from me, but Bill Clinton is arriving at the hotel tonight. I'm told that he and his group have reserved 34 rooms." "Good grief, who's coming with him?" "One is Kevin Spacey, the Hollywood actor," she said. "Plus several others." "Obviously," I said, and quickly jotted down my room number should this mystery lady learn anything else of intrigue. Knowing that my editor back in Washington would never forgive me if I didn't at least attempt to interview the nation's most-colorful-of-all presidents, I submitted a request in writing and left it with the front desk, which neither confirmed nor denied his pending arrival. Sure enough, just a short time later Clinton and his impressive entourage (the only person former President Gerald Ford has in tow is his golf caddy) pulled up to the Cape Grace, and just as quickly departed for dinner. When the former president had not returned to the hotel by midnight I closed my shutters and gladly retired for the night. Or so I thought. At precisely 1:38 a.m., the telephone rang. "Mr. Clinton has just arrived in the lobby if you care to come down." It was the mystery woman, whispering again. "How do you know?" "I'm here looking at him," she said. Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I tried to explain that it was awfully late. "What's he doing?" I asked. "He's meeting and greeting people," she said. "He's just finished speaking to two attractive young ladies standing just inside the door, and then what appears to be a married couple. I don't recognize the woman he's speaking to right now, but oddly enough, he's resting his head on her shoulder." VAST CONSPIRACY We're pleased to report that Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney (D-Ga.) is coming to terms with her agonizing defeat in the recent Democratic primary. "I am beginning to get over the disappointment that I will no longer be able to serve the people of Georgia in the next Congress," says McKinney. "However, there were some alarming things about the campaign to defeat me that I think my colleagues of both parties should look out for." Such as? "I am not talking about the Republicans who crossed over to vote for my opponent," she continues, "but the heavy involvement of Indians in the primary." Georgia Indians? "Earlier this year, I was one of 42 members of Congress who wrote to President Bush to urge the release of Sikh and other political prisoners in India," the congresswoman explains. "Apparently this irritated the Indians because they invested heavily in the effort to defeat me." So you're saying that no less than 41 other members of Congress are currently in danger? "To my colleagues of both parties who have also been involved in the effort to expose India's brutal record, I say watch out: They are coming after you, too." NOT PROUD ENOUGH The tragic events of Sept. 11 may have helped boost patriotic fervor, but that did not carry over into political participation. The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate says heightened voter interest in the recent hotly contested statewide primaries, not patriotism, narrowly prevented national voter turnout this season from falling to new record lows. "But the 0.2 percentage point increase (in primary voting) this year seems hardly a cause for rejoicing," said Curtis Gans, director of the committee that finds: -- Seventeen states documented record low turnouts for midterm primaries. No state demonstrated a record high. -- Average turnout for Democratic primaries was 9.1 percent of the voting population; average turnout for Republican primaries was 7.7 percent. -- Average turnout in the 37 states that had statewide primaries was about 51 percent below the 34 percent that voted in the 1966 midterm primaries. Four states - Nevada, Minnesota, Texas and Vermont - had turnout levels this year that were more than 60 percent lower than their highs in the mid-1960s.