Failing again

Posted: Oct 30, 2002 12:00 AM
A new Gallup poll finds that 54 percent of Americans are "angry about something." The immigration-watchdog group Project USA is surprised it's not 100 percent. "Every American should be furious with the revelation that Lee Malvo, one of the accused Beltway snipers, is an illegal alien who was released earlier this year by the Immigration and Naturalization Service instead of being deported as the law demands," it says. "It is the latest in a long list of examples of the INS releasing illegal aliens into our midst with lethal results." Instead of casting full blame on the INS, however, the group says the real object of public condemnation should be the Bush administration. It charges that the White House has a "slipshod and passive approach to immigration," and has failed to take the vigorous steps necessary to enforce existing immigration law. As for Democrats? "To be honest, Democrats are no better. The Democratic Party remains as deaf to the wishes of the American public as the Republicans are," the group notes. A Worldviews 2002 survey shows 70 percent of Americans believe that controlling and reducing illegal immigration should be a very important goal of U.S. foreign policy. NOT YOUR MONEY Following a difficult but careful selection process, here's what we consider to be the most appropriate design for the tails side of the forthcoming Washington, D.C., commemorative quarter. Congratulations to Elliot Barber, of Bedford, Mass., one of hundreds of readers (from as far away as Eastern Europe) to submit their choice of designs for the minting of the D.C. quarter, all of which can now be forwarded to Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill for consideration. Suggests Barber: "Instead of a picture on the tails side, a simple inscription would do: 'If found, please return to the IRS.'" LAST DANCE The Beltway Beat will never be the same without Sen. Paul Wellstone. "Who is this (expletive)?" President Bush inquired during a 1991 reception-turned-grilling with newly elected members of Congress - the first day Wellstone, the outspoken Minnesota Democrat who tragically died Friday in a plane crash, captured our attention, too. In fact, apart from his good friend Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the energetic Wellstone was probably the most oft-quoted liberal in this space, mainly because he was always so eager and willing to talk. He was a sincere guy to boot. Take the time he showed up to bid farewell to Sen. Howell Heflin, the plain-spoken Alabama Democrat and former judge who retired from Capitol Hill in 1996. "He is somebody I look up to, not just because I am 5-foot-5½," an emotional Wellstone began, suddenly for once at a loss for words. "Judge, I am going to really miss you; I might cry, so I am leaving." And he left. We had to laugh last year when the senator spoke out against nonprofit corporations created solely to promote political candidates, which he said often operated outside the law with impunity. "Take, for example, the organization Republicans for Clean Air," Wellstone said. "Despite its innocuous name, this was an organization created for the sole purpose of promoting the candidacy of George W. Bush during the last primary election." Before long, Wellstone pointed out, "you are going to have a proliferation of these organizations: Republicans For Clean Air, Democrats For Clean Air, People Who Do Not Like Any Party For Clean Air, Liberals For Clean Air, Conservatives For Clean Air, Citizens For Dirty Air." And the Democrat made no secret of his lack of support for Al Gore during the 2000 presidential election. In fact, he was one of only two senators to throw his full support behind former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley's candidacy for president. Wellstone had formed the Wellstone Presidential Exploratory Committee, which told him that Bradley stood a better chance of defeating Gore in the Democratic primary. "American politics has wandered far off course," Wellstone said of his desire to challenge Gore two years ago. "Bold new national leadership is urgently needed, and it's nowhere in sight." In another interview with this column, the Minnesota senator dismissed this country's infatuation with punditry and political polling, stressing that a candidate's personal "chemistry" with his constituency - as he himself was reminded in recent days during the final leg of his uphill re-election campaign - often outweighs a pollster's prediction. "Thank God, there's still some mystery to politics," he told us, "beyond all this 'scientific' stuff with polls." Then there was the time Wellstone was embroiled in debate over the Congressional Gift Reform Act, discussing all the "freebies" lobbyists like to lay on members of Congress, especially tickets to Washington Redskins football games. Except that the senator, who grew up across the Potomac River in Arlington, Va., couldn't bring himself to say "Redskins," in deference to those who consider the name racist. Rather, he referred to the "Washington team game." Just last year, we reviewed Wellstone's new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal" (he borrowed the book title - and for good reason, we read - from the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who wrote "The Conscience of a Conservative"). "The people I admire most are those who have the courage of their convictions," Wellstone explained. "When I attended Barry Goldwater's funeral service, I think many Republicans were surprised. Only a few Democrats went. They enjoyed giving me a rough time. "They even gave me Goldwater's 'The Conscience of a Conservative' to read on the plane. 'Paul,' they said, 'read this. We read this book at young ages, and it set us on the right path. We still have some hope for you.' "I explained that I had read the book at a young age," he said. "That's why I'm a liberal." TRUTH TAPE The next Presidents' Day weekend will feature more than shopping discounts. Former top advisers to Presidents Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson will gather at the JFK Library in Boston to weigh the importance of secretly recorded White House tapes, not just of their bosses, but Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The practice of secretly recording conversations and meetings in the White House began in 1940 with Roosevelt, who wanted to ensure that he was accurately quoted by reporters during press conferences. The recordings stopped with Nixon in 1974. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, the hours of tapes include eight for FDR; hundreds for Messrs. Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson; and thousands for Nixon. Among others, former Nixon aide John Dean will discuss how and when he learned about the infamous Watergate tapes, while former first daughter Lynda Johnson Robb will reveal the decision to release her father's tapes. VIOLENT ANIMALS? More turmoil for the already-confused voters of Florida, which faces an election amendment to the state constitution that would make it illegal to confine a pregnant pig in a gestation crate. "It is part of a national effort to push ballot issues that will deter large-scale pig farms from moving into certain states, grant human rights to animals, etc.," explains Mike Burita, communications director for the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington. Which is all fine and dandy for pig lovers. Except that the Florida Elections Commission has just unanimously voted to charge Farm Sanctuary, a national animal-rights groups, with no fewer than 210 counts of breaking campaign-finance laws. The group, according to Burita, is being investigated for illegally accepting donations from Floridians on behalf of Florida's Amendment 10 campaign and promising donors that their contributions were tax deductible. To date, Farm Sanctuary has contributed almost $466,000 to Floridians for Humane Farms, the official Amendment 10 committee. "The 210 counts are just the tip of the iceberg as they are limited only to Florida," Burita says. "Farm Sanctuary has been soliciting donations nationwide for this campaign for well over a year now." "It's despicable, but not surprising," adds David Martosko, director of research at the consumer-watchdog center, "that these zealots would think the law doesn't apply to them. After all, Farm Sanctuary has a long history of supporting unlawful activity."