Al meets Chad

Posted: Dec 11, 2002 12:00 AM
Al and Tipper Gore's new book, "Joined at the Heart," is described as personal and provocative. "We started dreaming of having a family soon after we met, 37 years ago," writes the couple, who, unlike predecessors Dan and Marilyn Quayle, refuse to retire in defeat. "We were just teenagers then," the Gores continue in their book, "and unlike most high school sweethearts these days, we somehow grew together instead of apart." In fact, the "sweethearts" appeared together over the weekend at a Washington-area book store to sign copies of their tome. "One man and his friend stopped to show us Al's and Tipper's signatures in his book," one gentleman on hand tells this column. "Al wrote, 'To Chad,' with both signatures underneath. We all immediately burst out into laughter and asked the gentleman if that was his real name. The answer was a resounding 'No.'" VIAGRA VS. BUBBA Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is slowly getting accustomed to his new role in Washington: Senate spouse. "Since when do we allow Senate spouses to speak?" cracked Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott at one Capitol Hill function last week, referring to his former GOP colleague and his wife, Sen.-elect Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.). Appearing at the 100th birthday bash Thursday for Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), Dole said that since his wife's election victory he is now "the junior senator in my family. I feel like Fritz Hollings." Lott is spreading word that Bob Dole is "going to run for president again - of the Senate Spouses Club. He might finally have a chance to beat Bill Clinton." NOT UNTHINKABLE Washington citizens and those who work here are being asked to prepare "Emergency Go Kits" in the event the nation's capital is evacuated because of a terrorist attack. The D.C. Emergency Management Agency says numerous lifesaving items should be stored in each kit, including a minimum three-day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day), a three- to five-day supply of nonperishable packaged or canned food, changes of clothes, sturdy shoes, blankets and sleeping bags, an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, a fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit. "An emergency can occur without warning, leaving little or no time for you and your family to plan what to do next," says the emergency agency, which reminds each family in Washington - a high-risk terrorist target - to pick two meeting places in the event they are unable to return home during such an emergency. In addition, businesses throughout Washington were provided "Family Preparedness Guides" to distribute to employees. SHADE OF DUKAKIS After their losses in the Nov. 5 elections, Democrats are sounding more hawkish about Iraq. War drums are beating most loudly among the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls for 2004. Perhaps the Democrats will want to emulate their party's 1988 nominee, Michael Dukakis, who highlighted his own patriotic credentials by taking that famous tank ride. In which case, this column has discovered the perfect Christmas gift, one certainly not found on the shelf of the Democratic National Committee gift store. The online auction site Allegro, the Polish equivalent of EBay, is selling a Russian T-55 tank at the incredible bargain price of $7,500. The Polish-language text, according to reader John Gay, explains that this '60s-era tank has been little used and actually runs like new. The current owner claims a top speed of about 30 mph and a range of up to 300 miles on a single fill-up. The tank comes complete with communications radios. Still, as with all used tanks, there's a catch: The buyer must pay all shipping costs. The tank itself weighs 39.6 tons. THE LOUD BANG New findings of both a review of the Warren Commission Report and hearings of the 95th Congress offer positive proof that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President Kennedy. So says ballistics expert Edward P. Rem, who received the Purple Heart, two Silver Stars and the Bronze Star in World War II. Rem says he's proven mathematically that a missed rifle shot caused the preliminary "loud bang" that was heard as it passed unimpeded through the enclosed grassy knoll area at a supersonic speed of 2,200 feet per second. The loud bang was recorded by a Dallas police motorcycle radio and has been misinterpreted by many as being an independent rifle shot from the grassy knoll. Rem now disputes that misinterpretation in two manuscripts just presented in book form to each member of the Senate and House. In the manuscripts, Rem shows in scientific detail how the phenomenon occurred. His theory was earlier supported by the Justice Department, which referred his findings to Congress. "I've been on the receiving end of all military hardware - the machine pistol, the rifle, the machine gun, the mortar, the artillery including the dreadful German 88mm, and on two occasions our own artillery," Rem says. "In combat, recognizing the acoustical aspects of ballistics is a matter of life and death." The book form of the two manuscripts can be obtained through T.B.I. Publishing in the District of Columbia, 800/732-9212. CONSERVATIVE BEAUTIES Young ladies who dream of being crowned Miss America can forget about charm school. Enroll instead at Washington-based Leadership Institute. It so happens that the second Leadership Institute graduate in five years, Erika Harold, has won the title of Miss America. The newly crowned 2003 Miss America joins Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson, also a graduate from the institute. Rather than learning how to hold your chin high and stroll down a runway, the institute identifies, recruits, trains and places conservatives - even, obviously, in the Miss America pageant. Morton C. Blackwell is the institute's founder and president. A White House special assistant to President Reagan for public liaison, Blackwell has worked nationally since 1960 to help conservatives become effective in the public policy process. Since being crowned Miss America, Harold has preached "abstinence until marriage," her original Miss Illinois pageant platform. She had traveled throughout the state on behalf of Project Reality, an "abstinence-only" sex education program provider. Harold had planned to attend law school this fall at Harvard but now will wait a year until her Miss America duties are completed. PASS THE COGNAC The recession seems to have hit everywhere but on Capitol Hill. Despite the current economic downturn and impending war with Iraq, this Congress - unlike congressional bodies of years past - has allowed its own pay raise to take effect. And it's a far larger pay increase than first meets the eye. It became big news in recent days when President Bush modestly trimmed the 2003 pay increase for most federal workers. But word of the president's federal pay slice overshadowed less-publicized word of Congress' pay raise. Now it appears that more than a few thousand dollars and a handful of angry constituent calls could be at stake for the greedy lawmakers. "The fiscal and political ripples from these pay hikes move not only into other branches of government, but onto the campaign trail as well," says National Taxpayers Union Foundation policy analyst Demian Brady. Constituents, in fact, might want to remind their senators and representatives that the congressional bodies of years past cut their pay when the rest of the nation was suffering, as during the Great Depression. They were even more likely to freeze their salaries, as during World War II. But not this Congress. According to NTUF calculations, pay for Congress averaged just $81,803 (in 1988 dollars) from 1900 to 1988. A new law, adjusting congressional pay for inflation, took effect in 1989 and annual congressional salaries have since increased from $89,500 in 1989 to next year's whopping $154,700. "The original justification for the 1989 law - to 'keep up' with inflation - has always rested on tenuous economic assumptions," says Brady. "In any event, federal lawmakers have entered the first decade of the new millennium with an inflation-adjusted salary that is close to a post-World War II high." For the record, the Senate last December, and again last month, defeated amendments by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) to block this year's and next year's congressional pay raises.