A farmer's lesson

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 18, 2003 12:00 AM

In late spring of 1990, this columnist wrote a small item about a group that was forming to defend then-Vice President Dan Quayle, who was under attack from the left-wing media.

John Piper attended that first meeting and soon became president of "Friends of Dan Quayle," a bipartisan grass-roots group dedicated to a "fair and balanced" presentation of the tasks and talents of the vice president.

"For over two years we had a number of accomplishments," Piper, a vice president of PaineWebber, recalled Wednesday. "We put together a media guide on Vice President Quayle (something that should have happened in 1989) and then sent it to over 2,500 talk-show hosts. I personally did over 50 talk shows on radio and TV. We hosted two large birthday parties for the vice president and saw our membership grow to over 3,000."

Just this week, Piper sent the following letter to Quayle:

"Dear Mr. Vice President: The letter below and attached picture is from Lt. Col. Steve Heywood, an old friend and neighbor of (Mr. Piper´s wife, Tracy) from Rhode Island. He is the U.S. Marine Squadron Commander of HMLA-267, a Cobra 'gunship' helicopter squadron in Iraq.

"About seven years ago (during the height of the Clinton arrogance), I went to a high school class reunion of Tracy's in Rhode Island (I don't think any husband particularly enjoys being at one). Being in the liberal bastion of New England, I was getting a little worried when this huge Marine came up to me and said, 'You're Tracy's husband ... the one who knows Dan Quayle.'

"Then he turned to me and said, 'Any friend of Quayle's is a friend of mine.'

"He told me he used to fly Marine One and other transport for the president and vice president. He recounted a story about when one time transporting the Quayle family (I think to Andrews Air Force Base) one of the children became 'sick' in the helicopter. The Marines all rolled their eyes."

Piper's letter continues: "After they landed and the family exited, the crew went back to clean up the mess. To their surprise, they found Mrs. Quayle cleaning up. She insisted that no member of the United States military would have to clean up after one of her children.

"He went on to tell me that he and his (crew) will never forget the respect the Quayles had for the military, and to put him on my list of supporters."

The photograph that Piper included for the vice president showed Col. Heywood in Iraq, where he's been among the U.S. military men and women fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The reason the Marine is posing next to an Iraqi farmer is explained in Col. Heywood's letter:

"All: On day three of the war, I lost my CBOX oil pressure and had to set down in a field (more to this story). We were approached by a local who was dirt poor but still proud, proud of his mud hut, his son, his 20 goats and his tomato patch. He spoke not a lick of English and I thought at first he was asking for food. Then I thought he wanted to sell me a box of tomatoes.

"In the best tradition of Arab benevolence and pride, he was offering us a box of his best tomatoes. It was all he had. All he could offer. Saddam's boys would surely put a bullet in his head if they knew.

"Wars bring out the best and worst in people. When he approached, my boys were edgy and ready to waste him. We all learned a good lesson that day. -- Steve."

HILL NAME GAME

Pity the Capitol Hill operators.

Caller: "The office of Congressman Davis please."

Operator: "Which Davis - Artur, Danny, Jim, Jo Ann, Lincoln, Susan or Tom?"

Caller: "Um, the one from Virginia."

Operator: "There are two Congressmen Davises representing Virginia, Jo Ann or Tom?"

Caller: "The Republican."

Operator: "They're both Republican."

When there are 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, there are bound to be dueling surnames. But this is ridiculous.

In these hallowed halls of Congress, for example, there sit a pair of Kings: Peter and Steve. And with Kings come one or two, or three Bishops - Rob, Sanford and Tim.

Then there are the Millers, five in all: Brad, Candice, Jeff, Gary and George, the latter two representing California.

And talk about confusing, there happens to be a Rep. Michael Rogers from Alabama and a Rep. Michael Rogers from Michigan. Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky doesn't have it so bad after all.

There are four Browns in town - Corrine, Henry, Sherron and Ginny - and two Greens, Gene and Mark.

Kevin and Robert Brady don't quite make a bunch but find themselves opening each other's mail as often as Brad and Julia Carson.

Johnson is one of the most common surnames in this country, and Capitol Hill is no different. Here we find Nancy, Timothy, Sam and Eddie Bernice Johnson, the latter pair from Texas.

Surprisingly in this House of cards, we also find a couple of Hastings, Alcee and Doc; Frank and Ken Lucas; Jerry, John and Ron Lewis; Carolyn and Karen McCarthy; Bobby and David Scott; four Smiths - Adam, Christopher, Lamar and Nick; Mark and Patrick Kennedy; Colin and John Peterson; Jerry and James Moran; Paul and Tim Ryan; Charles and Gene Taylor; Bennie and Mike Thompson; Jim and Michael Turner; Curt and Dave Weldon; Heather and Joe Wilson; Mark and Tom Udall; and Bill and Don Young.

Lest we forget, there are the sibling pairs of Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, both Florida Republicans, and the Sanchez sisters, Linda and Loretta, both California Democrats.

Finally, this first session of the 108th Congress gives us Frank and Franks, Meek and Meeks, Price and Pryce, and Larsen and Larson.

And no, that's not Marion Barry representing the first district of Arkansas, it's Marion Berry.

DYING ELEPHANT

What is America's largest public enterprise?

If you answered the U.S. Postal Service, you're correct. But given the rapid advances in technology, that could soon change.

We culled the following intriguing facts about the operation of the Postal Service from an American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research paper, written by AEI adjunct scholar and Cornell University assistant professor Rick Geddes: In 2001, the Postal Service had earned revenues of more than $65 billion and processed more than 207 billion pieces of mail - 40 percent of the world's mail. Its total employment was 892,000, which is larger than the population of Delaware.

Geddes says that without adapting to the new communications marketplace, the Postal Service is "unlikely to remain viable for long" in its present form. Already it has suffered losses of $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2001 and $1.2 billion in fiscal 2002.