Fiction writers

John McCaslin
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Posted: May 16, 2003 12:00 AM

Stephen Glass didn't plagiarize like Jayson Blair, formerly of the New York Times; he invented -- people, places and things.

Until Blair's transgressions surfaced in recent days, Glass' fabrications in the New Republic were considered "the most sustained fraud in the history of modern journalism."

Fabrications like the church that worshipped George H.W. Bush as the Messiah. Like the Union of Concerned Santas and Easter Bunnies, worried about the plight of mall Santas. Like the "large black-and-white digital clock" devised by Democrats "from plywood and electrical parts at a local Radio Shack" to calculate unpaid fines of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

(Glass's editors should have realized that Democrats, except for Jimmy Carter, wouldn't know what to do with a sheet of plywood.)

In his first novel, The Fabulist (Simon & Schuster, $24), Glass - fired by his magazine in 1998 - writes in an author's note: "I deeply regret my misconduct, and the pain it caused."

After five years of silence, that's as clean as he comes. The book, which hit bookstores this week, is as fictitious as his past writings. It's only "inspired" by the author's embarrassing career, tracking a young journalist whose life begins to unravel after he's caught fabricating stories and keeps lying about it.

What lies in store for the real Glass? He's currently working on his second novel, no doubt fiction.

OMINOUS WARNING

"The Terminator" went one-on-one with Congress this week after the termination of $400 million for after-school funding.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, chairman of California-based Inner City Games, was joined on Capitol Hill by Washington-based after-school providers, including Communities In Schools founder and President Bill Milliken.

Together, they argued for restoring federal funds to the 21st Century Learning Grant Program, which supports after-school programs, including academic and recreational opportunities and safe havens for youth.

"We all know that when children are out on the streets during the hours between school and evening, they get into trouble," Milliken argued.

Before he left town, Schwarzenegger promised Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: "Next time there is a hearing to save after-school program funding, I'll be back."

CHENEY'S BIG BREAK

Vice President Dick Cheney was present Tuesday (May 13) when the Hudson Institute presented the James Doolittle Award to his former boss, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"The true story ... is that I flunked my first interview," Cheney said of his 1968 meeting with Rumsfeld, then a Republican member of the House from Illinois.

Cheney was a young congressional fellow, working on his doctoral dissertation, with plans to return to the University of Wisconsin to teach. As part of his fellowship, he was to negotiate an employment arrangement, working for free, with the lawmaker of his choice.

Rumsfeld had spoken to the group of fellows, "and I was impressed, so I made an appointment to go see him," Cheney said. "And the interview lasted about 15 minutes, and I found myself back out in the hallway. And it was clear that we hadn't hit it off.

"He thought I was some kind of airhead academic, and I thought he was rather an arrogant young member of Congress," Cheney said. "Probably we were both right."

A short time later, Rumseld was tapped by President Nixon to be director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Cheney, working for free for another congressman, "sat down one night, unsolicited, and wrote a 12-page memo suggesting to (Rumsfeld) how he should handle himself in his confirmation hearings and giving him some sterling advice on what he ought to do with the department once he got confirmed."

Weeks went by. Then, the day after Rumsfeld was sworn in, Cheney received a phone call asking him to meet with the new director. After Cheney was led into the office, Rumsfeld had little to say, except: "You, you're congressional relations. Now get out of here."

"And that's how I was hired," Cheney said. "Literally."

THAT'LL TEACH THEM

For your reading pleasure, we bring you, verbatim, the first two paragraphs of a newspaper article published by the Journal Gazette of Huntington, Ind., following a recent talk on taxation by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.).

State legislation recently redrew Burton's district boundaries, so the congressman has been visiting his new constituents. Without further ado:

"HUNTINGTON - Making his first trip to Huntington as the 5th District congressman, Rep. Dan Burton discussed tax cuts, prescription-drug costs and border patrols in a Town Hall meeting Monday.

"Burton spoke at Huntington North High School to a crowd of about 100, many of them students required to attend as punishment."

'TORN' LANDLORD

"Greetings from Snellville, Georgia!" Chuck and Linda Moseley write to Washington landlord Peter Kelley, whose name is listed in a directory of apartments on Capitol Hill.

"Our son is a rising senior at the University of Georgia. He has been chosen as a full-time Intern for Congressman John Linder (R-Ga.) beginning Sept. 1, 2003, and ending Dec. 12, 2003. Please advise availability and any additional information you require. We will not be able to visit D.C. until after June 5, 2003 due to his classes. Thank you for your time."

Nice enough letter from the proud parents.

"Hello Moseleys," Kelley writes back. "Thank you for contacting us about your son staying at the Loj during his internship. I'm usually very encouraging of young people doing congressional internships and staying here while they do them.

"However, I do have to say that as a full-time employee of an environmental group, and as someone personally quite alarmed about the direction that Congress and the president are taking with the environment, I have concerns about Rep. Linder's record.

"He has a 5 percent score on the League of Conservation Voters environmental scorecard, and his Web site lists the following votes, all of which I deeply disagree with: Voted NO on raising CAFE standards, incentives for alternative fuels (Aug 2001); Voted NO on prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR (Aug 2001); Voted NO on starting implementation of Kyoto Protocol (Jun 2000).

"I am torn," concludes Kelley, "because I hope that your son will have a wonderful experience in Washington and I know that working for any congressman, even one with Rep. Linder's views, will be an invaluable experience that he will treasure his entire career.

"However, I would not feel right about having someone stay at our place who was working to advance views such as these, which I believe amount to abandoning our responsibility to future generations. And so I must decline your request for a room here."