- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Who's in contempt?

If American Indians were upset before at how they've been treated by the U.S. government, then they're even angrier now after a prank by two Clinton administration appointees.

"This is intolerable, and I won't tolerate it anymore," says Elouise Cobell, a Blackfoot tribal banker and lead plaintiff in a major lawsuit against the federal government for mismanaging millions of dollars in trust-fund accounts held by thousands of Indians.

"I did not like it, and the majority of Indian people did not like it," Ms. Cobell told Inside the Beltway yesterday.

Ms. Cobell is the butt of a parody calling her "contemptible Cobell," a song penned by Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Michael J. Anderson and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) special assistant Loretta Tuell, a top aide to Indian Affairs Director Kevin Gover.

The song, which Mr. Anderson conceded writing with Ms. Tuell's help, was performed recently at a BIA office party the same week Mr. Gover, on behalf of the administration, issued a tearful apology to all Indians for years of mistreatment by the government.

Both Mr. Anderson and Ms. Tuell were attending the same out-of-town "retreat" yesterday and could not be reached for comment, a BIA spokesman told us.

In light of the ongoing court case, Ms. Cobell says the two appointees should be held in contempt, and in the interim calls on Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to issue an apology to the entire Indian nation.

"Here two days after [the parody was performed], Gover was getting up and apologizing to the Indian people," says Ms. Cobell. "To allow this to happen was very disrespectful not only to me, but to the court, Judge Lamberth, and the beneficiaries."

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who has been handling the trust-fund case, vowed in a previous court ruling to personally oversee efforts by government officials to fix the failed system.

What you didn't hear

Reporter yesterday: "Joe, what was the president's reaction to the fourth time, as I understand it, that the Justice Department is investigating the vice president's fund raising?"

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart: "His reaction to what?"

Reporter: "Well, what was his reaction to it? I mean, how many vice presidents have been investigated four times for questionable fund raising?"

Mr. Lockhart: "I think there's an ongoing investigation at the Justice Department, and because it's ongoing, it wouldn't be appropriate to comment."

The population is …

While Uncle Sam will never know exactly how many nieces and nephews he has living within U.S. borders, he'll announce today final Census 2000 response rates for the nation, counties, cities and census tracts.

Word is Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta and Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt are pleased with the total response rate, which means it's improved somewhat from the "66 percent" initial nationwide response rate recorded as of April.

"We had a program set up for this census to improve the response rate over what we had for the previous 1990 census, this time challenging towns and cities, mayors and the like, to get the response," a census official told us yesterday. "So we will get down to that town level tomorrow."

Here's what the Census Bureau folks are telling us in advance of today's news conference to release the final numbers: high school completion rates nationwide are at an all-time high (more than four-fifths of all adults have at least a high school diploma, including 88 percent of whites, 77 percent of blacks, and 56 percent of Hispanics).

Also, one in four adults has attained at least a college bachelor's degree.

Forget 1492

Evidence uncovered by archaeologists proves it was Viking Leif Ericson not Christopher Columbus who actually discovered America (after the American Indian settlers, of course). The U.S. Mint and Central Bank of Iceland are issuing two coins simultaneously to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the discovery.

Minted in $1 denominations, the U.S. coin is legal tender and displays a portrait of the intrepid explorer on the front and a depiction of a Viking ship under full sail on the reverse.

The U.S. Mint recently selected the Ad Store in Washington to handle sales of the coin.

Gay nausea

Finally, regarding our preview yesterday of Bill O'Reilly's new book, "The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life," Jeffrey W. Jarrett writes:

"I would like to remind Bill O'Reilly that not everyone who watches wrestling is easily duped by Bill Clinton. As a gay Republican, I would like to say that Bill Clinton is the sleaziest man who has ever held the office of president.

"At least I know wrestling is staged to provide maximum entertainment via a weak story line. All Bill Clinton has provided is maximum nausea via a weak moral story."

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