- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2001

Won't let go

"Al Gore Wins The Election!"

Or so the Democratic National Committee declares, five weeks after Republican George W. Bush was sworn in as president.

The DNC is peddling an Orlando Sentinel newspaper review of "discarded" ballots in 16 Florida counties, and a similar Palm Beach Post review, together handing Mr. Gore a 721-vote victory over Mr. Bush.

"The numbers don't lie: Al Gore carried Florida and won the 2000 election," says newly crowned DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "It's too bad Bush was so afraid of counting the votes that the press had to do it. Bush should keep these numbers in mind as he pushes his radical right-wing agenda."

What Mr. McAuliffe doesn't mention is ballots are discarded for myriad reasons in every state during a presidential election, so the argument that Mr. Gore won the White House based on an independent recount in only one state is moot.

Misses the garden

Some 50 civil rights leaders came to Washington this week to hear Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe rail against the nation's "decrepit" election system.

Which he says is plagued by racial profiling.

"Profiling on the highway has now moved to the voting booth," says Mr. McAuliffe, "especially African-Americans and Hispanics."

Hand-picked for the DNC post by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's top fund-raiser vows to continue his fight for election reform until such time as President Bush "invites me to the Rose Garden" for the signing of voting-reform legislation.

Playing nice

It's not surprising that freshman Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, is building a soundproof booth in his office.

After all, he hosted "The Mike Pence Show" over 18 radio stations from 1992 to 1999, and was host of UPN television's "The Mike Pence Show" for four years.

"He still does a lot of interviews, so he's setting up a small broadcast station inside the office," communications director Ken Collins tells us. "Actually, it's going to be padded in a couple of days."

The former talk-show host actually ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1990 and 1998, only to acknowledge later that he'd participated in too much mudslinging with his opponent.

"Following that experience," reveals Mr. Collins, "he published an essay, 'Confessions of a Negative Campaigner.' Thus, the prime directive of his [2000] campaign was to keep it civil. He didn't go negative, knowing what happens when you do."

Books and beakers

Never did we realize the pent-up emotions of librarians until writing this week about Sen. Jack Reed's inspection of the nation's school library shelves.

The Rhode Island Democrat in recent months checked out more than 100 library books to illustrate the sad state of the our school library system. One book, "Rockets Into Space," copyright 1959, tells students "there is a way to get to the moon," but only via a space station.

"This book was checked out of a Los Angeles school library 13 times since 1995," he noted.

Another book, "Women at Work," discusses seven occupations open to young women: ballet dancer, airline stewardess, practical nurse, piano teacher, beautician, author and librarian.

"I am in my 27th year of working," librarian Brenda Fiddler now writes to Inside the Beltway. "Your report of the books [cited by] Sen. Jack Reed illustrates so well the pitiful condition of school libraries all over."

So what's the problem?

"The money coming down for spending has been diverted by administrators for technology," she says. "The computers are bought with book money and the administrators can brag about how wired their schools are. The librarians are ordered to keep the old books on the shelves and count everything, including unbound periodicals and old filmstrips dating back to the 1940s.

"And most of all keep their mouth shut about the books just count and keep quiet. Now do you wonder why librarians keep quiet?"

In the process of preparing for library automation a few years ago, Miss Fiddler "weeded with a heavy hand all of the outdated books, took them off the shelves, which meant empty shelves. When a civic group came in during a tour of the public schools, they asked, 'Why the empty shelves?'

"I was interviewed and explained the condition of the library had come about because I had been given very little money for several years," she says. "That got the attention of the administration, who then disputed my facts and ordered a recount that would include all instructional material in the classrooms.

"The supervisor ordered teachers to count all items, including pots and pans in the home economics department, beakers in the science labs, equipment used in physical education classes, etc.

"Not only did the count get the desired number of items per student, it meant that our school far exceeded the minimum requirements."

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