Thursday, January 11, 2001

Compassionate path

We’re not sure what law enforcement agency to notify, but this column has it on very good authority that President-elect George W. Bush’s nominee for attorney general, John Ashcroft, trespassed onto his next-door neighbor’s property in the wake of Washington’s recent three-inch snowfall.

Proof was seen in the footprints Mr. Ashcroft unintentionally left in the snow.

The elderly owner of the Capitol Hill property, we confirmed, was in the hospital at the time of the unlawful entry, and remained there yesterday.

Once on his neighbor’s property, Mr. Ashcroft, who had no idea he was being watched, proceeded to shovel snow from the walkway.

Below the belt

A top official in the Bush-Cheney presidential transition who works closely with former Sen. John Ashcroft, the embattled nominee for attorney general, told Inside the Beltway yesterday that, “In Mr. Ashcroft’s mind, the most derogatory thing of recent weeks is to call him a ‘racist.’

“To listen to this … day in and day out is upsetting to him the ‘racist’ label above everything else,” says the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Babs on line 1

“Apparently some of these liberal senators are more concerned with Hollywood values than American values.”

Or so a senior House leadership source remarked yesterday upon hearing that President Clinton’s favorite singer, Barbra Streisand, received a warm reception from eight Democratic senators she reportedly telephoned last week, urging they oppose the confirmation of former Sen. John Ashcroft as attorney general.

Among those lending an ear: Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts and Charles E. Schumer of New York.

Bent nation

Talk about the rising polarization of this country racially and politically: We’ve just put down “Purpose! The Forgotten Principle” (DeWitt Books, $13.95) by retired Navy Capt. Raymond M. Wikstrom.

“As the United States of America makes the transition from the twentieth century to the twenty-first, it finds itself in an identity crisis,” writes the highly decorated captain, who piloted Huey helicopter gunships on more than 600 combat missions in Vietnam and commanded the USS Okinawa in the Persian Gulf theater before retiring from the Pentagon.

“No longer a nation of one people, one society, the United States is in imminent danger of becoming a nation of many individuals, all seemingly bent on tearing apart their country’s soul,” says Capt. Wikstrom.

“Its citizens mistrust each other and judge each other based upon ideology and affiliation, rather than accepting differences of opinion.”

Pack rat

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s White House “packing” hasn’t gone unnoticed by the nation’s largest government watchdog.

“The Clintons spent their last month in the White House battling deadlines,” observes Citizens Against Government Waste, as “Hillary rushed to help her friends give her as many pieces of fine china as possible from her registry at Borsheim’s Jewelers before the Senate’s gift ban took effect on Jan. 3.”

Electing worms

Should the United States declare an Election Day holiday or perhaps schedule elections on Saturday?

The voting systems of other democracies studied by the Congressional Research Service include an Election Day holiday or voting on weekends a reform that “should not be undertaken” here in the United States.

So warns the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, which finds that in democracies that have voluntary (non-compulsory) voting, such as in the United States, turnout was actually lower in those countries that voted on weekends or holidays than in countries that voted on a workday.

Here in America, a few states already have held elections and primaries on Saturdays, and those elections also produced very low turnouts.

Plus, the committee adds, there are more instruments employers, shop stewards, teachers and the like for mobilization to the polls during a workday than there would be on a holiday.

Beyond that, the committee concludes: “If, as all credible research indicates, nonparticipation is a problem of motivation, then in a low-motivated polity, it is more likely that those who lack motivation will go fishing rather than voting if elections were held on weekends or a holiday.”

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