- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2001

Stripped bare

The curators were warned to count the silver when the Clintons left the White House, and the Air Force, as it turns out, should have listened, too. Now that Bill Clinton is gone after the longest goodbye anyone remembers an Air Force steward tells us about the former president's "official" farewell flight to New York on Inaugural Day.

The presidential plane was "stripped bare."

Since Air Force One is the plane only of the president, the designation of the Boeing 747 was changed from Air Force One to "Special Air Mission" and by the time Mr. Clinton boarded he was no longer the president.

As a courtesy of President Bush, the plane was nevertheless equipped with all the presidential amenities Mr. Clinton had grown accustomed to during his two terms in office.

But not for long. Missing from the plane on arrival in New York, Inside the Beltway is told, was all the porcelain china, silverware, salt and pepper shakers, blankets and pillow cases most of it bearing the presidential seal.

What most astonished the military steward was that even a cache of Colgate toothpaste, not stamped with the presidential seal, was snatched from a compartment beneath the presidential plane's sink. (The good news, we suppose, is that there was no halitosis on the return flight to Washington.)

Nation's avenue

Inside the Beltway understands that President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell both want to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

The Secret Service, citing security concerns in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, abruptly closed Washington's "Main Street," much to the chagrin of everyone else.

In 1996, a House subcommittee held hearings on the closure, during which several lawmakers appealed to then-President Clinton to reopen the street. However, most senators disagreed, adopting a "sense of the Senate" resolution that Pennsylvania Avenue could not reopen unless the Treasury secretary and Secret Service agreed. The Secret Service doesn't.

Among other things, the closed stretch of the avenue makes a nice parking lot for Secret Service cars and trucks.

The thinking now is that the avenue Mr. Bush has to reopen the street is through presidential order.

Price of popularity

Democratic Sen. Thomas R. Carper is known by just about everybody in his home state of Delaware. Being governor in a state smaller than some congressional districts will do that. But his is not a name that necessarily jumps out in the crowded town of Washington.

So, it was not unwelcome to have the cameras suddenly focused in his direction at last week's Senate Environment and Public Works confirmation hearing for Environmental Protection Agency-nominee Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey.

Seems Mr. Carper and Mrs. Whitman are friends from their days as governors and the photographers began clicking away when the two began chatting beforehand.

But, according to Mr. Carper's press secretary, when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, walked into the hearing and sat down next to Mr. Carper, the cameras went berserk.

"It was like an explosion," Brian Selander said of the intense flurry of flashes.

Mr. Carper, a little wilted at first, then leaned over to Mrs. Clinton and whispered: "Don't worry, it's been happening to me all day."

Clinton's children

Several rooms of the White House's Old Executive Office Building were "vandalized and trashed" by one or more departing members of the Clinton administration, White House officials were informed in a morning meeting yesterday.

That's what one White House official who was there told this column, after we reported yesterday that several computer keys had been vandalized by a "prankster."

"This was vandalism, not a prank," said the official.

Meanwhile, reader Dennis B. Turner asks: "Are these rather childish individuals going to be prosecuted? They have openly destroyed government property, which I believe is a federal offense. As a taxpayer, I am none too happy about paying for this childish behavior."

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