- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2001

Who, me?

Clinton administration Environmental Protection Agency head Carol M. Browner and former Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger under President George Bush agree that grueling FBI background checks discourage talented people from serving in government.

The two former Cabinet chiefs will say as much at next week´s Brookings Institution forum on presidential appointments.

Meanwhile, Rep. John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr., Tennessee Republican, warns that because of lengthy background checks, the George W. Bush administration, "which is already being blamed for problems that started long before it came into office, will not have its people in upper-level positions until well over a year after the president was sworn in. This is ridiculous."

Recent numbers showed only 55 of President Bush´s sub-Cabinet nominees had been confirmed out of 436 positions.

Mr. Duncan says he read in one Tennessee newspaper that even former Sen. Howard Baker, recently confirmed to be U.S. ambassador to Japan, "who spent 18 years in the Senate and two years as chief of staff at the White House, had to fill out a detailed 85-page questionnaire, one question of which was: 'Have you ever been involved in a controversial issue?´"

One less Democrat

Democrats and Republicans alike stood on the House floor this week to remember longtime Democratic Rep. Joe Moakley of Massachusetts, who died recently from an incurable form of leukemia.

Among them was House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier, California Republican, who recalled Mr. Moakley telling the story of a man named O´Leary who abruptly went to his polling precinct to switch his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

"Mr. O´Leary," noted the voter registrar, "you´ve been a Democrat your entire life. Your brothers and sisters are all Democrats. Your father is a Democrat. Your grandfathers were both Democrats. Why in the world would you consider changing your registration from Democrat to Republican?"

O´Leary replied: "Well, I just went to the doctor last week and he told me that I have six weeks to live, and I´d much rather lose one of them than one of us."

Balint´s bus ride

By profession, Balint Vazsonyi is a concert pianist. But ever since coming to America from Hungary in 1959 — and becoming a U.S. citizen in 1964 — "I have been trying to figure out what has made America so different and successful, and Americans by and large a breed apart."

To arrive at an answer, Mr. Vazsonyi in 1996 opened the Center for the American Founding, "finally realizing that after 30-plus years that it is the founding principles of this country that has created America´s success."

In other words, the U.S. Constitution.

Now, having just completed a 12,500-mile, coast-to-coast bus tour to discuss the principles upon which America was founded and has succeeded and welcomed by 49 of the nation´s governors Mr. Vazsonyi has produced a one-hour documentary to debut on WETA public television in Washington on Sunday, June 17, at 4 p.m., and Thursday, June 21, at 2 p.m.

The documentary, he says, provides rare insights into the way Americans think about their country, memorable images of the people who live in it, and revealing discussions between admirers and detractors of the Constitution.

Mr. Vazsonyi´s view on the state of America?

"There is a lot of healthy America left, everywhere," he tells us. "If we can just find the strength to look everybody in the eye and tell them how lucky they are to have been admitted to America. If we proudly proclaim that we have succeeded, and why other nations consistently fail, then America has a wonderful future.

"But if we bow our head in shame when America is criticized, then we encourage and add fuel to the fire of America´s detractors, whether out of ignorance or ill will. This is why I feel that talking about America´s principles, which are as valid today as they ever have been, is so important."

Paper pennies

There has been a lot of response to our item yesterday on the Democratic National Committee asking Americans to use their "meager tax cut" from President Bush to make a symbolic contribution to the Democratic Party.

"Oh, so now it´s a 'meager´ tax cut according to the DNC. How come it wasn´t so meager when they were fighting tooth and nail against it?" wonders Chuck Knarr, of Oxford, Ga.

"After reading the article about Democrats wanting people to send them their tax-relief checks, I realized it proved a great point. Democrats really do think they know how to spend your money better than you," adds Chris Wanner of Washington.

And finally, Wynn Mowrey of Cape Coral, Fla., says: "Your article on sending our hard-earned tax refund to the Democrats gave me quite a jolt. Then it occurred to me maybe I should send them a token of what they intended our tax cut should be, so I will send them a drawing of a penny. Can´t trust them with the real thing."

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