- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

Intrepid reporters

Reporters covering Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson are being asked to add organ-donor transplant cards to their chain of press credentials.

Mindful of the 70,000 people who desperately need organ transplants, Mr. Thompson isn't shy about recruiting scribes.

"One of my problems is … how to get more people like you to sign a donor card," he told a roomful of reporters at the National Institutes of Health. "I think every one of you in here should sign a donor card before you leave."

Reporters laughed nervously, while a few volunteered they already had donor cards.

"Congratulations," he said. "I don't want you to die in order to exercise it, but I'm very happy. Now turn to your neighbor and ask them to be a donor."

The other Dubya

Moments before the earth shook in Olympia, Washington state finally passed a resolution honoring George W. Bush.

Not the George W. Bush in this Washington, but black pioneer George W. Bush, who helped settle Washington state more than a century ago.

"George W. Bush is the name of two remarkable people," said state Sen. Dan Swecker, sponsor of the resolution.

Mr. Bush joined his wife, children and other families to travel along the Oregon Trail from Missouri in 1844. Upon reaching the Dalles, an advance party learned that the Oregon Territory had enacted a black-exclusion law, under which blacks were excluded from Oregon "under pain of whipping."

Upon hearing this news, Mr. Bush took his family north of the Columbia River and settled in the Puget Sound region that became known as Bush Prairie.

Mr. Bush's son, William Owen Bush, was a member of the first state Constitutional Convention, and was later elected to the first state Legislature.

"Everybody was fascinated by the story," Jim Troyer, chief of staff for Senate Republicans, tells Inside the Beltway. "Lifelong residents of Washington were not even aware of George W. Bush."

Hillary hoots

Good grief, were we ever inundated with mail after writing about the "Funniest Woman on Capitol Hill" contest, which already has an apparent winner.

The Marshalls' Women in Comedy Festival and Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, have asked lady lawmakers to recite their best political jokes, each quip matched by a $1,000 donation to a local women's shelter.

Political comedienne Paula Poundstone will judge the jokes and crown the winner next Thursday. However, our readers can't wait that long.

"My nomination has to go to former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton," writes Anthony Phelps.

"She just cracks me up. Her deadpan delivery while delivering such hoots as 'I had no idea my brother was talking to my husband,' or 'I thought everybody took the silverware, that's what we do in Arkansas,' shows good timing, excellent delivery and the necessary ingredient in all good humor irony."

Bush cracks

Speaking of Clinton comediennes, Kate Clinton, dubbed the "Unimpeachable Madame President of Comedy," arrives in Washington Monday.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition is holding its annual conference at the Omni Shoreham, and Ms. Clinton (no relation we know of to the former first lady) will address its James Rouse Excellence in Achievement Awards Dinner.

Ms. Clinton went from English teacher to an off-Broadway comedy sensation. Her latest routine: "The Permanent Standing Committee to Impeach Bush, Inc."

Green after all

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has issued one of her first memos to EPA staff, seeking to allay fears about President Bush's commitment to the environment.

Prior to departing for Trieste, Italy, for the Group of Eight Environmental Ministerial Meeting, Mrs. Whitman shared her thoughts on Mr. Bush's budget request, which calls for $7.3 billion in EPA funding an increase of $56 million over last year's budget request, yet still below last year's budget.

"Although the request is below last year's enacted budget, that largely reflects the elimination of unrequested earmarks added in last year by Congress," Mrs. Whitman explains.

She says EPA's core operating programs are funded "at the second-highest level in history $3.7 billion."

To emphasize the administration's pledge to the environment, Mrs. Whitman this week decided to leave in place a March 19, 2001, effective date for the new rule on diesel fuel, to help reduce emissions from large trucks and buses.

As for rumors of EPA layoffs, she says Mr. Bush's new budget "caps" the agency at its current work-force level "and will result in a reduction in our ceiling. But I want to assure you that there will not be any layoffs in EPA staff as a result of this budget."

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