- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

Hidden bunkers

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is awarded an "A+" in efficiency and "F" in policy for becoming the first Bush Cabinet member to provide federal services in multiple languages.

Appearing in this month's Federal Register is (take a deep breath) the Treasury Department's "Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients on the Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons."

When Jim Boulet Jr., executive director of English First, finished reading the regulations, he handed Mr. O'Neill the unflattering report card.

Quoting from the guidelines, "meaningful access" must now be provided "free of charge" to all non-English speakers, including those "whose language does not exist in written form."

And as Mr. Boulet notes, notice of these translation services "in appropriate languages" is to be inserted into "brochures, pamphlets, manuals and other materials disseminated to the public and to staff."

Furthermore, he observes, the Treasury Department rejects the idea that the non-English speaker might bring along an English-speaking child or neighbor to translate because the "client's untrained interpreter is often unable to understand the concepts or official terminology he or she is being asked to interpret (and) his or her mere presence may obstruct the flow of confidential information."

Notes Mr. Boulet: "Now, it is not immediately obvious why a Limited-English-Proficient (LEP) person would have more confidence in a government translator than in a trusted friend, priest or minister."

The pro-English advocate adds that such "radical language requirements are the sort of thing that might have been released under the reign of Bill Clinton. In fact, this Bush administration policy-guidance document reads like a virtual Xerox of similar documents issued under the Clinton departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Transportation."

He likens it to Alec Guinness, the British POW colonel in the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," saying some people will work day and night to ensure the success of an enemy strategy.

"This is why the Bush administration must root out the Clintonistas still carrying on the fight from their hidden bunkers throughout America's federal agencies. Bush Cabinet officials will continue to get bad advice from these folks as long as they stay in office."

Cheap steaks

No matter how large a tax cut Americans are dealt by Congress and the White House, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the senior Democrat from West Virginia, says there are other ways to save money.

When he left for work one recent morning, he says, his wife asked him: "Do you need any money?"

"I said, 'No, I have $3.75, and I am taking my lunch so I don't have to go down to the senators' dining room and spend 30 or 40 minutes waiting on somebody to help me with food and then have to spend $8, $10, or $12 to pay for it. I just take my little lunch, and there is my $3 I have for the day.' "

Mr. Byrd grew up in a coal miner's home, and has always preferred his lunch from a brown paper bag containing "coal miner's steaks," or slices of bologna.

Birthday girl

Hadassah Freilich Lieberman celebrated what was to be a quiet birthday at TenPenh yesterday with the man she calls "Joey" and dozens of uninvited guests.

Mrs. Lieberman and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman shared a table for two at the popular Washington restaurant, celebrating her birth 53 years ago to Holocaust survivors in a Prague refugee camp.

Though it was meant to be a private affair, well-wishers continuously streamed to the Liebermans' table, the couple taking the time to politely thank each for their kind words.

For dessert, Mrs. Lieberman requested her birthday candle be planted in a signature banana spring roll.

Busy either way

It's interesting hearing lawmakers from both sides of the aisle argue about campaign finance reform. You'd think they toiled under separate domes.

Take Sens. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, and Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

In arguing for reform, Mr. Hollings says once was the time when the U.S. Senate began voting at 9 o'clock Monday morning "and debate would ensue, and we would work until generally around 6 o'clock on Friday. It was a full work week."

Now, he says, "Monday is gone. And Fridays are gone. And Tuesday mornings are gone … to collect money. So I travel the country, up to Minnesota, everywhere and anywhere I can, to collect money. That takes my time on weekends, weekdays, any nights that I can. So I am part of the corruption I am trying to cure."

Mr. Hatch, on the other hand, doesn't consider himself corrupt. He's too busy.

"I generally get to the office around 6 a.m. I don't know how many days when I am home before 7 or 8 o'clock at night," he says.

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