Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Civil defense
Wish, as an average American, you could help more in the war against terrorism?
This morning, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana will introduce “The Call to Service Act of 2001,” a bill intended to harness the newfound spirit of national unity and purpose, and dramatically expand the opportunities for Americans to serve their country as volunteers in homeland defense and the armed forces.
The senators foresee numerous citizen-volunteer opportunities, a new civil-defense component, and modernization of military recruitment and benefits.

Intimate lunch
For 18 years, until his retirement five years ago, the slow-talking, thick-jowled “Judge” was one of the more colorful lawmakers on Capitol Hill. More on that later.
First, tomorrow evening the Alabama congressional delegation and Alabama State Society welcomes former Sen. Howell T. Heflin former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court back on Capitol Hill to celebrate the release of his biography, “Judge in the Senate: Howell Heflin’s Career of Politics and Principle” (NewSouth Books), by John Hayman with Clara Ruth Hayman.
“My first encounter with Howell Heflin was when he became a member of the U.S. Senate in 1978,” former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole recalls in the foreword. “At that time, there were still some ‘Old South’ senators. In his low-key, humorous, story-telling way, Howell influenced these other members of Congress into a more open-minded, progressive mode of thought. He defused many volatile situations, and helped others to see that the future of this country rested on the fulfillment of ‘all men are created equal.’”
Like when heated Senate floor debate over Southern heritage pitted old-time conservatives against progressives and liberals, “and all eyes turned toward the formidable man making his way forward.”
“His demeanor was serious. He knew that what he was about to do, what he must do, could affect his political future. He also knew that he was turning away from his ancestral roots.”
Mr. Heflin’s impromptu speech, his biography points out, was instrumental in the Senate’s defeat of an extension to the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s insignia patent that included the first national flag of the Confederacy.
Still, Mr. Heflin defends Alabama and its people, particularly Democrats. In this column, he once referred to people too sophisticated to be from Alabama as “Gucci-wearing, Mercedes-driving, Perrier-drinking, Aspen-skiing, richy-rich Republicans who eat broccoli.”
Our favorite Howell Heflin story, though, was when the senator, eating lunch with two guests in the Senate cafeteria, reached into his pocket for a handkerchief, and lo and behold pulled out a pair of women’s panties.
Everybody burst out laughing, as a red-faced Mr. Heflin tried to explain that his wife, Elizabeth Ann, stacked their laundry into one pile, and leaving the house in a hurry that morning he obviously scooped up Mrs. Heflin’s underwear by mistake.

Family brigade
It’s become clear why Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, is the leading supporter of House Joint Resolution 42 requiring American flags atop all federal office buildings to be lowered to half-staff each year in commemoration of fallen firefighters, particularly those who perished on September 11.
“I am proud to have close to 30 firefighters in my family,” Mr. Reyes reveals. “It is a deep-rooted tradition and a strong dedication to service that has been in my family for years.”

In praise of Laura
Oprah Winfrey, we wrote yesterday, is the nation’s most powerful woman or so concludes the Ladies’ Home Journal, which ranks the 30 Most Powerful Women in America. Martha Stewart ranks 3rd, Barbara Walters 4th, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton 5th and Britney Spears 9th.
First Lady Laura Bush, surprisingly, was ranked 26th on the list.
“Is it possible the readers of the Ladies’ Home Journal could have been influenced by some substance stuck between the pages of said publication?” wonders Sam Pierce. “Britney above Laura? Hillary above Laura? We can’t be in our right minds.”
“Thanks for the news about ‘Power Women,’” writes Bert Jeffries. “‘Icons for the Ignorant’ would have been a better title.”
Adds Doug Huffman: “If a political democracy is ‘the rule of fools by fools,’ then where will this marketplace-democracy lead us? Not, I believe, to any utopia. The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.”
“This is just a thought watching Mrs. Bush,” John Engel writes. “Maybe she just wants to be a support to her husband and not a power woman. I would venture to say she may be more powerful than any of us think.”
“Britney Spears?” asks Roger Ferguson of New Jersey. “Really.”

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