- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Send for Houdini

Al Gore certainly was desperate to become president. Very desperate.

"At 12:30 A.M. on the Friday after Election Day, the phone rang in the Tallahassee hotel room of Ron Klain, a top Gore aide," our friends at Newsweek now report. "It was Al Gore, calling from Washington, D.C. Gore had not only been thinking about the problem, but he'd done something about it.

"He'd called Erin Brockovich. Not Julia Roberts, who played Erin Brockovich in the movie about a town's legal fight with a polluter — but the real Erin Brockovich."

Mr. Gore, with the Florida recount debate heating up, thought "she should come to Florida and lead our efforts to collect affidavits," explains Mr. Klain, adding that the vice president told him: "What Erin Brockovich's good at is going to real people and getting them to tell their stories. That's her specialty I think Erin Brockovich would be great."

After Mr. Gore hung up the phone, says the magazine, Mr. Klain tried to go back to sleep, "bemused by the conversation."

"Barely two days into the post-election morass, and Gore was recruiting somebody he'd heard about in a movie."

Or, as Mr. Klain puts it: "Bring in a camel with three heads. It just seemed like the whole thing's a huge menagerie at this point. Erin Brockovich — of course!"

Either way, Godspeed

There was much interest regarding our item on Apollo X mission commander Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, who holds the all-time world speed record for circumnavigating the Earth in a spacecraft (24,791.4 miles per hour), going now for the atmospheric record for circumnavigating the world by flying — in a South African Airways 747-400 aircraft — over the North and South poles.

Gen. Stafford and paying passengers aboard the chartered aircraft will attempt to break by three hours the old record of 54 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds, set Oct. 28, 1977. The question: Should the old record stand, too?

"As one of the Pan Am team which still holds the bipolar (no pun intended) world speed record General Stafford's consortium wishes to break, it should be noted that his shorter flight route was not available to us in 1977 because of Cold War tensions, which then existed with the USSR and Communist China," writes Kenneth G. McAdams, of Greenwich, Conn.

"And, as a further point of national interest, Pan Am's team carried the Stars & Stripes on the fuselage of our aircraft from sea to shining sea, not the flag of South Africa, nor that of the Independent Oversight Committee for International Space Stations [of which Gen. Stafford is chairman].

"Anyway, may they too have God's speed."

Second to Lewinsky

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had more in common than the latter might admit.

Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, writes in his new book, "Empire For Liberty," which focuses on his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that Mr. Clinton "did his best to steal pages from the Reagan playbook."

"And when the history books mention the Clinton years — after the entries on Monica Lewinsky and Marc Rich — they may note that Clinton ran a couple of successful plays from the Gipper's game plan."

Mr. Helms, whose book includes a foreword by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, charts the expansion of North American free trade to Mexico, the passage of welfare reform, the expansion of NATO to include former captive nations of the Warsaw Pact, and other examples "all lifted from the agenda of Ronald Wilson Reagan."

"Needless to say, Bill Clinton was no Ronald Reagan," says Mr. Helms, "never was and never will be."

Generation gap

America's largest employer — Uncle Sam — is in trouble. His workers are having problems communicating.

"For the first time in history, federal employees are working closely with colleagues as young as their children and as old as their parents," reports Government Executive, whose readership includes more than 60,000 top federal government decision makers.

Today's federal work force, which includes veterans (born between 1922 and 1943), baby boomers (born between 1944 and 1960), Generation Xers (born between 1961 and 1980), and Generation Nexters (born after 1980), is "struggling to overcome the challenges created by this vast generational diversity," says the monthly.

"Baby boomers and Generation Xers dominate the federal stage and, though they are closest in age, have the most problems getting along," says Government Executive. "Self-assured boomers seek recognition and favor long hours and teamwork. Xers, on the other hand, seek independence, personal growth, flexibility, and want to go home at 5 p.m."

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