- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Cowboy logic

"If people want to die hijacking planes, it makes sense to this old cowboy that they die before they get the job done."

Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, saying he has never encountered a door that couldn't be opened or a pilot who has ever seen an air marshal, which is why, in his opinion, commercial airline pilots should carry firearms in the cockpit.

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A cut above

The world continues in awe of the sudden warrior prowess of Bill Clinton, who vowed in a speech in Jerusalem last month that if "Iraq came across the Jordan River, I would grab a rifle and get in a trench and fight and die." This particularly thrilled his Jewish audience, but the Arkansas Democrat Gazette adds a revealing postscript.

Jim Kennedy, one of Mr. Clinton's spokesmen when you get $250,000 for a speech you need more than one spokesman told the Little Rock newspaper that he could confirm the quotation, but he "does dispute that the ex-president ever said, 'I would do anything for Israel except get a circumcision.'" Lovers, like warriors, have got to stay in fighting trim.

Grieving park

Before leaving on their summer vacation, Congress agreed that it would be appropriate that the Pennsylvania crash site of Flight 93 be designated a unit of the National Park System.

Now, we're told, a 15-member commission is being empaneled and given three years to enact the planning, design, construction and long-term management of a permanent memorial at the Flight 93 site.

Patience is key

In the soon-to-be-published book "Government's Greatest Achievements: From Civil Rights to Homeland Security" (Brookings Institution Press), Washington fellow Paul C. Light identifies Uncle Sam's 25 biggest accomplishments since the close of World War II.

In compiling the list, the author canvassed 220 political scientists and 230 historians. But let's begin with current events.

"As the nation approaches the anniversary of September 11, Americans have good reason to wonder whether the federal government will ever win the war on terrorism," says Mr. Light, who calls the new and dangerous war the "first great endeavor of the new century."

"Yet, those who believe the federal government will fail in its efforts to win the war on terrorism are misreading history," he says. "This is hardly the first tough problem the federal government has tried to solve. Nor is it the first time the public has wondered whether the federal government would get it right."

History, he explains, suggests several factors that distinguish eventual success from failure.

"First, patience is a virtue. Europe was not rebuilt in a day," he says. "Except for the Gulf War, none of the federal government's greatest endeavors of the past half-century was successful in its first year."

Of the 25 greatest achievements of the past 50 years profiled in the book, here are the top 10: rebuilding Europe after World War II; expanding the right to vote; promoting equal access to public accommodations; reducing disease; reducing workplace discrimination; ensuring safe food and drinking water; strengthening the nation's highway system; increasing elderly access to health care; reducing the federal budget deficit; and promoting financial security in retirement.

Congress 101

Congressional "careerists" are on the wane, fewer incumbents are defeated in general elections and the South and West are increasingly conservative.

These are just a few of the findings culled from the biennial reference work "Vital Statistics on Congress" (2001-2002).

Southern and Western states continue to gain seats with each census, "a trend that has profound implications for the country's partisan alignment," according to authors Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, Thomas E. Mann of Brookings and Michael J. Malbin of the State University of New York.

"As an increasingly conservative and Republican South and West grow at the expense of a liberal and Democratic Northeast, the balance of power slowly changes," they explain.

In addition, throughout the 1960s, Congress experienced a steady increase in very senior House members "careerists" and a real decline in very junior legislators. Not anymore. Elections in the 1990s dramatically reversed the trend, and now nearly 70 percent of current House members entered Congress in the last decade.

The Senate is hardly different, with 15 new senators elected in 1996, leading to the largest Senate class in more than a decade. "Roughly two-thirds of current senators are serving in a first or second term," the authors note.

"Even though the competition for partisan control of both chambers is exceptionally close, the stability of Congress may be its most important feature," observe the authors. "In no election in the [20th] century did more than 14 percent of the 435 seats in the House change party hands."

Deploying Reagan

Regarding our item yesterday about Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, refusing to call Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport by its presidential name, retired U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Watkins writes: "Let's pray that Rep. Moran never has to send the USS Ronald Reagan into battle."

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